One of my very favourite vegetables in this season of great produce is the pumpkin. Most families around the country will soon be carving faces into them, sticking a candle inside and wandering the dark streets in an attempt to get a few sweets from people. The pumpkin will then probably get thrown into the bin and forgotten about for another year.
What a shame. Anybody that condemns this supreme vegetable to such a sorry end is missing out on one of Mother Nature's finest versatile vegetables. Carve out that face, but ensure you scrape out as much flesh as possible and use that flesh in a multitude of recipes. There is nothing simpler than a plain old pumpkin soup, hopefully roasted before pureeing to ensure a deep sweetness. Bacon added to the mix make things even better. Or get the flesh into a casserole or stew instead of the carrots or parsnips for a change. Keep the seeds and roast them with a little soy sauce and chilli flakes for a healthy snack.
I like to slice one up into thin slices, toss in a little olive oil and season with plenty of black pepper and good salt then roast until the flesh is toasty and caramelised, the skin chewy and sweet. You then have an alternative vegetable accompaniment to your fish or meat. A dressing of orange, chilli, honey and parsley and a scattering of a spicy leaf such as watercress or rocket, you can skip the rest and simply eat this beautiful vegetable as it is. Now get carving.
Poached Wild Salmon on Roast pumpkin with Northumbrian mussels and Samphire
1 small pumpkin, deseeded and sliced into 16 lengths
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 pieces of wild salmon fillets, skinned
8 handfuls of live mussels
A small glass of water
4 handfuls of samphire
Juice of one lemon
4 handfuls of basil leaves
4 tbsp olive oil
1 – Pre-heat the oven to 200C, GM 6. Put the pumpkin into a baking tray and rub in the olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper. Place onto a high shelf and bake for 20-30 minutes until beginning to colour and soften.
2 – Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Place in the salmon fillets, reduce the heat and poach for 5 minutes.
3 – Heat up a pan with a lid until hot then place in the mussels. Pour in the water and replace the lid. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the shells have opened. Drain in a colander, put back into the pan and add the samphire and butter. Cook for a further minute.
4 – Bash the basil with a little salt in a pestle and mortar until you have a green paste. Stir in the lemon juice and the olive oil. Taste for seasoning.
5 – Arrange 3 slices of pumpkin onto each plate. Place on the salmon. Surround with the mussels and samphire then drizzle on some dressing.