On turning pumpkins into food (and mostly failing)

Dear Internet,

I currently think carriages are the best thing to turn pumpkins into. Lanterns come a close second. The last thing I think they’re good for is eating.

On the other hand, a large population of the world goes wild about autumn because they can finally eat pumpkins again.

I think I’m missing something fundamental. Please provide inspiration and maybe some understanding of the crazy pumpkin lovers out there.

Thank you!

Jesska xx

***

I just produced this:

It is a reminder of why I don’t buy or eat pumpkins very often.

***

As part of a plan to eat more healthily and to expand my repertoire, I’ve been looking for (and buying) things I don’t usually eat and learning what to do with them. I always ate quite a lot of veggies, but I tended to stick to the same few sorts. I can now cook not only the basics (peas, sweetcorn, carrots, parsnips, (sweet) potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, garlics, leeks, beans, swede, sprouts) but also the slightly more weird stuff; aubergines and courgettes and fennel and kohlrabi and cabbage and spinach and I occasionally chop spring onions onto things before I serve eat them. I add chickpeas into currys and puffed quinoa into my müsli. Sweet potatoes have become my current [accessible] favourite [healthy] food (they very rarely sell parsnips here).

Recently I went shopping (to buy sweet potatoes 🙂 ) and found a rack of hokkaido pumpkins and butternut squashes. I bought one of each (as well as the potatoes).

Today was pumpkin day.

I don’t feel any urge to rush out and buy another one. Except maybe as a masochistic challenge to try again and maybe make it better next time (and risk failing).

I assumed I could cook/bake it by itself and eat it with butter and pepper – the easiest way I know to prepare anything, and the same way I enjoy eating pretty much every other vegetable. Yes, roast potatoes/carrots/parsnips/whatever are amazing but new potatoes/carrots/parsnips/whatever boiled/microwaved and smothered with melted butter* are a very fine thing. Although I add butter and pepper to all kinds of vegetables to enhance the taste, I will readily eat them unbuttered too.

Today I discovered that there is no amount of butter and pepper that can make anything exciting out of a pumpkin. I tried adding salt, paprika, curcuma, cinnamon, curry, caraway, Parmesan cheese and, by the end, a mixture of all of the above. I tried scooping it out of the skin and mashing it. I briefly thought about making soup before remembering that soup is only as good as the flavours you put in it and pumpkin doesn’t have any flavour worth mentioning. I gave up, leaving the skin and the bowl of mash on the sideboard, and consulted the wealth of online recipes Google has on offer.

The first thing that struck me was how many sweet things people make. I’d always imagined pumpkin pie like chicken pie – something dinnery. I thought pumpkin cookies were like cheese biscuits – savoury. I thought pumpkin-flavoured coffee was just bonkers but each to their own.

Turns out it’s hard to find anything to use a pumpkin for that places any value on the actual pumpkin. Using it to make cake or emptying the spice cabinet over it or adding it a spoonful at a time to other meals counts as cheating in my mind. It’s almost like an excuse to eat more of whatever you’re stretching by adding pumpkin, or as if you have to get rid of the pumpkin by any method possible, kind of like hiding carrots from fussy toddlers by grating it into spaghetti sauce. Maybe that’s just me being cynical. It’s just…, I mean, I like apples, and I like apple pie because it tastes like apples. I don’t make pie to disguise the apples or make them qualify as edible. I make apple pie as an alternative way to enjoy eating apples. I might add cinnamon or cloves but that’s to enhance the taste of the apples, not completely hide it. If you’re going for the spice-flavour you can do that without pretending anything else. You can make spiced cake without pumpkin or apples or any other unnecessary additions.

One of the first savoury recipes I found online suggested using it to fill tortellini. I figure it doesn’t make too much difference whether the filling is inside or outside the pasta and I had an open packet here so I cooked some and used the mashed pumpkin mess as a sauce.

It actually looks surprisingly good in the photo.. I am amazed 🙂

I ate it because it would be a waste not to. I didn’t eat it because it was in any way a culinary delight.

***

I buy a pumpkin approximately once every two years or so. I cook it, eat it and avoid buying them again. After a while I see them for sale, forget that I’m avoiding them, think they look pretty and take one home. Whereupon I cook it, eat it and remember why I don’t regularly buy them. This is a very foolish cycle.

If anyone has a recipe for something pumpkiny that will make me change my mind, feel free to let me know. I am open to suggestions. Especially at this time of year when pumpkins are cheaper than pretty much anything else by weight ;p.

Suggestions for other vegetables I should try are welcome too.

* I don’t eat butter on bread. I eat all my sandwiches “dry” and save the butter for drowning crumpets, muffins or vegetables instead.

3 Replies to “On turning pumpkins into food (and mostly failing)”

  1. I suspect very strongly it is the type of pumpkin you are buying, or that they actually aren’t fully ripe yet. I buy “Kent” pumpin, which has a soft -ish skin so is easy to cut up. I love it boiled, baked and in soup and, of course, pumpkin pie.

    Pumpkin soup is so easy: dice and boil pumpkin & 2 small potatoes in enough water (or veggie stock) to cover it. When soft puree it + salt & pepper to taste. The soup is best if it is a little thick – add a dollop of cream on top if you want (my Mum does, I don’t). One of the nicest soups to have on a cold Winters Day – the smell is divine and so is the taste.

    Do not despair if you can’t fancy pumpkin – not everyone likes the same veggies.

  2. Oh Jesska no pumpkin soup!!! Poor you not to like it. As well as Claudette’s simple recipe I add a packet of chicken noodle soup (you must have an equivalent somewhere there,) and an onion, not to disguise flavour but to enhance it, and a pinch of nutmeg. But if you don’t like pumpkin that’s it. We all have our likes and dislikes with food and veggies are no different. You sound like you have a wide range that you eat so all is good.

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