Pumpkins and winter squashes are everywhere this autumn. They make wonderful seasonal decorations, particularly around Halloween, and the sheer variety of sizes and colours is a joy to behold. However, when it comes to cooking with pumpkin, many people are put off by the taste. Why?
Pumpkins tend to be grown as one of two types. Ornamental pumpkins are designed to look good but may not be too appealing for our taste buds. Think of the traditional giant jack-o-lantern – not much flavour to savour, is there?
But did you know that there’s a wide range of culinary pumpkins and squashes out there to explore, that are grown for their delicious taste? Here are 2 top contenders that you should definitely seek out this autumn.
Red Kuri Squash
This bright orange, medium sized squash resembles the shape of a large onion rather than a pumpkin – it is also known as Red Onion Squash. Its deep orange skin and flesh has a wonderfully sweet, almost chestnut-like flavour. Leave the skin on during cooking and give your dish a glorious orange hue – perfect for Pumpkin Soup.
Other names for this delicious winter vegetable include Japanese Squash, Orange Hokkaido Squash, Uchikiri and Potimarron.
Crown Prince Squash
This beautiful winter squash is very distinctive. It is shaped like an old-style, slightly flattened pumpkin and has a silver/blue, almost verdigris skin. Its dense orange flesh is excellent for oven roasting and has a good waxy texture and sweet, nutty taste.
Crown Princes are very heavy for their size, and if correctly stored in the kitchen they will keep for many months.
Autumn Pumpkin Soup
Now that you have the perfect ingredient for your Pumpkin Soup, the rest is easy. Here’s a Vegetarian version that the whole family can enjoy.
You need: ½ Red Kuri (or ¼ Crown Prince), 1 onion, 3 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil, 6 cups vegetable stock, ½ cup red lentils, 2 tbsp green pesto paste
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add chopped onions, minced garlic and salt, then fry for a few minutes until translucent. Add chunks of pumpkin (unpeeled if using Red Kuri) and cook for a few more minutes.
Add lentils and stock and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes until everything is cooked. Puree in a blender (adding more water if necessary) and return to the pot. Add pesto and salt to taste.