Gorgeous gourds

October’s piles of pumpkins must be one of the prettiest sights of the season. Jack O’Lantern-carving fun aside I go in for eating the flesh as a spiced soup, mashed as a partner to some good meaty sausages or baked with orange zest and rosemary.

There’s pumpkin pie, too, which is mostly thought of as an American dish but – much like the carving of the lanterns – its heritage really lies with the other winter squashes that are the pumpkin’s British relatives. Like Norfolk’s old recipe for Million Pie – a pastry crust filled with the sweetened and spiced mash of one of the many other squashes that would have been around in the 16th century at this time of year.

Our modern grocers are happily getting better at offering up a wider variety of squashes again than just the old-faithful butternut and pumpkin. Keep an eye out for the glorious variety of shapes, sizes and colours that run the gamut of our gourds.

Pumpkin soupSPICED PUMPKIN SOUP – for 6

1tbsp oil

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/2tsp each of chilli powder, ground coriander & ground cumin

1kg pumpkin into inch chunks – weight when peeled and de-seeded

1l veg stock

100ml sour cream

Saute the onion in the oil until soft. Add the garlic and spices for about a minute. Add the pumpkin and the stock. Simmer until tender – about 20 mins. Blend until super-smooth. Season and stir in the cream. Re-heat and serve. You could drizzle a little more cream over for prettiness.

PUMPKIN PANGRATTATO (from Nigel Slater’s ‘Tender’) – for 4

‘Pangrattato’ meaning breadcrumbs.  I sometimes cook the pumpkin alongside some chicken thighs. The flavours all meld together into something truly fabulous. But it’s also terrific when cooked on its own as an accompaniment.

1kg pumpkin or butternut squash into chunks – weight before being peeled and de-seeded

3 garlic cloves, chopped

5tbsps olive oil

mild red chilli

1tbsp chopped rosemary leaves

zest of half an orange

handful of roughly chopped parsley

4 handfuls of fresh white breadcrumbs

thick slice of butter

Preheat the oven to 180C

Steam the pumpkin chunks for about 15mins until only just tender. Heat the olive oil and add the garlic and chilli. Then the rosemary and orange zest. Then the parsley and breadcrumbs. Stir round for a few mins until pale brown.

Tip the pumpkin into an oven-dish. Season and dot small pieces of the butter over. Then tip over the breadcrumb mix and stir through the pumpkin. Drizzle over a little olive oil. Bake for about 40mins until tender and golden.

Baked acorn squashSTUFFED ACORN SQUASH – for 2

1 acorn squash, halved with the seeds scooped out

20g raisins (or sultanas)

2 small red onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1tsp each ground coriander and cumin

100g chorizo sausage, cut into 1cm pieces

tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed

handful flat leaf parsley, chopped

lemon

1tsp red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 200C.

1. Make a few slashes into the cut-sides of the acorn squash and rub in some olive oil and salt. Put them cut-side down on a baking tray and roast for 30 minutes.

2. Make the filling while they’re roasting. Pour some boiling water over the raisins in a bowl and leave. Soften the onion in oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and spices and then the chorizo and chickpeas. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes. If it’s too dry pour over a couple of tbsps of wine, water, or stock. Add the parsley, a good squeeze of lemon, the vinegar and the drained raisins. Season. Cook gently for 15 minutes.

3. When the squash come out of the oven turn them over – if they won’t stand up cut a flat edge to the curve. Scoop the filling inside the squash. There’ll be too much but keep the extra filling warm to serve alongside.

4. Return the squash – now filled – to the oven for 10 minutes. Serve with the rest of the stuffing and some green leaves.

(A version of this appeared in my ‘Culinary Calendar‘ column for The Arbuturian. There’s also some parsnip ideas there.)

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