There’s something about pumpkin. Once the tubby cousin of butternut squash – and, with the seeds scooped out, with not much between the ears – it’s now a darling of professional kitchens, especially at high-end Indian and Italian spots.
Though chefs have caught on, there’s always a glut in supermarkets, who tend to buy in more than they can shift.
Though 15 million are grown annually in the UK, eight million are binned once they’ve done their time as a candle holder.
Don’t let them rot: below, four of the capital’s top chefs share delicious dishes to keep London cooking with them from fright night through to Thanksgiving.
Kaddu ki Subzi
Kaddu ki Subzi curry is a simple, delicious dish, perfect for autumn. During the Hindu festival Navratri, this is one of several vegetarian dishes that people make through the nine days of abstinence, and on first and last day of fasting.
Pumpkin is a versatile seasonal ingredient, and one you can use in a lot of dishes, from pickles – my mother’s recipe for sweet pumpkin pickle is still my favourite – to curries. In a time when we’re looking to waste less, let’s not carve pumpkins this Halloween, let’s eat them.
- Start by chopping 1kg of peeled pumpkin into 4cm cubes.
- Place these in a pot, along with a small cinnamon stick, 10 curry leaves, ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds, ½ tsp ground turmeric, 2 tsps sugar, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp red chilli powder, two split green chillies and 400ml of water. Bring it all to the boil, then cook uncovered for 12-15 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender but not mushy.
- Meanwhile, for the curry paste, blend 1 tsp mustard seeds, 10 black peppercorns, 2 tbsps desiccated coconut and 200ml coconut milk. Pour this into the boiled pumpkin and simmer for a few minutes until it thickens. Taste for seasoning, and turn off the heat when it’s ready to serve.
- In a separate, small frying pan, heat 2 tbsps vegetable oil until its smoking, then add five curry leaves. Watching as they start to shrivel and crisp, add in one finely chopped red onion and fry until it turns a light pink. Add in 1 tbsp desiccated coconut, then fry until crisp and golden. Sprinkle as a garnish on top of the curry, and serve with rice.
I spent my early years training as a chef under Alain Ducasse at Louis XV in Monaco, where they treated pumpkins like stars, the great ushers of the autumn. Because of their high caloric content, pumpkins have a quality which makes them so much more satisfying and filling than other squashes and their starchiness gives risottos and veloutés a beautiful silkiness.
They’re also are a superb partner, complimenting difficult-to-pair baby red chard and bergamot very well and are almost made for black truffle. Here, I’ve cooked pumpkin and cumin soup, which is on the menu in my Soho restaurant every autumn: it can be eaten alone as a perfect, simple celebration of a single flavour pairing, or with ricotta gnocchi and parmesan for a more substantial dish. The recipe is set up to work both ways.
- Start with about 500g of pumpkin, cut carefully into very big chunks, leaving the skin on. Place these into a roasting tray pre-oiled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Do not add any liquid as the pumpkin will release enough moisture on its own.
- Place the tray into a hot oven — say, 200°C/Gas Mark 6 — for 15 minutes, by which time the pumpkin should have softened, with a pale golden-brown skin over the flesh. Let it cool down. Spoon just the soft flesh and blitz in a blender until the purée looks free of any lumps, getting the texture as smooth as possible.
- Take 200ml of chicken or vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Add reduced fat crème fraîche (or soya cream, for those going vegan), salt and pepper. When it boils, add the pumpkin purée, stirring it together. Taste to season, pour the soup into a bowl, top with a touch of Parmesan, and finish with a pinch of cumin on the side.
To make the ricotta gnocci
- In the bowl of a blender, put 150g fresh ricotta, 1 tbsp cornflour, an egg, 20g grated Parmesan, and salt and pepper. Make sure all of the ingredients are well mixed together.
- Transfer to a small bowl and keep in the fridge for four hours, or place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
- Boil a pan of water with a pinch of salt and keep it at a simmer. With two spoons, take a spoon of the gnocchi mix and use the other to form a nice rounded shape, then plunge it directly into the boiling water. The heat and water will lift the mix from the spoon. Let them boil for two minutes and delicately remove them before putting them onto an oiled plate.
- When ready to serve, reheat the soup. Place gnocchis (three or four per person) into each soup plate, sprinkled with a little parmesan, then pour on the side.
Alexis Gauthier, Chef-patron Gauthier Soho, gauthiersoho.co.uk
Pumpkin gnocchi with sage butter
A delicious plate of little cushions of pumpkin and ricotta tossed in crispy sage and bubbling butter, this is one of my favourite mid-week suppers this time of year, and is so easy to make — it’s literally a dump, stir and roll situation. When it’s not Halloween, regular potatoes, sweet potatoes or butternut squash work just as well.
- Start with 400g of pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut in 2.5cm cubes. Steam for 30 minutes, then mash well. Mix with 200g plain flour, 120g drained ricotta, 50g finely grated Parmesan and one lightly beaten egg. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then stir everything together until it forms a dough.
- Tip this onto a lightly floured board, knead gently until combined, and shape into four balls. Use your fingers to roll the dough into a sausage 2cm in diameter. Cut 2.5cm pieces and roll them against a fork to create ridges, which will help hold the sage butter. These are your gnocchi.
- Next, melt 100g of butter in a frying pan on a medium heat. Add 2 tbsps of finely chopped, fresh sage, cook until it’s crispy, then tip the gnocci into the sauce and cook for five minutes in the pan, turning to brown each side.
While in London, pumpkins go with Halloween, so often they take me back to my first Thanksgiving service, about 14 years ago, when I was working at New York City’s Daniel. I had never seen so many turkeys before – I remember there were more than 100 of them. For dessert, my team was tasked with the pumpkin pies; I’d never made one or even tasted one before – in France, pumpkins are savoury, so when I first learned about “pumpkin pie,” I thought it sounded pretty odd. I asked my team to share their family recipes for a little inspiration, and I worked on developing a recipe of our own. For me, what struck me most about pumpkin pie is that smooth texture of the filling, so that’s when I started straining the filling multiple times in order to get that silkiness.
We make a spiced pumpkin purée that we triple strain so it’s extra smooth and custardy. It’s made with sugar pumpkins, a smaller variety that works best for cooking and baking, as they tend to be a bit sweeter and the texture of the flesh is smoother and less coarse. This one serves eight, as whether it’s Halloween or Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie is always good for sharing. We serve it at our bakery in Victoria.
- Start with the base. In a stand mixer, cream together 1/2 block of butter and 60g light brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Whilst still mixing, pour in one tablespoon of lemon juice, half a tablespoon of milk and half of a vanilla bean, until they’re all combined.
- In a bowl, mix 110g plain flour, one teaspoon of cinnamon, one tablespoon of fresh ginger, half a teaspoon of ground ginger, a pinch of ground nutmeg, one tablespoon of cornflour and a pinch of salt until combined. With the mixer on medium, add one-third of this mixture to the butter and sugar until combined. Repeat twice.
- Transfer this onto a sheet of clingfilm, form a rectangle no more than ½ inch thick, then wrap and chill for at least an hour, ideally two. Then remove it and roll it out into a 14-inch circle, pop it in a pie tin, pressing down into the corners and up the sides, and trim away the excess, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Fold the edges under then form a fluted edge with your fingers around the rim. Lightly push the bottom of the dough with a fork, and then chill or freeze this pie shell in tin until ready to bake.
- Next, heat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Line the pie shell with greaseproof paper and fill with rice to blind bake for about 15 minutes. Then take it out, discarding the paper and rice, before returning and baking until it’s golden brown, which should take about four minutes. Afterwards, leave it to cool.
- To make the custard, preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 3. While it’s warming, in a large mixing bowl, combine 380g pumpkin puree, 380g cream, 15 egg yolks, 114g granulated sugar, one teaspoon ground nutmeg, and one and a half teaspoons of ground cinnamon. Blend until smooth and creamy.
- To assemble, pour the custard into the pie crust until its just below top and bake for 20-35 minutes. It’ll be done when a paring knife inserted into the centre of the pie comes out clean. Cool, then chill until it’s ready to serve – at which point, pop a little fresh whipped cream on top.
Dominique Ansel, Chef-patron of the Dominique Ansel Bakeries, dominiqueansellondon.com