What to do with all those pumpkins? Well there’s more to them than soup

JP McMahon: Whatever happened to treating vegetables with the same respect as our meat and fish?

The storms and cold weather have finally come and it’s high time to look for warm comforting food to replenish the light that slowly fade inside us.

Pumpkins and squash abound in Ireland at this time and as chefs and cooks we normally don't give them enough credit or time in the kitchen. Often they all end up as soup around the country or roasted and served as a vegetarian options.

Whatever happened to treating vegetables with the same respect as our meat and fish? While we can’t force the vegetarians to eat meat, I think it’s fair to suggest we should force the meat eaters to eat more vegetables.

Vegetable-focused dishes with a sprinkling of meat or fish, the likes you might find in the restaurant of Alain Passard (who no longer serves red meat in his three-star restaurant in Paris).

Squash and pumpkin are beautifully roasted and the entire vegetable is edible, from the skin to the seeds. No need to spend time peeling away all that lovely texture and possible fibre. Cut your pumpkin or squash into wedges and douse with a good oil and sea salt. Roast in an 180C oven until soft and serve with some sour cream and pickled red onions.

A more laborious way to do your roasted squash or pumpkin is to slow roast it in much the same way as you slow roast meat. Half a medium squash vertically and horizontally so that you have four even pieces. Oil and season with a little sea salt.

Lay on some parchment paper and place in a 140C oven. Roast until the flesh becomes soft. Remove from the oven. Place another tray on top of the pumpkin and press over night. Trim the squash into triangles. They should resemble small pies.

I like to pair this squash with pan-fried winter chanterelles. If you can’t find any at the markets around the country, Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms sell dried ones on line (ballyhouramushrooms.ie). These can be rehydrated in a little warm water. The benefit of using dried mushrooms is you also get a lovely broth from the rehydrated liquid. Enjoy.

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