WHY WE LOVE IT: Because we also love Halloween! Oct 31st in the northern hemisphere signals the peak of the season, and pumpkins are used to make jack-o-lanterns as well as classic pumpkin pies. Its natural sweetness makes it versatile for use in countless savoury dishes as well as sweet, such as Iranian candied pumpkin. You can eat almost every part too – flesh, seeds, oil from the seeds, leaves, flowers and even the skin in young specimens.
IN SEASON: Although they are available year round, pumpkins are at their best from April through to August.
CHECK IT’S FRESH: when buying pre-cut pumpkin make sure the flesh is not dried out. The skin should be hard and it should feel heavy for its size.
VARIETIES: Butternut pumpkin is actually a squash; it has a finer texture and sweeter flavour so make sure you reduce the amount of sugar in sweet dishes if you’re using this variety. Japanese pumpkin (e.g.Hokkaidoor Kent) is dryer and nuttier in flavour, so it’s perfect for gnocchi and dumplings, while the grey pumpkin (e.g. Queensland Blue) is a great all-rounder.
COOKING AND PREP METHODS: Please please please watch your fingers! No one wants a pinkie in their pumpkin soup… Using a large heavy knife, cut the pumpkin in half by inserting the tip of the knife through the stem first. You may need to jimmy it if the knife gets stuck. Remove seeds using a spoon and reserve. Next, ensure the pumpkin is sitting cut side down, flat on the bench to give you stability. Cut the pumpkin into any size you want, and use a small serrated knife to remove the peel. The flesh can be steamed (perfect for mash), roasted (great for intensifying the flavour and caramelising the natural sugars), fried (tempura, anyone?), sautéed or boiled (although we don’t recommend it, as the pumpkin will absorb too much water and the flavour will dilute). The seeds make a delicious snack when roasted. Wash off some of the excess gunk, then boil the seeds in salted water for about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse, then pat dry and coat in some oil and salt (or try seasoning with spices!). Roast at 180C for about 15-20 minutes until golden.
STORE IT: whole pumpkins can last for months and months in a coo, dry place. Once cut, pumpkin will last a week in the fridge.
NOURISHES: pumpkin seeds are full of protein and zinc, and even help to lower cholesterol, while the flesh is full of dietary fibre and beta-carotene antioxidant.
CLASSIC FLAVOUR PAIRINGS: sage, rosemary, nutmeg, apple, almond, goats cheese, chilli, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, chestnuts
3 WAYS WITH PUMPKIN:
Pumpkin, date and almond scones
Pumpkin and apple soup with toasted pine nuts and creme fraiche
Pumpkin in red curry, topped with some crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds
BUY IT: Every supermarket around Australia
DID YOU KNOW? Pumpkins are actually native to North America, and the world record for the biggest pumpkin ever grown is 822kg!