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It’s pump­kin and squash har­vest time and you’re likely to see quite a va­ri­ety in the shops right now, at good prices — so we thought we’d give some of the avail­able va­ri­eties their time in the spot­light this week. First of all, what’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween a squash and a pump­kin? It’s a bit con­fus­ing but ba­si­cally pump­kin is a type of squash — the term squash gen­er­ally refers to four species of genus cu­cur­bita, in­clud­ing the one pump­kin be­longs to. Per­haps what matters more is know­ing how to eat th­ese au­tumn lovelies. They’re re­ally good in a risotto, added to a roasted veg line-up, pureed into a pie, cut up in a frit­tata, added to au­tumn sal­ads with feta cheese — the choices seem end­less. And whatever you do, don’t throw out the seeds. Af­ter you’ve scraped them out from the cen­tre, sim­ply pull them away from the flesh and rinse them clean, spread on a tray to dry, then add a glug of oil and flavour­ings of your choice (salt, chilli flakes, fen­nel seeds and cumin seeds is a good combo but choose your own favourites) and bake in a mod­er­ate oven for 10 min­utes or un­til the seeds are golden. They make a de­li­cious snack or you can toss into sal­ads, or sprin­kle over soups or other savoury dishes for added tex­ture. Roast them plain and you can use them in a co­rian­der and pump­kin-seed pesto or even in a sweet treat, such as cran­berry, choco­late and pump­kin seed cook­ies. Both recipes on But now to flesh out the sub­ject...

But­ter­cup pump­kin (also known as kabocha) is a green-skinned va­ri­ety that is dry with a sweet, nutty flavour, a sort of chest­nut-meets-sweet-potato combo. Pick one that is heavy for its size and store in a cool, dry place. Pump­kins have a great shelf life if stored cor­rectly. Roasted, in soups, pas­tas, pies and baked into cakes and breads, this va­ri­ety is ver­sa­tile and de­li­cious, bear­ing in mind it’s on the drier side.

But­ter­nut squash is a bowl­ing pin-shaped beauty and another ver­sa­tile va­ri­ety that can be used in­ter­change­ably with a but­ter­cup, although it is a lit­tle more moist and less sweet. Th­ese squash are sometimes pop­u­lar be­cause their thin skin makes them eas­ier to peel — yes, we un­der­stand.

Crown pump­kin’s blue-ish grey skin sets this va­ri­ety apart. The rich orange flesh has a mild, sweet flavour with a soft, moist tex­ture. Soups and baked goods are where a crown pump­kin shines, although of course you can steam and roast it too.

You might be spy­ing a lit­tle cutie in the pump­kin sec­tion, called gem squash. Ap­par­ently it’s a favourite South African va­ri­ety, mak­ing it­self known to Ki­wis now too. It has a flavour much like a but­ter­nut, and its size means you can cut it in half, take out the seeds and bake be­fore stuff­ing with fill­ings of your choice, such as tuna and rice, or a meat ragu. Or try the sim­ple roasted bacon wrapped lit­tle gem recipe from

Spaghetti squash: This is one squash that does what it says on the tin, so to speak. When cooked, its flesh can be scraped into spaghetti-like strands and used as you would pasta, in many cases. A method to en­sure the strands are not too moist is to cut the squash in half, re­move the seeds, rub with oil and salt and place cut-side down in an oven, so that mois­ture doesn’t pool in the cav­ity. Then turn over and roast a bit longer cut-side up to­wards the end of cook­ing to dry it out. Use a fork to scrape into its nat­u­ral noodly form. It’s gluten-free “pasta” with added vi­ta­mins, you could say.

Don’t like pump­kin? Well, leeks, cab­bage, broc­coli and cau­li­flower are look­ing good. And ap­ples, pears and ki­wifruit are sweet­en­ing up the fruit sec­tion too, along with sat­sumas. We know they’re im­ported but mango prices are hit­ting their sweet spot now too and make a wel­come trop­i­cal in­jec­tion to the au­tumn ranks. Nikki Bir­rell


Thai red curry pump­kin soup

Peel and core a medium pump­kin and cut into large chunks. Place in a roast­ing tray with 1 Tbsp of co­conut oil, a pinch each of chilli pow­der and cumin, and sea­son with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 min­utes un­til golden. In a large fry­ing pan or saucepan, saute a chopped onion in a lit­tle oil un­til soft. Add 1 Tbsp of red curry paste and mix well. Re­move pump­kin from oven and add it to the pan, al­low it to mix with curry paste and onions. Add ¾ cup of wa­ter and in­crease the heat. Sim­mer for 7–8 min­utes, adding more wa­ter if nec­es­sary — the pan should not be dry. Blend well with a stick blender, slowly adding 1 cup co­conut milk. Heat and sea­son to taste. Serve with plenty of fresh co­rian­der and naan or roti.

Cheesy pump­kin soup

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan and gen­tly cook 2 chopped onions, 2 chopped cel­ery sticks and 3 chopped cloves of gar­lic. Add 500g peeled and chopped pump­kin, 3 cups chicken stock, bring to the boil and then sim­mer un­til pump­kin is soft.

Mean­while, heat oven to 180C. Mix 1 cup tasty cheese

and 1 egg in a small bowl. Spread over 3 slices of bread, then

cut each slice into 3 fin­gers. Place fin­gers on a bak­ing tray and bake for 10 to 15 min­utes un­til crisp. Re­move soup from heat and puree in batches un­til smooth. Re­turn soup to the heat and bring back to the boil. Sea­son to taste with salt and pepper. Scat­ter ½ cup grated cheese over soup and serve with cheesy fin­gers.

Noe­line’s but­ter pump­kin soup

Peel, seed and chop 1 medium pump­kin in a pan with 1 L chicken or veg­etable stock. Cover and bring to the boil, then sim­mer for 10-15 min­utes or un­til the pump­kin is soft. Mash the pump­kin into the stock. Don't drain any stock away.

Mean­while, melt 250g but­ter in a pan. Add 3 chopped onions and 250g chopped bacon and fry over a low heat, stir­ring reg­u­larly, for 15 min­utes un­til onions are soft.

Add 8 Tbsp flour and 2 tsp curry pow­der, mix well and cook, stir­ring, for 2-3 min­utes. Grad­u­ally add up to 1 cup milk, stir­ring, to make a loose paste. Spoon into the mashed pump­kin mix­ture, sea­son with salt and freshly ground black pepper then mix to­gether well. Thin down with 1-2 cups of wa­ter to reach the de­sired con­sis­tency. Serve sprin­kled with fresh chopped herbs, such as pars­ley or co­rian­der.

Lemon, red lentil and pump­kin soup

Peel and slice 3 onions. Set 2 of them aside. Heat 1 Tbsp but­ter and add 1 of the sliced onions. Stir and add 2 cloves gar­lic, finely chopped, with 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh gin­ger and 3 tsp palm su­gar or brown su­gar and 200g red lentils. Pour over 1½ L of wa­ter and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a sim­mer. Stir in 1 tsp each chilli pow­der and turmeric and ½ tsp grated nut­meg with the zest and juice of 1 lemon. Cook for ap­prox­i­mately 30 min­utes.

In a sec­ond saucepan, boil 250g peeled pump­kin, cut into chunks, un­til soft. Drain and mash roughly. Add to the lentils and stir well. Sea­son with salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat 2 Tbsp veg­etable oil in a fry pan, then add the remaining sliced onion and another 2 cloves of finely chopped gar­lic. Add the zest and juice of 2 le­mons and con­tinue cook­ing un­til the onions are deep brown.

Serve the soup in warm bowls with the onions on top, a spoon­ful of yo­ghurt if de­sired, a gen­er­ous amount of chopped co­rian­der and roti or naan bread on the side.

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