The time of the year has arrived when strange things happen. I don't mean ghosts and goblins appearing, or witches flying over your roof. I mean that tradition of carving out a delicious pumpkin and making a scary face, then putting a candle in it and walking around half of the night with it before throwing it in the bin. What a waste of delicious pumpkin!
Without sounding like a kill joy, I love getting involved at Halloween and carving out pumpkins with the kids. But imagine the amount of orange pumpkin flesh that sits on landfill sites each October!? Instead of giving it a sad send off, celebrate its final hours with a few simple dishes. It should already be half cooked after a good scorching off the candle!
Pumpkin is a really lovely versatile vegetable; mash it, roast it or churn it into a soup, either way it is a top vegetable. Take out the seeds and pan roast them with a few spices for a delicious nutty snack. It is also very child friendly. Any squash is, and it was one of the first vegetables I introduced to my daughter. So what timing for our friends at the Great Big Vegetable Challenge to be moving onto P for Pumpkin. Whilst young Freddie is out scaring everybody with his carved out pumpkin, he can have thoughts on some sensational pumpkin related meals courtesy of the family of kind Bloggers that are all linking on this day.
My pumpkin effort involves what could be another scary thing to a young child - a mussel. A spanking fresh mussel such as the hand picked mussels I used, picked that very day from Amble in Northumberland, are surprisingly brilliant accompaniments to a pumpkin. Both are sweet and earthy, and both have similar orange flesh. So they can compete against each other in the spicy crisp bacon and garlic flavoured sauce I enveloped them in with conchiglie pasta. I thought it was only right to serve something from the sea with a shell shaped pasta. Good luck Freddie. And whatever you do, don't be scared....
Spiced Pumpkin, Bacon and Mussel Conchiglie
200g of conchiglie pasta
5 rashers of smoked bacon, sliced into strips
1 shallot, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
Leftovers of one halloween pumpkin, skinned and diced
1 tbsp olive oil
10 fresh mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
1 small glass of dry cider
Fresh chives, chopped
Freshly ground pepper
1 - Bring a pan of water to the boil then add the pasta. Cook for 10 minutes.
2 - Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan with a lid. Add the bacon and cook until golden and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep aside.
3 - Add the pumpkin to the oil and bacon fat and stir fry for 5-10 minutes until golden and cooked through.
4 - Add the shallots, chilli and garlic and stir for 1 minute. Turn up the heat then add the mussels and cider. Put on the lid and cook through for 5 minutes or until the mussels have fully opened. If any remain closed, throw them away.
5 - Tip in the drained pasta then the crisp bacon, a good grinding of black pepper and a handful of fresh chives. It should not need salt because of the bacon.
6 - Serve in large bowls with more fresh chives and some Parmesan cheese.