When I was a kid, in Turkey we had only the big orange pumpkins, similar to the halloween pumpkins. The only thing one would cook with them was a dessert, where a pumpkin and enormous amounts of sugar played the major role, topped with cinnamon, cream and ground pistachios. I never liked this dessert much, which is strange when I think about my love of desserts as a kid/teenager.
When I was an exchange student in Atlanta I learned one more usage of pumpkin: There is a very funny picture of me and my 7-year-old host brother and a monster halloween pumpkin, a lot of pulp and fiber. No, you may not see it.
In Germany I first saw only one more usage of pumpkin: Pickled pumpkin chunks. I tried and liked them but they were no big deal and surely nothing I wanted to make myself at home. Then one day in the food section of a magazine I saw a picture: A bright orange soup with drops of something what looked like petroleum and dark green seeds. This was my first encounter with pumpkin soup, austrian pumpkin seed oil and the seeds themselves. I had to try this, you see, at the time I was no foodie yet but adventurous I have always been. Well, at least in areas concerning food. So I went out, bought the ingredients and thus started my love affair with pumpkins. I discovered the many other types and uses of pumpkins. Butternut, acorn, sweet lightning, spaghetti, summer squash, hokkaido all taste different and can be used in various ways. But hokkaido became to be my favorite. The reason is very simple: I am a lazy person and you don’t have to trim and peel a hokkaido, the outer shell is edible. I use hokkaido for pasta sauces, for risotto, for soups and for stuffing.
We drank a Rinklin Muskateller 2003 with this. Choose a white wine with a lot of body and some caramel/vanilla notes to accompany this dish, like a Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio or Pinot Blanc from barrique.
Stuffed hokkaido pumpkin
inspired by various stuffed vegetable recipes
prep: 20 mins
bake: 30 mins @ 200°C (Gas 7)
hokkaido pumpkin, a medium sized one around 1250g
lean ground meat, 500g
dried porcini, a handful
pine nuts, 2 tbsp
pistachios, 1 tbsp
cooked chestnuts, a handful
thyme, oregano, nutmeg, allspice, salt, pepper
Preheat oven to 200°C.
Rehydrate the dried porcini in some luke warm water.
Wash, scrub where necessary, and pat dry the pumpkin.
If necessary, cut a very thin slice from the bottom so that it sits on your working space evenly. Cut out a lid, with a spoon carve out the seeds and the pulp, discard. The inside should look even and without any fibers. Rub the inside with some salt, pepper, nutmeg and olive oil. Put aside.
Chop the mushrooms and the chestnuts.
Heat some olive oil in a pan, put the ground meat, the mushrooms, the porcini with its liquid (filter the rehydrating water through a coffee filter or cheese cloth, it will be sandy), the pine nuts, pistachios, chestnuts in the pan. Season using the spices. Cook at medium-high heat. The mixture will first let out a lot of liquid and then it will reduce. Cook until all liquid has evaporated.
Fill the mixture into the pumpkin with a spoon. Pat the filling firm in the pumpkin many times during the process. When filled to the rim, put the lid on, place the pumpkin on a baking tray, pour a dash of olive oil on the pumpkin and place in the oven. Check after 25 minutes, the pumpkin should have some color but not turn brown, it should be soft enough but not totally mushy. This should be arrived after 30 mins.
Take out of the oven, cut the pumpkin in quarters/ thick wedges and serve with some green salad.
Notes: You can use any kind of ground meat. If you have a fattier mixture, e.g. with pork, you may not need the olive oil for cooking the stuffing. You can also stuff the pumpkin without cooking the mixture first, but then it will take a lot longer for the meat to cook through (use a roast thermometer!) and you will have to trust yourself with your seasoning, as you can’t check it beforehand. You can also use smaller, individual sized pumpkins, in this case adjust the baking time accordingly, it might be as short as 20 mins. Experiment with the nuts and spices you put into the mixture, there are definitely more of these yummy combinations out there.