Matt Pre­ston:

On all the rea­sons why we should em­brace the most gourd-geous of ve­g­ies, the pump­kin

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TASSIE LIVING - @mattscra­vat @MattsCra­vat MATT PRE­STON For more sea­sonal pump­kin recipes, visit de­li­cious.com.au

‘Power to the pump­kin!’ hollers Matt Pre­ston, who says there are so many rea­sons be­yond pump­kin soup to love this year-round sta­ple. From a vi­brant HUM­MUS TO AN EASY MID-WEEK TRAY BAKE, HE SHARES HIS TOP fiVE SEA­SONAL RECIPES for this most gourd-geous of veg­eta­bles

I HAVE of­ten won­dered how some­thing as dumpy, round and dull-look­ing as a pump­kin can be so to­tally de­li­cious? Then I look in the mir­ror and I un­der­stand. You see, with peo­ple, as with pump­kins, the ‘ug­li­ness’ is of­ten only skin deep and may well hide a sweet­ness that all but the sourest will find de­li­cious.To make things even bet­ter, with pump­kins, this sweet­ness in­ten­si­fies with cooking and pump­kin can end up al­most like plant candy.

The other thing to love about pump­kin is its ver­sa­til­ity.When cooked it can turn into ev­ery­thing from chewy roast wedges or a melt­ingly ten­der puree to even the most won­der­fully golden soup or pasta.

Pump­kins are vastly un­der­rated as a veg­etable pretty much ev­ery­where around the world apart from here. Sure, you’ll find them in Thai­land, Mex­ico, Ja­pan and In­dia, but never viewed with the ad­mi­ra­tion that their flavour and ver­sa­til­ity should at­tract. Un­til I moved to Aus­tralia, I’d only ever known pump­kins as some­thing my Amer­i­can and Canadian friends carved at Hal­loween or turned,very oc­ca­sion­ally, into a sweet ‘pie’ as they liked to call it, no mat­ter how many times I pointed out that a pie needs a lid. Pies aside, here are five recipes that hero pump­kin.

HARISSA LAMB-STUFFED PUMP­KIN

It was our neigh­bour over the page, Aun­tie Donna,who taught us all about roast­ing halved but­ter­nut pump­kins to make our pump­kin soup, but, once cooked, those halves also make a fan­tas­tic re­cep­ta­cle in which to bake a spicy lamb mince. Fry lamb mince with diced onions, gar­lic, and ground cin­na­mon, cumin and co­rian­der, then cook it for five min­utes with a lit­tle chicken stock, harissa and sul­tanas.

Scoop out most of the pump­kin flesh (with­out break­ing the skin or tak­ing out so much that the sides col­lapse), chop it up and add to the mince with some cooked brown rice. Sea­son to taste with lemon juice and a lit­tle salt. Bake the mince in the pump­kin halves, cov­ered, for 20 min­utes at 180°C.

Serve topped with toasted pepi­tas, crum­bled feta, pome­gran­ate and mint.

GOLDEN PUMP­KIN PASTA

Imag­ine pasta made with the sweet, nut­ti­ness of roast pump­kin! It’s as easy as slow roast­ing cubes of but­ter­nut pump­kin un­til golden. Mash while hot and let them steam off. Mix with an egg yolk and as lit­tle ‘00’ flour as pos­si­ble to make a dough. Fold and roll by hand be­tween sheets of bak­ing pa­per. Re­peat a few times to de­velop the gluten in the dough, then roll out and cut into rib­bons and you are done.

I like to cook the pasta in stock, then toss to coat in a pan of brown but­ter, pine nuts and cur­rants. It’s equally as good as thicker but­tered rib­bons served with a gen­er­ous spoon of lamb ragu. Ei­ther way, serve with grated parme­san.

THAI ROAST PUMP­KIN TRAY BAKE

This is an­other play on that daggy dish of Thai red curry baked in a pump­kin that’s oh so very naff but rather tasty. Brown chicken thighs on all sides in a bak­ing tray, then set aside. Place fin­ger-thick slices of Jap, Kent or Grey pump­kin and wedges of red onion in the tray. Roast in a 160°C oven un­til soft­en­ing.Toss chicken breasts in a lit­tle red curry paste. Place in the bak­ing tray with the chicken thighs. Mix an­other cou­ple of spoons of red curry paste with a can of co­conut milk, pour into the tray and re­turn to the oven un­til the milk has re­duced and the chicken is cooked through. Dress with fresh herbs like Thai basil and co­rian­der, and a good squeeze of lime juice. Serve with brown rice.

CRUNCHY PUMP­KIN HUM­MUS

Pump­kin hum­mus makes a de­li­cious change from reg­u­lar chick­pea hum­mus. Blend 400g roast but­ter­nut or Jar­rah­dale pump­kin with a rinsed tin of chick­peas and some tahini, cumin, gar­lic, olive oil, salt and lemon to make the hum­mus. Fin­ish with a lit­tle swirl of olive oil and sprin­kle over a spoon of your favourite dukkah, a lit­tle smoked pa­prika, or my ob­scenely ad­dic­tive pepita crunch.

To make the pepita crunch, toss 1 cup pepi­tas (pump­kin seeds) with 2 tbs sriracha chilli sauce, 2 tbs maple syrup and 1 tbs olive oil. Spread out on a bak­ing-pa­per-lined tray and bake in a 160°C oven for 25 min­utes or un­til crisp. Toss the pepi­tas ev­ery 5 min­utes to en­sure even toast­ing. Serve half the pepita crunch thickly sprin­kled on the pump­kin hum­mus.This crunch is equally as de­li­cious spooned on top of pump­kin soup as a gar­nish or used in the bar­be­cue pump­kin salad be­low in­stead of cashews. Be care­ful, as it is quite ad­dic­tive – es­pe­cially if you toss it with chopped, dried diced smoky ba­con af­ter roast­ing!

BAR­BE­CUE PUMP­KIN SALAD

This re­ally is the sim­plest din­ner. Blanch wedges of nutty Kent or sweet but­ter­nut pump­kin in boil­ing wa­ter for 5 min­utes, drain and pat dry, then roast over a low bar­be­cue (or char­grill pan over low heat) un­til soft, charred and gnarly. Mi­crowave four corn cobs for 4 min­utes to cook slightly, then fin­ish on the bar­be­cue so the ker­nels tan up in places.Toss the pump­kin with the meat torn from a bar­be­cue chook bought from the su­per­mar­ket (or chicken shop). Cut off the corn in slabs.Toss in maple syrup, sea­son and add to the salad. Spoon over a dress­ing made from 1 tbs miso mixed with 1 tbs Ja­panese Kew­pie mayo thinned with lime juice to taste.Add torn co­rian­der and a cou­ple of hand­fuls of toasted cashews or pecans to fin­ish. If you are a vego, ditch the chook and re­place with lots of diced chilli and your favourite feta.

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