It’s not just a pretty face, says Susan Jane Murray, this deliciously sweet giant is squashed full of goodness, too
Besides, you'd need to be Mr Universe to dice up a pumpkin. Roasted, this saffron-coloured squash is deliciously sweet and maple-y to taste.
As soon as you socialise it with your palate, you'll wonder why some people only eat it at Halloween. Don’t buy the monstrous, decorative pumpkins. These are different from the edible ones, and they’re only used to carve ghoulish faces into.
Nuts — short for nutritionists, like me — love pumpkin, largely because of its industrial quantities of vitamins C and A, its supersonic carotenoids such as beta-carotene and lutein, and its liver-loving antioxidants. It’s the perfect winter fodder to ensure robust immune ripostes. Of particular importance to the hypertension-istas and the balding men among us, pumpkin sports five times as much potassium as the humble banana .
PUMPKIN PANNA COTTA
This dandy little dessert is for Thanksgiving, vegans, vegetarians, coeliacs, diabetics and dairy allergists. Oh, and your taste buds. And maybe your waistline too. There's no cream, milk, sugar or dodgy gelatin, but I shall fool you into thinking otherwise. Agar flakes are used in place of unmentionable animal produce found in gelatin. You can find agar flakes in delicatessens and health food stores. The Japanese use it as a weight-loss aid due to its stellar fibre content. This setting agent is 100 per cent natural: it’s made from frozen sea algae.
You will need:
1in fresh root ginger
1½ cups pumpkin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon agar flakes
1 cup (250ml) cold, filtered water
Pinch of cinnamon
Splash vanilla extract
Tiny squeeze of lime juice
4-5 tablespoons maple syrup, or agave nectar if diabetic
¼ teaspoon unrefined organic salt flakes
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
Blueberries or redcurrants, to serve
Start by peeling the ginger and placing it in the freezer to firm it up. Fresh ginger would be too fibrous, overpowering and stringy. While the ginger is freezing, chop your pumpkin into matchbox sized-pieces.
It's difficult to give you a precise measurement, as some pumpkins have thick, leathery skins or loads of seeds that interfere with the final weight. Discard both of these before roasting. It's worth cooking about three mugs of chopped pumpkin, and gleefully gobbling any you don't use in the recipe.
Toss the pumpkin pieces in a little olive oil, season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper and roast them on a baking tray at 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4, for 30 minutes, or until they’re soft and tasty. As soon as the pumpkin is done, mash it while it’s hot. Using the finest side of your grater, grate the frozen ginger over the mashed pumpkin. Set aside.
Sprinkle the agar flakes into a cup of cold, filtered water and bring to a gentle simmer for 4-5 minutes without stirring. In the meantime, throw the cinnamon, the vanilla extract, the lime juice, the maple syrup or agave nectar, whichever you are using, the unrefined organic salt flakes and the extra virgin coconut oil into your food processor.
Blend everything together on high speed, slowly adding the hot agar mix once it’s finished simmering. Puree the mixture until it’s sumptuous and smooth. Pour into handy jam jars, or, if you’re serving it that evening, refrigerate in a large bowl or individual ramekin dishes until set.
Sprinkle with blueberries or redcurrants for extra excitement. Christen with a glorious drizzle of maple syrup, or agave nectar for those with sugar sensitivities. www.susanjanemurray.com