Pumpkin season means Halloween?
Oh no: it’s now an all-year-round-pumpkin-season!
For long years I hadn’t any relationship with pumpkin. From my childhood I remember mainly the “classic sweet sour pumpkin pickles” which I didn’t like at all. So I never thought about pumpkin when planning dinners or brunches later… until – only some years ago – I read in a magazine about a pumpkin casserole for an extensive brunch of about 10-12 people. It was a mix of pumpkin with onions & bacon, tomatoes & green/red peppers covered with cream & eggs & goat cheese… The photos of the pumpkin casserole as well as the recipe were appealing to me & made me curious about pumpkin as a vegetable & pumpkin based side dishes in general.
For the record:
Of course I tried the casserole recipe – successful! – and discovered some interesting facts like “A pumpkin is big!” & “A pumpkin is very, very hard!” combined with the nagging question “Will it really soften while cooking?”.
Where to start? I admit at the very beginning that I never tried to manage one of the big classic orange Halloween pumpkins which end up as lanterns on porches (you surely remember photos from markets in USA around Halloween & Halloween decorated homes!?) because I thought that the resulting pumpkin flesh of these might really a bit too much for me, my better half & some friends for brunch or dinner.
Studying food magazines I was introduced to a world of many different pumpkin species & I learned that some – especially smaller ones – are only used for home decoration – because they are poisonous & inedible – while the bigger ones seem to be chosen for cooking. (Honestly: most of them I’ve never seen live!)
When roaming my trusted food store I experienced that the real pumpkin world delivers mainly Halloween, Butternut, Hokkaido & “Bischofsmütze” (as it is called in Germany: a green-light yellow pumpkin shaped like an UFO). While Halloween & “Bischofmütze” pumpkins seem to be restricted to Halloween season especially the Hokkaido is offered all year round.
Because I decided that the Halloween is too big & I read that the management of a “Bischofsmütze” is difficult because of the shape & it tastes “like nothing” (I never tried one, too) I focused on Butternut & Hokkaido instead:
Both are usually about 1.000 – 2.000 gr & both require strong muscles & heavy sharp knives for halving & quartering – you really get the impression that it won’t work out w/o cooking for several hours at least as long as you are inexperienced with pumpkin.
The scraping of the seeds & the fibers (next step) is really easy – you can simply use a spoon. On time scale you won’t need more than about 10 min to get a “ready-to-cook” pumpkin. If you choose to cook with…
… you’ll have to decide now:
You can place the Butternut halves in the oven & roast it by about 150° C fan for about 30 min.
Afterwards you can scrape the flesh out of the rather hard skin & mash it.
You can peel the Butternut – trust me: it’s not so easy! – and cut the Butternut into small cubes & cook/roast it.
… you’ll just have to cut the Hokkaido into small cubes or slices & cook/roast it.
(No peeling required!)
Guess: what do you think I’ll prefer?
Of course the Hokkaido!
For the record:
Yes – I tried working with a Butternut: it tastes as fine as a Hokkaido. I strongly recommend to use the “oven approach” – therefore reducing Butternut mainly for use as puree.
Today’s recipe deals with roasted pumpkin becoming a rather hearty side dish for meat with gravy (refer to Roast Beef dinner). I started with half a Hokkaido (about 700 gr – unprocessed). Main ingredients were a green, rather sour apple, some spring onions, some bacon & shredded cheese.
You start with a casserole (about 33 cm x 17,5 cm / 1.900 ml) which will be fit to appear on the table later on. Just mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped spring onions & bacon with salt & pepper. Then add the diced apple & the diced Hokkaido.
Add some of the shredded cheese & mix everything thoroughly together. Finally sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the vegetable mix.
…and then into the oven for about 30-40 min – coming out like:
Here’s the recipe:
I think you get it when reading the recipe & comparing with the example in the photos: roasted pumpkin is a very basic side dish which can be flavoured to your preference resp. to fit into the dinner you want to do. Since I discovered pumpkin I created different versions of the dish depending if we had guests liking or disliking garlic & chili, if the dinner/brunch was more Mediterranean style or classic German… with cheese/without cheese… The recipe covers all possibilities I ever tried & I liked each version! Therefore: encourage yourself to try different flavors – you can’t fail!
What else? I like to mention & to record that I started last year – inspired by many recipes in food blogs – to use pumpkin puree for baking & as a sauce: unfortunately both approaches didn’t work out as I hoped – however, I’ll try again!
Another point: in many pumpkin recipes people just use “pumpkin puree”. When roaming my trusted food store I didn’t find any canned pumpkin puree which seems to be common in other parts of the world. During my experimental phase I always prepared pumpkin puree from the scratch which is a little time-consuming… finally I read in the food blog IHerzFood about a solution: there is pumpkin puree for babies (little jars (125 gr) filled with organic pumpkin puree & nothing else (no salt, no sugar, no any other additives)). I stocked up & will restart baking & sauce production soon – it’s convenient that the jars are so small!
- If you need only half a Hokkaido you can store the 2nd half for about 2-3 weeks in the fridge (this was the longest period I remember!). I don’t know how long you can store a Hokkaido: literature says it’s about 1 year!
- You can prepare the casserole for roasted pumpkin one day before: the olive oil & the balsamic vinegar coat the ingredients – store it in the fridge.
- If you start preparing the dinner just put the casserole in the oven – together with the meat & more vegetables. The casserole will need 30-40 min so start cooking about 30-40 min before the meat is ready.
- Leftovers? Fine: you can freeze any roasted pumpkin & defrost again – there is no loss in quality. (Only be careful when there is a rather thick top layer of cheese: this might get hard – so mix it in the roasted pumpkin before freezing.)
The businesswoman with too many office hours thinks
I understand that Hokkaido – available all year round – is the top solution for roasted pumpkin which can be prepared in almost no time & effort – and I can easily create different versions. I think I can get accustomed to this side dish especially because it’s somewhat “exotic”! Seems to be perfect for dinners!