Vegetable of the Week: Pumpkin
Each week plant-based cook Bettina Campolucci Bordi, founder of Bettina’s Kitchen, gives us the lowdown on a particular seasonal vegetable or ingredient, offering cooking tips and a recipe. This week it’s pumpkins.
‘Tis the season of pumpkins, cosy jumpers, hot chocolates, cosy fires, movies and lots of sofa cuddles. With Halloween just gone and Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, pumpkins are being used both as décor and in dishes everywhere.
I don’t think pumpkins should just be used as decoration. I know they look pretty on a table, and they can be scary to cook with because of their sheer size and preparation time – but I am going to talk you through some simple hacks that will make your journey into pumpkin eating an easy one.
From bright orange winter pumpkins to summer’s soft green courgettes, the cucurbit family is an easy vegetable to grow organically. And they taste good: roasted and softened with garlic, stewed in soups or curries or sweetened in pies. Even the seeds can be tasty toasted and should not be discarded.
I highly suggest roasting a whole pumpkin or squash in the oven that can then sit in the fridge and be used for various dishes – folded into pastas, for instance, or incorporated into grain bowls. Roasting time depends on the size of the pumpkin but I would say 180 degrees and minimum and hour or even two so that you get a nice soft scoop. You can also save the seeds, flavour and roast them. If you put your pumpkin in a big pot of boiling water (skin on) for a few minutes then it will be much easier to cut into.
Most are familiar with pumpkins being used for pies, but they can also be folded into muffins, pancakes, soups or stews. Let’s chat about one of my favourite variety: the kabocha. Although this squash has its origins with Native Americans, the recent varieties have been developed in Japan. They all have a dark green matte skin with orange flesh. Buttercup is the most popular variety (not to be confused with butternut). Below is a great recipe that uses the whole ingredient with no waste.
Recipe: Oven Roasted Whole Kabocha with a Rice, Onion & Nut Filling
A dish guaranteed to have everyone coming back for seconds with its warming-from-the-inside-out cosiness. It will become a winter family favourite, and is a great way to use a whole pumpkin with minimal waste.
Serves 2 – 4
- 2 medium-sized kabocha
- Olive oil
- 1 courgette, diced
- 1 shallot, diced
- 1/2 tsp coriander seed
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- Pinch of chili
- 140g (1 cup) basmati rice
- 250 ml vegetable stock
- 60ml of water
- Salt & pepper to taste
Herbed yogurt sauce
- 1/2 cucumber, finely diced
- 400g pot plant-based yogurt ( I like using oat yogurt but soy or coconut yogurt would work too)
- 1 handful mint, chopped
- 1 handful dill, chopped
- 1 tbsp capers, chopped
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- 1/4 shallot, diced
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. With a short knife, carefully cut around the stem of one pumpkin to make a lid. Pry out the lid with a table knife. Scrape out and discard the seeds from the lid and the inside of the pumpkin. Brush the interior of the pumpkin and the inside of the lid with olive oil and sprinkle the inside with salt. Repeat with the second pumpkin. Set the pumpkins on a rimmed baking sheet ready to be filled. In a pan, fry off the shallots and courgettes with a good glug of olive oil until nice and soft. Add the spices one by one.
- Once the veggies are nice and soft, add the rice and stock and turn heat down to a simmer.
- Let the rice soak up all the liquid for a good 20 minutes. Add more water if needed, but just a little. Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.
- Remove the rice mixture from the heat and use it to fill up the pumpkins. Add 60ml of water in between the two pumpkins. Put the lids of the pumpkins on and place in the oven for 45 – 60 minutes.
- While the pumpkins are cooking, make the herbed yogurt sauce by adding all of the ingredients together and giving it a good mix. Set aside in the fridge.
- You will know the pumpkins are ready when the rice inside is fully cooked and the pumpkins are soft to the touch. If unsure, I sometimes switch off the oven at 45 minutes and let the pumpkins continue to cook with the after heat.
- Once your pumpkins are ready, serve with the lovely tangy cold sauce and a side of fresh greens or steamed veggies. Such a great winter warmer of a dish.
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