Girl Versus Pumpkin: A Story with 3 Recipes
I acquire a large pumpkin in my produce box but it isn’t a variety that I’m familiar with. I ordered a squash but ended up with this odd lumpy vegetable instead. A quick search reveals that it is a Crown Prince Pumpkin with light orange flesh that is even sweeter than butternut squash. Many people recommend roasting it but I’m still not quite sure what I will do with it once it’s cooked.
The Crown Prince itself is an impressive size with light green and thick grey skin like an ogre from a fairy tale. It’s got many bumps and ridges which speckle its dull surface but it’s beautiful in its own way. The stem is stout and too chunky to lift, unlike the standard orange Halloween pumpkins that I’m used to. In those, I always look for a good twisted stem to be able to use as a handle when picking one up.
The pumpkin now in my possession is a hefty vegetable that is difficult to lift away from the front of my fireplace where it has been sitting for a week as decoration. It’s imbalanced and easily rocks back and forth on its base whenever someone gets near it. I have to wrap my arms around it to carry it into the kitchen like a baby. It seems a shame to cut into it but equally wasteful to just let it rot away on the floor. It must be eaten.
I try to place it onto the kitchen countertop as gently as possible but it’s surprisingly smooth surface slips through my grasp and it lands onto the cutting board with a loud thunk that makes the neighbouring silverware on the draining board clatter in protest.
As I evaluate my challenge and consider my options, I choose our most menacing kitchen tool — the cleaver. This cleaver may have not been the best choice as it looks scarier than it actually is and I quickly realise that its edge is as dull as a rusty pair of scissors. Intimidation alone will not get me to my goal.
The cleaver sticks halfway into the pumpkin with its handle jutting out high in the air and I cannot get it back out. This suddenly feels like a dangerous operation with one wrong move being the end of my hand or fingers. I bang it against the counter a few times. The silverware clatters again; I feel like an evil villain toward this sad pumpkin. This chopping method is not recommended.
My idea was to treat the Crown Prince as I would a butternut squash or a sugar pumpkin; cut it in half and place it face down on a baking tray to roast for an hour or so. That may have been overambitious as it looks as though I’m going to need to throw the thing on the ground repeatedly until it cracks open like a geode. This is in fact what I end up doing. I also wash it really well after throwing it on the ground; I also don’t recommend this method either.
I haphazardly scrape out the seeds and take the jagged cuts of the pumpkin and lay them on my baking tray. It takes nearly two hours to roast but I’m rewarded with lovely soft orange flesh that tastes like its already been sweetened with maple syrup. Fudgy and caramelised, it was well worth the battle.
My guess is that having a large amount of the puree would be the most versatile to use in a variety of recipes so I scrape everything out of the Crown Prince and blitz it in the food processor. Not all of it fits and I have to do it in batches but I’m left with something super smooth and creamy and utterly delicious. That week I used the puree in so many of our meals. A little dollop here for sweetness at breakfast time. A spoonful to enhance the richness in a soup. I even used it as a crepe filling with a thin ribbon drizzle of maple syrup.
Here are some ideas for using up your pumpkin or squash:
Substitute it for banana or applesauce in baking recipes. Pumpkin or squash puree will retain as much sweetness, moisture, and flavour in any recipe that calls for mashed banana or applesauce. I combined a few spoonfuls of my puree with oats, almond butter, cinnamon, chocolate chips, and flaxseed until I had a nice dough consistency. Form into cookies and bake at 180 C (350 F) for 12 minutes.
Swirl it into a velvety soup. Start with a basic mirepoix: diced carrot, celery, onion. Garlic is optional but highly recommended. Saute the vegetables in a little olive oil until soft then pour over a good quality vegetable stock. Add a thinly sliced potato and let cook until everything is soft. Add in about a cup or so of the pumpkin puree, then blend the soup in batches or with a stick blender. Cinnamon, smoked paprika or nutmeg is a lovely addition, so is double cream. Season with lots of pepper. Top with roasted pumpkin seeds, if desired.
Make a hot drink with it. Hardly revolutionary but just as delicious (I would argue even better homemade) is a hot pumpkin drink. Coffee is optional here. Warm a cup of milk such as oat or almond in a small saucepan. Add two tablespoons of pumpkin puree, two teaspoons of maple syrup, and a pinch of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and turmeric. At this point, you could add a black tea bag or a shot of espresso. Serve hot with something baked fresh from the oven.