I never know what to do with pumpkins besides carve them. Help!
As a key player in holidays such as Halloween and Thanksgiving, it’s little wonder that pumpkins are so social, being at ease with a multitude of flavours (miso, spices, parmesan) and in dishes from curries to savoury crumbles. There are many varieties to get to know, too – creamy, nutty kabocha, say, or the richer potimarron (AKA onion squash or red kuri) – although, happily, they are often interchangeable.
Roasting is perhaps Ella’s easiest route, not least because it leads to many possibilities. “I tend to roast firmer-fleshed pumpkins, such as crown prince or delica, ahead, and then it’s ready to go into salads, soups or stews,” says Joe Woodhouse, author of More Daily Veg. If, however, the pumpkin is on the small side (think red kuri), Woodhouse roasts it whole: “Take off the top, scoop out the innards, then stuff and bake it.”
Imad Alarnab, of Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, meanwhile, favours baby bear pumpkin: “Marinate strips of the skin with lemon juice, black pepper, salt and oil, then roast until they’re nice and crisp. They’re perfect for snacking on.” Alternatively, he serves roast slices alongside spiced yoghurt and bulgur wheat or rice: “It’s a sort of vegetarian take on a Syrian shakriya, a soup made with lamb, yoghurt and chickpeas.” Leftover pumpkin can be blitzed into a puree to eat with lamb skewers, for example, though Woodhouse might bake it into a loaf: “You could even use leftover soup for that,” he says. “Soda bread is probably the easiest, because the dough for that can be wetter. The pumpkin adds sweetness, and it’s such a good way to use up leftover pureed pumpkin or a half-portion of soup.” It’s also worth keeping a stash of diced pumpkin in the freezer, Woodhouse says, so you can “grab handfuls and sprinkle into soups”, with minestrone and a ginger rice number topping his list.
You might also want to gravitate towards gratins. Potatoes needn’t have the monopoly here, so sub in pumpkin and top with the usual suspects (breadcrumbs, cheese, herbs). Equally comforting is Woodhouse’s pasta sauce: “Sweat an onion, then throw in a bit of diced pumpkin and it will soon break down into a creamy sauce. You can then add herbs such as crisp fried sage.”
Autumn is undoubtedly crunch time, so something fried also makes sense here. Ollie Templeton’s current go-to is tempura, which he makes by slicing the veg into thin wedges and lightly salting them. “Leave to sit for a few hours to soften, then fry in a really light batter,” says the co-founder of Carousel in London, who serves the pumpkin parcels with “aïoli made using an infused pumpkin oil”. The seeds also make a top crunchy snack when toasted over a gentle heat with lemon juice and salt, Alarnab says, while Douglas McMaster, of no-waste restaurant Silo in London, says his “latest revelation” is pumpkin skin marmalade. First, you’ll want a red kuri or similar, “because it retains more moisture in the cooking process, and also has an electric orange colour”. Peel and steam the skin, then cut it into thin matchsticks. “You can then follow a normal marmalade recipe to preserve the skin and turn it into an epic accompaniment.” As Paddington Bear might say, keep that under your hat.