Delicious things to do with pumpkins

JP McMahon: I’m not a big fan of pumpkin pie – these alternatives are more to my taste

Pumpkins: you can grow them in Irealnd, but it is not for the faint hearted. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

Pumpkins: you can grow them in Irealnd, but it is not for the faint hearted. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

 

If all pumpkins are squash, does that mean that all squash are pumpkins? Possibly so, but I think not. Though the variety of both is simply outstanding. Any one faced with a pumpkin/squash exam would surely fail. Of course, I know butternut, but what about identifying a Cinderella from a Farmer Mark’s light orange? Or a Black Peanut from a Casper White? Even if you fail, as I did, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them.

Pumpkin growing in Ireland is not for the faint hearted, but it can be done. Just this week we received our first delivery of Irish pumpkins. Of course, soup is a good place to start. Maybe with Gubbeen chorizo, if you like. Definitely use chicken stock though. And make it on a cold, rainy day and it will definitely warm your heart.

What about a roasted pumpkin salad. Simply slice the pumpkin, remove the seeds and dress liberally with oil and sea salt. Roast at 200 degrees until soft and then serve with a nice goat’s cheese – St Tola Ash log comes to mind – and loads of hazelnuts. If you are lucky to live in the Burren, you’ll find Irish hazelnuts. 

I’m not a big fan of pumpkin pie but knock yourself out if you’re so inclined. Savoury and sweet versions can be made, both big and small.

A couple of years ago we did a pressed pumpkin dish in Aniar. We never think of pressing vegetables. We called it our “pork belly” pumpkin, though I’m not sure the meat eater found it as funny. Meat eaters (of which I am one) get very upset when terms associated traditionally with meat get corralled by fish and vegetables: scallop bacon and vegan cheese come to mind. But to be honest, I don’t care what you call it.

How to make pressed ‘pork belly’ pumpkin

Half the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds , drizzle with oil and season with sea salt. Place in a medium oven and bake until it collapses and is soft. Remove and place a chopping board on top and leave in the fridge overnight. The following day carve, reheat and serve with your favourite sauce.

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