Friday, 25 October 2013

In Praise of the Pumpkin (Unedited) - Published in the South Shropshire Journal 25/10/13

Here begins my last column of the year in sensible daylight hours. This weekend we shall set the clocks back and plunge ourselves into darkness. It’s okay though, because whilst your vitamin D levels may plummet it means that you can legitimately eat buttered crumpets after work for the next three months. Before actual tea.

It’s Halloween next week, and that means authorised yobbism: a whole pack of Haribo and a fiver in exchange for not setting fire to my car / wife/ kids? Bargain. As far as I’m concerned All Hallows’ Eve is just another excuse for people to make money out of plastic and chocolate. In ecclesiastic terms it coincides there or there about with harvest festival. So, come ye thankful people come, and give thanks for the pumpkin, the jolliest of all vegetables. You can carve whatever you like into a pumpkin but it will still remain friendly.

The pumpkin and its associated family members offer so much more potential than a half-arsed scary face. If you scoop out a squash and discard the innards (although I’ve heard that vegans and the like may enjoy the roasted seeds as a naughty snack - whatever), you’ll be left with a feast that will make you forget all about the yoof outside slashing your tyres.

A thing to do with a pumpkin is to hollow it out, dump a hideous amount of cream, stock and gruyere cheese into its empty belly, wrap it in loads of tin foil and roast it in the oven for a couple of hours. You’ll be looking at the most extraordinarily fun soup you’ve ever had.

Another fun thing to do with a pumpkin: plonk it on top of a bird table (or similar) and shoot it with a 12-bore shotgun. I hate to waste perfectly good food, but seriously, anyone with a license to bear arms must try this.

Squashes are resilient to pretty much anything that you can throw at them., gastronomically speaking. Peel them though, please. Squash skin is frankly minging, so take it off and season the flesh liberally. Peeled, cut into wedges and rubbed with chilli, cumin, coriander and more salt and olive oil than you dare, the pumpkin and its squashy brethren make for a laudable supper. On its own, without meat. There, I’ve said it.

If you’re clever, judicious, and sexy, you’ll roast squash and squish it with amoretti biscuits and sage, and pop it in tortellini that you’ve made yourself. Brown butter, a bit more sage fried nice and crisp, this is possibly the best pasta dish of all. You’ll present this humble but complex little dish to your friends, and they’ll remain friends for the rest of your life.

All I am saying is give spaghettis, acorns, turbans, pom-poms, kabochas and Hubbards a chance. Show them some love, and you’ll be in for some sensational scran. A squash is not just for Halloween. They will really brighten up your winter.

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