Seasonal grub: Pumpkins and Squash

Pumpkins and winter squash are one of the most colourful and versatile autumn harvest time crops. There’s nothing much more cheerful than a display of pumpkins and squash in a multitude of sizes, shapes and colours. They’re relatively easy to grow and this is a good way of tasting unusual squashes that aren’t readily available in stores. They can be stored in a cool dark place for several months before eating. However, if crowing your own crops isn’t your thing there are several varieties that are regularly stocked in our supermarkets and grocery shops.

They are officially classed as vegetables, but are also delicious eaten in sweet recipes.

Pumpkins and squash are thought to have originated in South America, but they weren’t the round orange type we think of when we think of Hallowe’en, they were a more elongated shape. The Native Americans were cultivating pumpkins and squash long before the European settlers arrived. The natives introduced this unusual crop to the pilgrims which meant they had a nutritious food source throughout the winter, thus saving many lives and quickly became a staple food for the new settlers’ Thanksgiving celebration.

Not only are Pumpkins and Squash delicious they are also very good for you. They are low in calories and high in fibre. They are high in beta-carotene which is a valuable antioxidant, and doctors believe a diet rich in beta-carotene can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

As well as eating the flesh of pumpkins and squash the seeds are also delicious toasted and are high in protein, iron and the B vitamins.

Pumpkin pie is probably the recipe that springs to mind when thinking out pumpkins and squash, but equally as good are recipes such as pumpkin or squash pancakes, roasted squash soup, squash and root vegetable curry or pumpkin cakes. Chunks of squash or pumpkin (with the seeds scraped out and reserved for roasting later) skin on, make a delicious addition to the British Sunday roast, just pop them in the roasting tray with your roast potatoes. I’ve included below my own favourite pumpkin/squash recipe, a simple but tasty risotto. Why not treat yourself this Autumn and experiment with these colourful fruits of the harvest?

Pumpkin or Squash Risotto

Ingredients

570ml/1 pint vegetable or chicken stock
1 small onion chopped
Pinch mixed herbs
2 tbsp olive oil
2oz butter
250g/9oz pumpkin or squash chopped
50g/2oz butter
Salt and pepper
Fresh parmesan to garnish

Method

In a large frying pan fry the onion in the oil until soft but not brown.

Add the rice and mix well to coat the grains with the oil, add a cupful of hot stock and simmer until the stock is almost absorbed.

Add the pumpkin or squash and another cup of stock, continue to simmer until the stock is almost absorbed once again.

Continue to add a spoonful of stock at a time until the rice is cooked, traditionally it should be ‘al dente’, that is cooked but still with a little firmness to it, but if you prefer it softer that’s fine. You may still have a little stock left when the rice is cooked, and at this stage season with salt and pepper and stir in the butter, the texture should be loose and creamy.

This whole process will take about 20 mins.

Serve with grated parmesan. Delicious!

Hope I've got you into the spirit for experimenting with something that most people reserve for carving once a year. Try my risotto or get creative and experiment with the flavours!

Posted in Food.

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