Pumpkins have played an important part in American cuisine ever since the first colonist landed in the new world. The natives who had been growing pumpkins extensively throughout America introduced the pumpkin to the Europeans. Merchants brought them to Europe along with potatoes and tomatoes. Today pumpkins are grown throughout Europe, making their way to our tables as soups, pasta, vegetable, breads and desserts.
American philosopher and writers Thoreau wrote, “I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have the seat all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” I have to agree there isn’t anywhere more serene than a green pumpkin patch on a September morning, vines spreading out in all direction with large orange orbs poking through the foliage. The poet Whittier wrote, “What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye? What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie,” As a child growing up in a Southern state in the USA, I couldn’t imagine Thanksgiving or Christmas without pumpkin pies seasoned with molasses. Pumpkin pies are woven in my memory of celebrations of my childhood. My family used pumpkins exclusively for pie, however through the years I have discovered that pumpkins are delicious cooked in many other ways.
Cream Pumpkin Soup
3 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
1 bouquet garni of ½ celery stock and 2 bay leaves, (tied in a piece of gauze)
1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups chicken broth
2 pounds prepared pumpkin
1 cup light cream
2 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste
A dash of nutmeg
To prepare pumpkin: Start with a fresh pumpkin weighing around 3 pounds. Insert a knife into the side of the pumpkin, punching one or two holes into the center. Place the pumpkin in a pan and put it in a preheated oven (350F – 180C) for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for a few minutes. This will make slicing through the pumpkin’s hard exterior much easier. Set the pumpkin on a cutting board, with a large knife cut through the center, cutting the pumpkin into halves. Scoop out the seeds. Lay ½ of the pumpkin, cut side down, on a parchment paper lined pan or cover the cut side with butter , return to the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and scrape out the meat with a spoon.
Meanwhile, in a large soup kettle, gently cook the onion, leek, ginger and ground cumin seed in butter until onion and leek are transparent and tender. Add potatoes, celery, bay leaves and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, season with salt and pepper, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the celery stock and bay leaves. Add the pumpkin meat milk and cream. Blend in a food processor or blender. Return to heat, adjust salt and pepper. Adjust the consistency with a little milk or chicken stock. Serve hot, grate a little nutmeg over top before serving.
Baked Pumpkin with Onions and Sage
1 small pumpkin, peeled and sliced
4 small onions cut into wedges
6 leaves of fresh sage, chopped
Salt and pepper
Arrange pumpkin and onion in baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and top with chopped sage, salt and pepper to taste. Bake in preheated over (350F – 180C) for 45 minutes.