Hallowe’en. Pumpkin season. Every fruit and veg stall in the markets here will have red kuri, ‘le butternut’, or acorn squash at the very least, and there are those dedicated to selling nothing but the rich variety of squash, pumpkin and gourd you can grow here. Kalba gave me this butternut squash some 3 weeks ago, grown in their own garden.
The butternut makes a bid to take over the fridge
It weighs in at more than 7 kilos. More than a stone! We’ve been chomping our way through it, but see how much remains. What’s worse: Malcolm has just owned up to not caring for pumpkin very much. How could he not like it? That comforting sweetness works so well with the saltiness of bacon, the heat and colour of chillies and oriental spices, or the fatty unctuousness of cheap cuts of meat and sausages. Well, his loss. Here are two of my current favourite dishes, both courtesy of Nigel Slater, from Tender, Volume 1, you may not be surprised to hear.
A recent BBC photo of Nigel Slater
Nigel says this is for a cold night. Well, it is. But it’s also a fine thing to dish up on a hot day after a gruelling few hours physical labour. It looks complicated, but it isn’t. Take a deep breath and read it slowly: tackle the pumpkin, then the spice paste; the rest just falls into place.
350g. pumpkin, unskinned
coriander and mint leaves to finish.
For the spice paste:
red bird’s eye chillies, 3-4
garlic- 2 cloves
ginger, a thumb sized lump
lemongrass, 2 plump stalks
coriander roots, 5 or 6 coriander leaves, a handful
sesame oil, 2 tablespoons
For the soup:
chicken or vegetable stock, 600ml
coconut milk, 400ml
nam pla (thai fish sauce), 2 tablespoons
tamari, 1-2 tablespoons, to taste
the juice of a lime
100g dried noodles, cooked as per packet and drained.
- Peel and seed the pumpkin and cut the flesh into large chunks. Cook in a steamer or a metal colander balanced over a pan of boiling water until tender. remove from the heat.
- For the spice paste, remove the stalks from the chillies, peel the garlic, peel and roughly chop the ginger and lemongrass. Put them all into a food processor with the coriander roots and leaves and sesame oil and blitz until you have a rough paste.
- Get a large, deep pan hot and add the spice paste. Fry for a minute, then stir in the stock and the coconut milk and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for seven to ten minutes, then stir in the nam pla, tamari, lime juice, pumpkin and the cooked and drained noodles. Simmer briefly, add the coriander and mint noodles over the top, and serve in deep bowls.
And now for something completely different…..
Pumpkin and Apple fry-up:
either to accompany a meaty supper, or as a main dish in its own right.
a little butter
80g. fatty bacon
650g. pumpkin flesh
400g. apples (Nigel says a desert variety. Mine were very tart, and I thought all the better for it)
caraway seeds, a pinch
- Melt a slice of butter in a shallow pan, cut the bacon into short strips and let them colour lightly in the butter.
- Peel and roughly chop the onion, add to the pan and allow to cook with the bacon until translucent but not browned.
- Cut the pumpkin flesh into manageable pieces and add to the pan, turning from time to time till golden in patches and almost tender.
- Core and roughly chop the apples, but don’t peel them. Stir them into the pan and leave to putter gently until they are on the verge of collapse. Avoid stirring too much, which is likely to mash the softening pumpkin.
- Finely grate the zest from the lemon and add it to the pan with the juice, the caraway seeds and a little salt.
But wait! Isn’t this what pumpkins are supposed to be for? My son obviously thinks so, and took this photo to prove it. Though he’s a dab hand at cooking too.
PS. Some of you have been asking about Danger Mouse. Well. He’s not a mouse – too big, too cuddly. He’s not a hamster, as we at one point thought. Long tail. He’s not a dormouse. Wrong sort of tail. And he’s not a rat. Too small, too cuddly. However, he’s continuing to be part of life here. He rises at about 8.30 p.m. and organises his furniture behind the skirting boards, shoving stuff about quite noisily. Then he knocks off and has a nap till we’ve gone to bed. During the night he dismantles the latest humane trap, and eats the bait. In the small hours he may come and scurry round the floorboards under the bedroom. Then he goes to bed until the next night. If he ever goes, I think I shall miss him.