Monday, April 12, 2010

Using the Whole Pumpkin

Hot and Sour Pumpkin Soup

There’s no particular reason that Australians should cultivate such a strong fondness for two particularly brilliantly-hued vegetables. The love affair with the bloody beetroot is fairly obvious: it’s the color of a ruby, it’s got a fantastically sweet and earthy flavor, and it packs a nutritional punch of antioxidants. But as an American, it’s taken me a long time to understand the ubiquity of pumpkin on Aussie menus - it’s just not something I ever ate, aside from in pumpkin pie (which, strangely, isn’t popular here).

Upon planting a few pumpkin seeds in the back of the veggie patch, I quickly came to understand why pumpkin seems to show up in nearly every dish this time of year. The expansive vines have taken over at least half of the garden, and are blocking the footpath to the lemon tree. We must eat pumpkin or be overrun by it. It’s a survival situation: woman vs. pumpkin.

First off, a word about pumpkin. As a child in New England, the only pumpkin I was familiar with was big, orange, and full of seeds. While it was fun to carve (and Mom’s roasted pumpkin seeds were an addictive snack), nobody eats that technicolor specimen. The humble Aussie pumpkin is a totally different animal - er, vegetable. While my seed packet simply said “pumpkin,” my internet detective skills have identified the final product as kabocha, or Japanese pumpkin. This variety is fleshy, sweet, and creamy, and you can even eat the skin.

So being fond of the wise old motto “waste not want not,” I’ve set about my erstwhile battle with the attitude that these pumpkins are going to feed me and my family throughout autumn. So far I’ve made a killer Thai-flavored soup, have added wedges of roast pumpkin to every salad and vegetable dish imaginable, have taken a trick from Mom and roasted the seeds into crunchy, salty, delicious morsels, and have even discovered that my dog loves to eat the raw pumpkin “guts” surrounding the seeds. I think a pumpkin-coriander dip is in my future, and I also have my eye on a recipe for pumpkin muffins. My American sensibilities might just insist on a pumpkin pie, too.

Yes, I’ve come to love pumpkin for much more than just looking pretty. I love it because you can do just about anything with it, from sweet to savory. I love it because it grows in abundance in my backyard, costing me only pennies. I love its color, its nutritional value, its easy adaptability. And I love it cause it’s downright Australian.


Gourmet | October 2001

Adapted from chefs Ming Tsai and Tom Berry

Blue Ginger, Wellesley, MA


  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 (3-lb) sugar or cheese pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 qt chicken stock, or 1 qt canned chicken broth and 1 qt water
  • 6 lemongrass stalks (bottom 5 inches only), coarsely chopped
  • 1 (1-inch) piece galangal (thawed if frozen), peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3 to 5 fresh (1 1/2-inch) Thai chiles or 2 fresh jalapeño chiles, trimmed and coarsely chopped (seed chiles if a milder flavor is desired)
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • Note: i used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil, rice wine instead of white wine, vegetable stock and water instead of chicken stock, and omitted the galangal (because I didn't have any!). I also used lemon leaves from my lemon tree instead of kaffir lime leaves, reduced the amount of fish sauce by about half, and used coconut sugar. I pureed in the blender after adding the sauteed lemongrass and chilies. 'Twas creamy and delicious!

    Cook onion, garlic, and ginger in 1 tablespoon oil in a 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 4 minutes. Add pumpkin and wine and boil, uncovered, until wine is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Stir in stock and simmer, covered, until pumpkin is tender, about 20 minutes.

    Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté lemongrass, galangal, and chiles to taste, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

    Purée pumpkin mixture in batches (use caution when blending hot liquids) and return to pot. Stir in lemongrass mixture, lime leaves, lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar. Simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Pour soup through a sieve, discarding solids, and season well with salt and pepper.

    Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

    Scoop the seeds from the inside of the pumpkin. Remove all the "guts" and feed them to the dog. Give the seeds a good rinse and pat dry. Toss with a bit of olive oil, some good salt, and a dash of cumin or another favorite spice. Spread on a baking tray and roast at 200 degrees C for 5-10 minutes, stirring once, and checking constantly as they can burn quickly. Let cool and enjoy as a crunch snack.

    Roast Pumpkin

    Cut pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds. Cut each half into 6-8 wedges. Arrange on a baking tray; rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 200 degrees C for 3--45 minutes, until soft.

    Suggested ways to eat pumpkin wedges:
    • Hot with other roast veggies such as leeks, brussel sprouts, onions, beetroot, potato, etc.
    • Hot on top of salad of rocket/arugula and grated raw beetroot with some fresh olives.
    • Cold mixed into a green salad.
    • For breakfast, mixed into hot steel-cut oatmeal (porridge) and drizzled with a simple dressing of one part miso paste, one part sesame oil, one part apple cider vinegar.

    1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    I am so very glad I found this post, while the seed recipe is useful, it's how entertaining the post was while delivering the recipes. I think I have more seeds than we will ever snack on though, how should I preserve the seeds for planting so I can vs. my own pumpkins? Any tips? Gonna have to bookmark this, what a fun post!

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