Ingredient of the Month - Pumpkin

Are you planning to carve a pumpkin for Halloween? It's all too easy to discard the flesh and pips, but we love to use pumpkin and squash in our dishes - we hate to see the good stuff wasted!

Ingredient of the month - Pumpkin

As we never celebrated Halloween in Hong Kong, pumpkin to me has always been a winter warming dish, not a festive icon as it is in America and now in the UK. I love seeing the children’s excitement during this festive season as a one-off social evening with their friends. The scary costumes, the creative make-up and visiting neighbours, are all they need to break the long michaelmas school term. 

Pumpkin Carving

I must admit this is a day that I look forward to now as much as my children do. I do love carving the pumpkins and putting candles in to change the whole atmosphere inside and outside the house.  The colours reminds us autumn is here – the air is fresher, the nights are longer and the summer has gone. We prepare dinner earlier as the days get darker, and pumpkin soup is one of our favourites in the house. 

Pumpkin Soup

But there are three other dishes I want to show you. The first one is the pumpkin salad. This is based on our most popular avocado salad, so it’s suitable for vegetarians and vegans. But meat eaters can also replace the avocado with Parma ham which is a really nice combination.

Ready for Testing

Pumpkin & Avocado Salad (serves 4)

  • a medium butternut pumpkin, deseeded, cut into 2cm cubes, 300g needed
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • sliced carrot
  • Olive oil
  • Handful of pine nuts, toasted quickly in a hot pan
  • 200g of green salad leaves

Dressing: 100ml of local honey mixed with 2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar + olive oil (warm to mix well)

Garnish: chopped chillies, salt & pepper

Quickly pan-fry the pumpkin pieces with olive oil, salt & pepper.  It’s lovely to see the hard pale pumpkin pieces soften and turned into a golden yellow colour.

Pumpkin Preparation

While the pumpkin is cooling, arrange the salad leaves, the carrot strips, avocado (or curly parma ham) before putting the warm golden pumpkin on top. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts, seasonings and the sweet vinegar dressing before serving.

We asked our lovely friend Claireabellemakes to test this salad, accompanied with a fresh juice of carrot, ginger and apple. It was well received and thoroughly enjoyed! Claire told us "I thought the salad was particularly tasty. The pumpkin was great and I think if it was served warm it would be even better. Great to see seasonal ingredients being used." 

If you think a winter warmer should be a filling dish, you will like my next two dishes which are great for lunch or dinner, especially if you are, like me, a rice lover.

Prawn and Pumpkin

Pumpkin Fried Rice with Prawns (serves 4)

  • medium butternut pumpkin, deseeded, cut into 2cm cubes, approx 500g 
  • 2 cups of rice, washed and boiled
  • 300g raw deshelled prawns
  • a small onion, chopped into 2cm cubes
  • 2 pieces of spring onion, finely chopped
  • olive oil, chopped garlic, salt, (white) pepper, chillies, soya sauce

Boil the rice and let it cool before the preparation.

 

Heat olive oil, garlic and pan-fry the onion before adding the pumpkin. When the pumpkin turns golden yellow and softened, add the soya sauce & chillies. Put it on a separate dish to cool while using the same pan to fry the de-shelled prawns and spring onion, season with the salt and white pepper. Just before the transparent prawns turns totally white, add the cool boiled rice and quickly fry until mixed well.  Add the pumpkin pieces and stir in well without breaking the soft cubes.  Serve with a simple salad and green/ jasmine tea.

Note:

  • It’s important to use white pepper instead of black pepper as the latter may over-power the delicate taste of the prawns.
  • You may prefer to boil the rice the night before and let it cool in the fridge overnight to dry so it’s easier to fry.  But as long as the boiled rice is not too wet/soft, it’s fine to do it same day.

​If you prefer a more aromatic dish, you can use meat to replace prawns, I personally like combination of chicken and mushroom.  But I was adventurous enough to use pork loin this time which I love also.  This is very similar to the prawn rice recipe above, just replace the prawns with the pork and mushrooms and fry a bit longer until thoroughly cooked.  As dry shiitake mushroom has a much stronger aroma than fresh ones and has a dominant taste in the dish, I prefer the pumpkins a bit undercooked & cutting them in bigger pieces to bring out the crunchiness in the dish.

Close up Pork and Pumpkin

Pumpkin Rice with Pork and Shiitake Mushrooms (serves 4)

  • a medium butternut pumpkin, deseeded, cut into 3cm cubes, approx 500g
  • 2 cups of rice, washed and boiled (can use water from soaking dry mushrooms)
  • 300g pork loin, thinly sliced, marinated with soya sauce, one tbsp of cornflour & olive oil
  • 8 dry shiitake mushroom, soaked for 2 hours or overnight, squeeze out water, cut into slices (use the same water to use for boiling rice)
  • a small onion, chopped into 2cm cubes
  • 2 pieces of spring onion, finely chopped
  • olive oil, chopped garlic, salt, pepper, chillies, soya sauce

Finished Dish

I hope you enjoy these 3 recipes as much as we loved creating and eating them and you feel inspired to cook the insides of your carved pumpkin instead of throwing it away. For more pumpkin inspiration ideas, check out this year's Cambridge Pumpkin Festival. Organised by Cambridge Sustainable Food, there are lots of free family friendly events http://www.cambridgesustainablefood.org/pumpkin-festival-2015/pumpkin-fe...

And of course don't forget to enter our Pumpkin Carving Competition and win a free family lunch at Bridges! http://bridgescambridge.co.uk/competition

Happy carving!