“An estimated ten million pumpkins are grown in the UK every year, 95% of which are used for halloween lanterns”
Seen in The Guardian, October 2018
This post is contributed by Saucy Dressings’ chief correspondent, Domini Hogg, and it’s particularly appropriate today, Hallowe’en.
It was just another Thursday evening until I saw the pumpkin in the supermarket. I’d been working all hours of the day and night for weeks by now preparing for an exhibition in a few weeks’ time. Suddenly the child in me came out and all I wanted to do was have a bit of fun.
My approach to cooking has always been somewhat experimental. I’ve never been very good at sticking rigidly to the rules of a recipe and most of the time I like to simply throw a few ingredients together. Shopping in the supermarket I feel a little bit like an artist selecting the colours to put on my palate. My eye tends to catch something I like, normally something I haven’t eaten in a while and then my taste buds kick in and I start salivating as I imagine which flavours would complement the inspirational ingredient. Ideas fly off the shelves and into my basket as I do the rounds of the aisles.
It was nearly Halloween and there were pumpkins placed prominently in the entrance. Why not? I thought. My housemate would be home soon and we could cook together. Why not buy a pumpkin, carve it and then cook it? I’d only tried carving a pumpkin once before and it hadn’t been a great success, but perhaps I’d do better this time, and in any case it would be fun to do.
Enormous pumpkin tucked under my arm and a bag full of spur-of-the-moment ingredients in my hand, I made my way home and announced to my housemate that we would be having Pumpkin risotto, but were going to carve the pumpkin first.
We got stuck in and my housemate turned out to be quite experienced. She taught me a number of essentials:
How to carve a pumpkin
· You can use a pencil on a pumpkin to get the lines right before you start cutting
· The pumpkin might be big, but you need to use the smallest knives you have to get the best detail. We ended up using a paring or turning knife which was perfect for getting those curved lines and a rather vicious-looking slightly hooked short knife that we found in the drawer (no idea where that came from!)
· It’s best to carve the pumpkin first before you remove the insides for greater stability.
· The top of the pumpkin will come off easily with gentle wiggling if you have really cut through the whole way to the centre all the way round.
· You can’t actually eat most of the pumpkin insides. Instead you have to scoop out the seeds and if you want to keep the outside of the pumpkin for scaring off visitors you have to scrape the pumpkin flesh off the sides with a spoon. (I really was a novice when I came to pumpkin cooking, so it was just as well she was around to help!)
Triumphantly we completed our masterpiece and set him alight while we cooked his inside. The risotto was super simple to make and really quite delicious. We sat down to enjoy it with our ghoulish friend grinning at us from the far end of the table.
Recipe for pumpkin and asparagus topped risotto
- 1 onion
- 1 pumpkin
- Generous slosh of white wine
- 500g/1 lb 2 oz risotto rice
- 1 pack prosciutto/serrano ham plus two extra for garnish
- 1 pack feta
- Balsamic glaze
- ½ pack Seed, Berry & Goji mix from Waitrose (includes pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, goji berries, pine kernels, cranberries and blueberries) – the cranberries went surprisingly well
- 2 packs fine asparagus
- Salt + pepper
- make risotto as described in this post, but without the mushrooms.
- meanwhile roast the pumpkin.
- roast the asparagus as described in this post.
This post is dedicated to Sophia Goodall.