Tab Tries: Appropriating the Pumpkin

Halloween is coming up, we’ve got the recipes for an all pumpkin meal

food pumpkin recipe

I have always believed that Autumn is the best season.

The trees turn lovely colours, the days are sunny whilst retaining that lovely crispness that typifies English weather at its best, and we have (unarguably in my opinion) the greatest holiday of all – Halloween. Quite aside from being “the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it” (as decreed by the one and only Tina Fey) it is also prime time for the humble pumpkin.

© RichardBowen, Creative Commons

© RichardBowen, Creative Commons

Although they are normally bought in bulk, carved into grotesque shapes and then tossed away after the 31st, I’d argue that pumpkins can be much better used in the kitchen. To this end I set myself the challenge of cooking an entire meal (3 courses no less) entirely based around pumpkins. Here, for your inspiration and delectation are the things I came up with:

Starter: Pumpkin Soup

Main: Roasted chicken with pumpkin risotto

Pudding: Pumpkin Pie

I realised fairly early on that creating a three-course meal would not be an easy feat, so cordoned off about 3 hours to get it ready. I started with the pumpkin pie (the whole while hearing the sarcastic narrator from Come Dine With Me doing a play-by-play of my attempts to grapple with shortcrust pastry resounding in my head.)

An excellent pumpkin pie

An excellent pumpkin pie

This turned out to be fairly simple, at least when I realised that the necessary pumpkin puree was buyable in tins (#winning), saving myself the hassle of cooking and mashing it myself. Once that was in the oven I continued with my mammoth task- moving onto the soup (easy as anything, with a recipe below) and then the chicken and risotto. Risotto, as it turns out, is not quite as easy to produce as recipes make it sound: after a furious half hour of continuous stirring, my rice and pumpkin combo had become a strange, almost fluorescent orange gloop.

photo (2)

Unfortunately, upon arrival I was informed by one of my guests that they didn’t like pumpkin (no, I didn’t mention it beforehand for fear of scaring them off). In the face of certain failure, however, I did the British thing and made sure several glasses of wine had been drunk before serving the starter. To my amazement, it and all the other courses went down a treat.

As it turns out, pumpkins have a much milder flavour than their garish exterior would have you expect. They’re also considerably more savoury than its jarringly-sweet cousins, butternut squash and sweet potato (the whores of the root vegetable world.) This being the case, the pumpkin complemented the chicken perfectly, whilst still managing to hold its own in the soup and pie.

Velvety Halloween goodness

Velvety Halloween goodness

Indeed, the meal was interspersed with cries of wonder at the varieties and the versatility of the pumpkin, with one of my sceptical friends even exclaiming (I promise I didn’t make him say this) that I’d “converted” him to it. On the basis of the ease (more or less) and success of this seemingly reckless and pointless endeavour, I’d very much recommend everyone let a little more pumpkin into their lives. They’re really cheap at Sainsbury’s at the moment (given their huge size) and thus will feed you on your student budget for a few days at least.

To get you started, I’ve put the recipe for pumpkin soup below:

Ingredients:

Half a medium sized pumpkin, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into 1-2cm squares

Two onions, finely chopped

1 litre of chicken stock

200ml cream

Salt and Pepper to taste

Crusty bread and butter

Method:

1.)  Fry the onions in a large pan with a little olive oil on a medium heat for 5 minutes.

2.)      Add the pumpkin and continue to fry until the pumpkin has softened a little.

3.)    Add the stock and turn up the heat. Allow the mixture to boil and then turn the heat to low and leave it until the pumpkin is cooked through (it should be quite soft by this point.)

4.)    Take the mixture off the heat and put it in a blender. Blend until all lumps are gone.

5.)    Return the soup to the pan and heat a little, adding the cream and salt and pepper to taste.

6.)    Serve with hearty chunks of bread and butter.