You carve out a pumpkin for Halloween, sure, but you’d only throw away the trimmings if you’re really wasteful and have no respect for food. Wow, that was harsh, but also true. Now I don’t hate pumpkin, but I know so many of you do and I’m here to cast away this hatefulness with my fun, fancy, fresh ideas. Two in particular I felt really went with the flavour of the season and so think of this as my Halloween gift to you. Let’s dive in.
Now pumpkin and carrot both respond very well to roasting, which concentrates their sweetness in a way that boiling won’t. There’s some Maillard reaction thing there that happens in the oven which I won’t get into but basically, if you roast your pumpkin, you’ll get like the maximum flavour out of it. This is also true of sweet potatoes, another vegetable you can roast alongside your pumpkin/carrot. If you puree all of this together, you have this sweet vegetable puree at your disposal and you can do a lot with it. I’m going to give you two examples with recipes, then also list up really fun ideas that I think will also be great for this puree.
We’re obsessed with smoothies as a generation and the sale of Vitamixes and Ninja blenders is proof of that. What they’re also great for is blending roasted veggies into this lush puree. If you roasted your veggies right (space em out, douse em with oil, season, toss toss toss, and bung in a 200 degree oven for 30-40 minutes), you’ll have fork tender, ready to be mushed veg that simply goes into the blender with some water as required, and you have instant puree. Now, this can just be soup at this stage. I’d thin the soup out with some coconut milk, season and finish with like a tempering of curry leaves and mustard seeds in ghee and pour it on top, then serve to someone who needs a veggie sick soup for example.
Carrot and Pumpkin Risotto With Brown Butter Sage and Hazelnuts
This magic puree is also insane in a risotto. I’d start by roasting equal parts pumpkin and carrot (about 250g each, or just one of the two 500g), chop them up into roughly the same size and roast them with vegetable oil (I used avocado oil from Black & Greens), salt and a teaspoon of chilli powder. Once they’re done, I blitz the puree up with about 1/4 cup of chicken stock-I’ve kept the rest of the chicken stock I’ve made from a bouillon cube aside, still hot on the stove on low for the risotto.
Once I have a sexy, smooth puree, I get started on my risotto. I want a shallow broad pan, preferably straight sided, I use my cast iron skillet from time to time. You chop up a small white onion really fine, then two biggish cloves of garlic too. Then fire up your pan, go in there with 2 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tbsp of butter. Heat should be a medium-low. Onions must not colour for risotto. Once the onions and garlic are soft, in go the rice. I used 1 cup of arborio and toasted the rice, tossing it around for a couple of minutes before splashing in 1/3 cup of white wine, or rosé wine, or really any wine that’s turned into vinegar because of neglect. Add it in and let the wine sort of evaporate leaving behind just its flavour in the pan. Now you start ladling in the hot stock using a spatula to stir the rice around often never letting things stick at the bottom. You’ve got to keep at this for 12-15 minutes or until the risotto rice is al-dente. At the al dente stage, you add about half of your puree in and keep stirring, cooking it down. You want it a bit soupy, but not pumpkin soup with rice bits in it, so keep stirring allowing for rapid evaporation. You’re going to be finishing the risotto with brown butter, so keep 2 tbsp of butter in a small tadka pan or the smallest saucepan you have over a medium heat and let the butter froth up. Once the frothing subsides, you quickly add the sage in and let it fry and perfume the butter. You could opt to pick the sage out at this stage or add it in with the butter to the risotto pan and finish the risotto. Check the seasoning and serve hot, immediately with grated parmesan on top and about 2 tbsp of lightly toasted and crushed hazelnuts.
Spaghetti in a Spicy Thai Carrot and Pumpkin Sauce
You are going to still have some puree left if you made the exact quantity prescribed above. In that case, you get an extra meal. YAY. Begin by adding 1-2 tbsp of sweet chilli sauce to your carrot and pumpkin puree. I prefer to use only Maepronom brand cause that stuff is addictive. Next, bring a stockpot full of water to the boil. Once the water has boiled, season it till it’s salty like the sea. Add the spaghetti to the pot (150g works well for two or one very hungry person). While the pasta is boiling, you want to take a skillet or another shallow pan and heat some vegetable oil (1 tbsp) over medium heat. Add 1 thinly sliced red onion, lower the heat and let the onion colour slowly for 8-10 minutes. When the onions are golden, add a teaspoon each of garlic and ginger and turn the heat up slightly, tossing it around. Add one crushed lemongrass stalk and some water, followed by the remaining pumpkin and carrot puree and half a tetra pack (100ml) of coconut milk. Cook this all down slowly over a medium heat, letting it reduce to a thick sauce. Add the spaghetti in with a bit of the pasta water and finish tossing it around a couple more times till the sauce coats the pasta completely. Finish with 1 tablespoon of chopped coriander, the juice of one lime and deep-fried onions. Serve more sweet chilli sauce on the side if anyone needs it.
A couple of more things:
-Both these recipes are incredibly versatile and show you just how great veggies like pumpkin and carrot can be. If you’d like to use instant noodles instead of spaghetti, go for it. Orzo would work instead of the risotto rice too if you’re wondering.
-If you wanted to just have the roast carrots and pumpkin by themselves, I suggest you roast the veggies with maple syrup, salt and chilli, or I bet you haven’t tasted just plain ol’ roasted chilli pumpkin with brown butter and sage sauce poured on top. That’s incredible too. Harissa and maple syrup is another great combo for pumpkin.
-This carrot and pumpkin puree is also a great base for adding some masalas to and cooking some paneer in as a rich gravy.
-Stir through a ready béchamel and use in a lasagne as one of the flavours. Spinach goes particularly well with this puree.