25 September 2023

Pumpkin Mania

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By Christine Salins


It’s raining pumpkins in the United States. I’ve been doing a road tour in the north-east of the country, enjoying the spectacular autumn foliage in New York State and the New England states of Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

And everywhere I turn, there are pumpkins. Zillions of them. Huge, round, orange beauties used to decorate homes and shops, and ready to go into a huge array of baked goods, from pies and pickles to pasta and risotto.

Pumpkins are a wonderful symbol of autumn. In America, they are used to dress homes to mark the arrival of Fall – placed on steps, verandas and in windows, often with other autumn-themed displays. They also indicate that it isn’t long till Halloween, that crazy time when people carve them into jack-o-lanterns, illuminated by a candle.

They appear on American tables at Thanksgiving, and will also likely pop up at any other time of year, since an uncut pumpkin has an excellent shelf life. Here in Australia we love pumpkin too, though it hasn’t taken on the festive elements in the same way it has in the United States.

Mashing or pureéing boiled pumpkin enables you to use it in a wide range of dishes. Better still if you roast it, for roasting brings out a much deeper intensity of flavour.

Use a mixture of pumpkin mash and ricotta to stuff ravioli or tortellini, or layer potatoes and pumpkin puree then top with breadcrumbs and bake a delicious gratin.

Combine the puree with sharp cheese and a sprinkling of chilli powder to make the filling for a savoury Pumpkin Pie, or caramelise it with onions and mushrooms in a frypan or oven for use as a topping for pizza. Pumpkin also makes wonderful soup, of course.

Pumpkin, leek & cannellini bean soup

Serves: 4

2 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 leeks, trimmed, halved lengthways, washed and thinly sliced

1.2 kg peeled and diced butternut pumpkin (about 1 medium pumpkin)

pinch ground chillies (or to taste)

7 cups chicken stock

1 tbsp thyme leaves

10 thin slices spicy pancetta

400g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

salt and freshly ground black pepper

thyme sprigs, to serve

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until leeks are tender.
  2. Add pumpkin, chillies, stock and thyme. Stir to combine, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat for 20 to 25 minutes or until pumpkin is tender.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat a grill on medium-high heat. Place pancetta on a foil- lined grill tray and grill for 1 minute on each side or until crisp at the edges. Drain on paper towel and cool. Break pancetta into thin strips and set aside.
  4. Using a blender or food processor, puree soup until smooth. Stir in beans and season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat soup over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until hot. Ladle soup into serving bowls, top with pancetta and thyme sprigs and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Sydney Markets.

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