Anna Jones’s pumpkin dishes
It’s pumpkin week. My early years in California fostered a fascination with all things Halloween, and as such I have a particular affection and wonder for pumpkins. Right now, the greengrocer’s shelves are groaning with more cooking varieties than you will see for the rest of the year, along with well-shaped, thin-skinned jacko’-lanterns for carving.
I’ve had a huge, pale-green, crown prince squash sitting at the end of the kitchen table for a month – it will sit there in its ornamental beauty until I have the resolve to hack into it. A pumpkin of this size needs a big sharp knife and a bit of attitude. But don’t be put off: the advantage of these harder-skinned winter squashes is that they hold their shape in the oven and are less watery than the late summer varieties. Their flavour is also more intense than summer squashes, which suits this week’s pie down to the ground.
While these giants of the vegetable world will keep for months, the longer you store them for, the longer they will take to cook. They are also often large enough to make an entire week’s worth of dinners.
I cut huge ones into quarters and store the cut pumpkin in the fridge for soups, curries, stews, this pie, or just a simple roasting.
Avoid pumpkins that have been grown specifically for carving at all costs if you want to cook with them. Trust me, I’ve tried to make them taste good! A normal cooking pumpkin can still be easily carved for Halloween and the scraped out flesh will make a quick, stellar soup that will be ready in the time it takes you to create a jack-o’-lantern.
I urge you to buy a pumpkin and cook with it this week. They are astoundingly cheap, especially in the days after Halloween, and despite what you might think, you don’t need to be Edward Scissorhands to tackle one.
Savoury gruyere and pumpkin pie
I’m not a big fan of pumpkin pie as dessert, but this cheese-spiked version gets a lot of airtime in my kitchen.
1 tbsp olive oil
25g unsalted butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
450g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 15mm cubes
1 tsp coconut or light brown sugar 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 eggs, lightly beaten, plus 1 lightly beaten egg, for brushing
Salt and black pepper
120g gruyere, grated
25g parmesan, freshly grated (I use a vegetarian one)
A small bunch of sage leaves, fried
For the pasty
300g plain flour, I use spelt
30g cheddar, grated
150g unsalted butter, chilled, chopped