The fu­ture’s or­ange

It’s that pump­kin time of year again. But there is no need to make a face. Ruth Joseph on a healthy and ver­sa­tile veg­etable

The Jewish Chronicle - - Features -

THE RED/GOLDEN pump­kin is a glo­ri­ous sight and now farmer’s mar­ket stalls are laden with th­ese won­der­ful squashes. Of course they are not men­tioned in the Bi­ble be­cause they ar­rived as galleon trea­sures from the New World, orig­i­nally trans­ported by Span­ish con­quis­ta­dors but dis­trib­uted by Jewish mer­chants in ex­change for silks and spices from the Ori­ent.

How­ever, both the Sephardi and Ashke­nazi rab­bis were quick to en­dow th­ese solid squashes with Jewish sym­bol­ism, so they evolved as a tra­di­tion­ally Jewish veg­etable. Beau­ti­fully round and some­times golden, they came to sig­nify money. The su­per-tough peel has been de­scribed by sages as a metaphor for our lives, in that we should be strong and re­silient, shield­ing our­selves from en­e­mies.

Cer­tainly, eat­ing pump­kin and its seeds may help our health. New in­ves­ti­ga­tions pub­lished by a Chi­nese uni­ver­sity found that chem­i­cal com­pounds in pump­kin will pro­mote re­gen­er­a­tion in dam­aged pan­cre­atic cells.

The Chem­istry and In­dus­try Jour­nal re­ported that pump­kin ex­tract may be “a very good prod­uct for pre-di­a­betic pa­tients, as well as those who al­ready have di­a­betes; pos­si­bly re­duc­ing or elim­i­nat­ing the need for in­sulin in­jec- tions for some type-one di­a­bet­ics”. The study did not in­clude type-two di­a­bet­ics and this re­search is still in its in­fancy, but nev­er­the­less the signs are pos­i­tive.

The veg­etable does con­tain large amounts of carotene, giv­ing it its tempt­ing colour, while its mag­i­cal an­tiox­i­dant prop­er­ties help in the fight against cataracts and mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion. It also has large amounts of Vi­ta­min A and C, zinc, iron and high fi­bre, apart from the seeds, which have health-giv­ing prop­er­ties.

Re­mem­ber the large spec­i­mens have been grown for dec­o­ra­tion. So the smaller, heav­ier va­ri­ety pro­duced for the ta­ble are the ones to choose. And once you cut through the thick, out­side peel, the golden flesh begs to be cooked.

My hus­band en­joyed a de­li­ciously fra­grant lunch in the cen­tre of Man­tova, where pump­kin flesh was com­bined with amoretti bis­cuits, then en­cased in del­i­cate, pasta parcels and served with a but­tery sage sauce.

You can cre­ate some glo­ri­ous recipes with pump­kin. Slice the flesh into seg­ments and roast it with chunks of half-cooked po­tato, red onion and a lit­tle thyme to ac­com­pany your roast chicken. Or per­haps af­ter roast­ing, pare away from the skins and cut into chunks, adding the sweet flesh to a kugel or tz­immes.

Or, since pump­kin is quite bland, make a rel­a­tively healthy dessert by slic­ing through the whole veg­etable and lay slices in an oven-to-ta­ble dish with cored, sliced pears. Then sprin­kle with a lit­tle mus­co­v­ado su­gar mixed with mixed spice or cin­na­mon and dried fruit. Pour over some mango-juice or a lit­tle kid­dush wine and bake on gas mark 4, 180 ˚ C, 350 ˚ F for 40 min­utes to 1 hour un­til lus­cious and sweet. Serve the suc­cu­lent slices with vanilla yo­ghurt.

Or given the news from China, maybe try my tasty pump­kin and five-spice soup — a fu­sion dish that ac­cen­tu­ates the pump­kin flavour. Sub­sti­tute the stock, or part of it, for co­conut milk for a rich din­ner-party course.

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