Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Four Uses For a Rather Large Pumpkin

We had visitors soon after Halloween who arrived with a monster pumpkin, grown on a Manchester allotment. The 5.24 kg (11 lb 6oz) squash had served its decorative function, and last Sunday I rather belatedly started to cook it.

When you cut up a vegetable of this size, you need to have a number of uses planned for it. So, I cut the surprisingly thin-skinned pumpkin into four and it went its separate ways.

The first quarter was soon being made into a risotto, following the method I frequently use for butternut squash risotto. Cubed pumpkin was roasted with butter, salt and pepper; meanwhile chopped onions and bacon were fried in a risotto pan. Arborio rice was stirred in and hot home-made chicken stock gradually added, with some thyme. The cooked buttery squash was stirred in toward the end; grated cheese optional.

My partner took the second quarter and made chutney, following the recipe in The Complete Book of Preserves and Pickles for Butternut, Apricot and Almond Chutney (pumpkin instead of butternut squash). The other ingredients included onion, coriander seeds, cider vinegar and orange juice. As there were less apricots and almonds in the cupboard than the recipe suggested, the jars were just labelled ‘Pumpkin Chutney’. This turned out to be a golden-coloured, sharp-tasting chutney, with the almonds giving it plenty of crunch and the coriander rounding out the flavour. It will mature for a month or so before we start eating it.

I made a soup with the third quarter. Looking through the Riverford autumn magazine and recipe files from vegetable box deliveries, I found a couple of promising ideas. The Dev-Mex Pumpkin Soup looked good (pumpkin or squash, onion, garlic, paprika, chillies, tomato, kidney beans, lime juice etc) - that’s Devon-Mexican, by the way. However, I decided to do that another day and go for the Spiced Pumpkin Soup. I roasted pumpkin cubes and fried onions, then simmered both in chicken stock with cumin, coriander, grated nutmeg and a little chilli sauce. The soup was liquidized and a dollop of sour cream was mixed in to serve.

With the last chunk of pumpkin I was tempted by some recipes in Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book, which has a particularly good selected of pumpkin recipes. I liked the sound of Toulouse Lautrec’s Gratin of Pumpkin (Gratin de Potiron), for instance, taken from the French artist’s collected recipes. However, on reflection, I decided to complete a sort of three-course pumpkin meal with an American-style Pumpkin Pie for dessert.

A look through some US recipe books, collected while touring the States, suggested that all those Halloween pumpkins probably end up in the bin, because most recipes seemed to use canned pumpkin. I decided to go with a custard-style pie based on a recipe in a regional home cooking book (see below), but using fresh pumpkin. I filled a pastry casing with a mixture of mashed pumpkin, canned condensed milk (omitting the canned evaporated milk), beaten eggs, ground cinnamon, grated nutmeg, vanilla essence and rum. Not bad, but next year I’ll stick to Jane Grigson’s Pumpkin Pie!

Cook books referred to:
The Complete Book of Preserves and Pickles, Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew, Anness Publishing Ltd, 2004. Page 186.
Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book, Penguin Books, 1978. Pages 417-429.
Riverford Recipe Files (in Vegetable Box), 24 Oct 2011 & The Riverford Farm Cookbook, Jane Baxter, 2011.
Our US cookbooks include small press and amateur publications, which collect people’s regional home recipes and gave an insight into what people really cook (e.g., A Taste of New Mexico from the Junior League of Albuquerque; Best of the Best from Florida Cookbook etc). The Florida cookbook has plenty of microwave recipes and includes unusual dishes such as Coca-Cola Chicken: “mix ketchup, Coca-Cola and Worcestershire sauce and pour over chicken”. Sometimes, you get handy hints along the bottom of each recipe page in this type of book (e.g., Household borax dissolved in water removes stains and smells after your child has been sick”). We also have similar cookbooks, sold for charity, from regions around the UK, which must look equally strange to people from out of town.

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