Savoury or sweet, main meal or light snack, in rustic or sophisticated dishes – there are countless ways to enjoy pumpkin.
From soups, roasts, curries, pasta, quiche, risotto, salads, dips, tarts, pies to scrumptious scones, there’s something timeless and unforgettable about pumpkin recipes.
Perhaps this timeless quality is due to the fact that pumpkins have been cultivated for more than 5000 years. In fact, pumpkin seeds were found in Mexico dating back to between 7000 and 5500 BC. Pumpkin seeds were carried to Australia on the First Fleet in 1788.
Known in North America as winter squash, pumpkin is a classic winter flavour. On a cold winter’s day, there is nothing as warming and nourishing as a bowl of freshly-made pumpkin soup. While the bumper season is autumn to early winter, in Australia it is grown and available year round, so residents can enjoy pumpkin dishes in any season.
Type of vegetable:
Pumpkin is a hard-skinned, hard-fleshed, mature fruit in the Cucurbita gourd family, which also includes squash and zucchini. Like grapes, pumpkin grows on a vine, which technically makes it a fruit. Pumpkin comes in a vast array of shapes, sizes, colours and patterns. In Australia, we have several varieties including the popular Butternut, Jap (Kabocha), Jarrahdale and Queensland Blue.
- About 75g
Taste: Pumpkins have a sweet, nutty flavour, although each variety has different flesh and recommended preparation techniques. Roasting often intensifies the sweet, caramelised flavour and colour.
Companion flavours and foods: One of the simplest and most delicious flavour combinations is pumpkin with sage or rosemary, olive oil and a light seasoning of salt and pepper. Or for a Moroccan twist, try pumpkin roasted with cumin, garlic and chickpeas. Cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger are also close cousins of cumin and are absolutely delicious with pumpkin.
Roasted pumpkin complements all other roasting vegetables including potatoes, eggplant, cauliflower, garlic, onions, leek, carrots, zucchinis and parsnip. Partner with proteins such as feta, parmesan, haloumi or ricotta cheese, eggs, meats or pine nuts for a delicious flavour combination. Pumpkin is mouth-watering in risotto and pasta dishes, especially pumpkin-filled ravioli with a simple burnt butter and sage sauce. Herbs, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper all enhance the flavour of pumpkins.
Pumpkin is amazingly versatile in both savoury and sweet dishes, adding intense colour and delicious flavour. Roasted, boiled, pureed, steamed, as the key ingredient or side accompaniment – pumpkins are delicious and nutritious anyway you prepare them. The cooking process transforms the hard-textured vegetable into a soft, smooth texture which is easily pureed for sauces, pasta fillings, dips or soups.
Baked: Oven-baking is great for pumpkin, as it caramelises the natural sugars to make them taste extra sweet and soft. Pumpkin can be roasted with the skin on, or cut into smaller segments without the skin. Roasted pumpkin can be added to a salad, frittata, quiche, or enjoyed with roast meat.
Pureed/Mash: Steam or boil cut segments until very tender. Mash or puree the pumpkin to make a smooth silky texture. The puree can be used in sweet dishes like pumpkin pie and scones. For savoury dishes, pureed pumpkin makes a delicious pasta filling or sauce, or as an alternative to mash potato in a cottage pie. Season with cooked onions, herbs, roasted garlic, or salt and pepper.
Soup: Nothing beats the flavour of a classically-simple pumpkin soup garnished with sour cream and chives.