A Pumpkins for Autumn, not just for Halloween
I wrote last October about the worryingly wasteful behaviour that this time of year brings to British households.
I don’t know whether the 18000 tons of wasted squash has reduced to any degree, but I have read extensively that after last year’s press coverage about this food waste epidemic, people have been thinking more consciously about what they do with their surplus squash. More hits on search engines ‘what to do with pumpkin seeds?’ and ‘pumpkin recipes’ shows a significant change in attitude towards this pumpkin carving pastime.
If I’m honest, I prefer to simply stuff and eat my pumpkin, rather than hack at it with a blunt knife – pumpkin carving is not one of my fortes! And with such a beautiful, or should I say, beautifully ugly range of seasonal squashes this time of year, it is an exciting season to be in the kitchen.
Pumpkins and squashes are fantastically flavoursome simply roasted with a little oil and seasoning, however, they are also versatile vessel for many ingredients. Their robust, earthy tendencies are paired with a sweet aftertaste that makes them the perfect pairing to many other autumnal veggies. Hardy herbs such as thyme is definite flavour friend, along with earthy ingredients such as mushrooms and nuts.
My latest recipe of stuffed mini pumpkins sees these enchanting pumpkins used as the perfect edible bowls for an autumnal lentil and mushroom stew. With the addition of savoy cabbage and seasonal nuts, this wholesome recipe screams autumn. This coming week is now a great time to pick up some interesting and unusual ‘kins that were fortunately not chosen for lantern carving, that will taste utterly delicious on your dinner table.
- 4 mini pumpkins
- Rapeseed oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 red onion
- 4 tbsp dried lentils
- 4 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 500ml vegetable stock
- 15g mixed dried mushrooms
- 1 tsp caramelised onions
- Bunch of parsley
- 50g savoy cabbage, shredded
- 20g breadcrumbs
- 10g hazelnuts
- 10g walnuts
- Slice off the top of the pumpkins and scoop out the inside leaving 1 – 2 cm of flesh. Discard the seeds and fibre and reserve the pumpkin flesh – dice, and put aside. Place the pumpkins in a baking tray and sprinkle inside with a little oil and seasoning. Bake at 180C for 10 – 15 minutes whilst you cook the lentils.
- Finely dice the onion and sauté in a little more oil until the onions have softened. Rinse the lentils before adding to the pan along with the reserved pumpkin, thyme, curry powder and paprika. Coat the lentils with the spices then pour in enough stock the cover the ingredients.
- Occasionally stir the lentils adding stock as and when needed – allow to cook for 10 – 15 minutes. If the lentils are still hard and all the stock has been added, simply add more water – then reduce the liquid when the lentil have cooked through. Take off the heat and stir through the caramelised onions, parsley and cabbage and season to taste.
- Spoon the mixture into the part-cooked pumpkins. Roughly chop the nuts combine in a bowl along with the breadcrumbs and a very small dash of oil. Sprinkle the crumb on top of the stuffed pumpkins and place back in the oven. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until the crumb is golden and the pumpkin is cooked.
- Remove from the oven, sprinkle with a little more parsley and serve as a side for 4 or a large main for 2.
- The size and thickness of your pumpkins will depend on how long they need in the oven. If you pumpkins appear to become limp and unstable in the oven on the first bake, remove immediately, they are ready. Don't over-cook them as they won't hold the lentils on the second bake.