Wednesday 17 January 2018

Pump it up

Pumpkins aren't just for Halloween, says leading chef Neven Maguire. Indeed, they are delicious in all manner of dishes

Roast pumpkin risotto with rocket pesto
Roast pumpkin risotto with rocket pesto
Neven Maguire

It's Halloween next week, so what are we going to do with all that leftover pulp harvested from pumpkins transformed into Jack O' Lanterns? We asked Neven Maguire to come up with some culinary solutions to keep us busy.

He agreed to share some ideas from his latest book, 'The Nation's Favourite Food', which only hit the book shelves yesterday.

Neven is a chef used to answering questions. Travelling the country every week doing demonstrations and meeting people who enjoy cooking, he is always hit with queries along the same lines – about his favourite recipe for brown bread, healthy meals for children's lunchboxes and a foolproof chocolate cake.

His book, a collection of recipes for everyday meals, is destined to become a Christmas gift favourite, so you should enjoy having a go at making these delicious dishes.


Roast pumpkin risotto with rocket pesto


If you don't have a mini blender or liquidiser to make the rocket pesto, just finely chop the leaves using a large, sharp knife and stir in the Parmesan and olive oil until combined. Serves four.



1 small pumpkin about 800g, peeled, de- seeded and cut into small dice

4 tbsp olive oil

1.5 litres vegetable stock

75g unsalted butter

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 small onion, thinly sliced

2 tsp chopped fresh sage

350g Arborio (risotto) rice

150ml dry white wine

1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For the rocket pesto

50ml rapeseed oil

25g rocket

1 small garlic clove, roughly chopped

2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan

1½ tbsp toasted pine nuts

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6), scatter pumpkin cubes into a large roasting tin and drizzle over two tablespoons of olive oil. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until tender.

To make the pesto, place rapeseed oil in a mini-blender or liquidiser with rocket, garlic, Parmesan and pine nuts. Blend briefly – it should retain some texture. Season to taste, transfer to a bowl and cover with clingfilm, then chill until ready to use.

Now pour the stock into a pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Heat remaining two tablespoons of oil and 50g of the butter in another large pan. Add the garlic, onion and sage and cook on a medium heat for four to five minutes, until softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally.

Increase heat, add the rice and cook for one minute, stirring continuously until the grains are evenly coated and rice is opaque. Pour in the wine and cook for one to two minutes, stirring. Reduce heat to medium and add a ladleful of warm stock. Continue stirring until it's completely absorbed.

Continue to add the simmering stock a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently. Allow each ladleful to be almost completely absorbed before adding the next until the rice is al dente – just tender but with a slight bite. This should take 20-25 minutes.

To serve, stir in the remaining 25g of butter and the parsley. Carefully fold in the roasted pumpkin, season to taste and divide among warmed wide-rimmed serving bowls. Drizzle each with a little of the rocket pesto (any remaining pesto can be served in a small bowl) and garnish with Parmesan.


'The Nation's Favourite Food' by Neven Maguire, €22.95, published by Gill & Macmillan

Irish Independent

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