Pimp My Pumpkin

Gigi Perry 31 October 2013

Cinderella may have gone to the ball and nabbed her prince but I’ve always harboured more jealousy for her pimped-up pumpkin. How can mere mortals ever compete? Cinders got a golden carriage out of her veg. What do we do with ours? Carve ghoulish faces and discard the flesh. Forgive me for squash-ing (couldn’t resist) your Halloween hopes but I’m on a mission to reclaim the pumpkin as an ingredient to be reckoned with.

It is said that a bad craftsman blames his tools. My ego forces me to argue that a very good craftsman struggles with substandard implements. Therefore, choose your pumpkin with more care than you give your weekly essay. Knock it and choose one that emits a hollow sound: this little beauty is ripe.

The time has come to pimp it up. Lets start at the very beginning. Seeds. These darlings alone make the vegetable worth buying. Once separated from the flesh, rinse them then coat in olive oil. Sprinkle with whatever takes your fancy: sugar, cinnamon, salt, soy sauce, garlic. . . Scatter onto a baking tray and roast for 25 minutes in a hot oven. Yum.

According to Krish Dhokia of hipsterhummus.com “Hummus is like money: there is no such thing as too much”. I would agree, in kind. I can’t get enough of my Pumpkin Hummus. Blitz the roasted squash with chickpeas, garlic and cumin until smooth. Add lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.  Scatter over loads of parsley, smatterings of cumin and more oil. A delightful dip.

Gnocchi, gnocchi, who’s there? Pumpkin and Sage, of course. This is a more complex recipe but one that yields serious results. Start with three cups of a mash mixture made up of pumpkin and potato. Add to ¾ cup of flour, 1/3 cup of grated parmesan, an egg yolk, nutmeg and salt. Mix until it forms a dough. From this you want to make cylinders and cut them into bite sized pieces. Drop into a saucepan of boiling salted water. The gnocchi are cooked when they rise to the top; then plunge into cold water. Return to the pan and drizzle with olive oil before sautéing with caramelised shallots. Serve with crispy-fried sage leaves, lashings of parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil and some sea salt.

No pumpkin discussion would be complete without the infamous Pumpkin Pie. Easy to make, it also counts towards one of your five a day. Blind bake shortcrust pastry in a pie tin until golden. Blend until smooth: five cups of cooked pumpkin, ¾ cup sugar, two eggs, 2/3 cup of double cream, generous dash of cinnamon, allspice, ground ginger and nutmeg. Pour this golden glory into the baked case and cook for one hour in a 160 degree oven. Remove the pie from the tin and leave to cool. Whip double cream with maple syrup. Serve the pie with the maple cream and a smattering of chopped pecans.

Yet we must not relegate this stellar squash to food alone. It is the star of the show in a Spiced Latte. Follow this recipe to create a drink that rivals Starbucks. Heat a cup of milk, a tablespoon of canned pumpkin and a tablespoon of sugar in a saucepan. Stir in half a pinch of pumpkin pie spice, a splosh of vanilla and a shot of espresso. Top with whipped cream, a sprinkling of spice and a cinnamon stick. You’ll like it a latte.

I thought I’d done it. Trumped the golden carriage with my tasty treats. And then I came across a new recipe: a Pumpkin Margarita. Put a shot of tequila (infused with cinnamon and vanilla) in a cocktail shaker (or jam jar) along with roasted pumpkin, agave syrup, a shot of mandarin juice and half a shot of lemon juice. Shake over ice, strain and serve.

Cinderella, eat your heart out.