Now what to do with the flesh of those beautifully carved pumpkins? How about roasting, combining with a grain and creamy tomato sauce and turning into a work day lunch?
Freekeh is one of my favourite grains – it’s plump, earthy and a little bit smoky. It’s essentially cracked wheat, harvested when still young and soft, then lightly toasted to remove the fibrous husk. I like to play up its smokiness with a bit of smoked paprika. Most UK supermarkets stock Merchant Gourmet’s pre-cooked freekeh which is great to have to hand when you are in a hurry. I also use Artisan Grains Freekeh, available from Ocado and some Tescos which just needs boiling for around 15 minutes in a similar fashion to quinoa.
If you haven’t had the faff of pumpkin carving, you may want to make this with butternut squash which personally I think has a bit more flavour than the average pumpkin. For easy peeling, hack it in half down the middle and pop into a hot oven (around 200 degrees) until the skin starts to wrinkle. It can then be peeled more easily.
I love to garnish this dish with caramelised onions as the sweetness plays up to that of the butternut squash and smoked paprika.
Ingredients (serves 3-4 – depending on the size of your pumpkin)
Approx 1 kg pumpkin/butternut squash – peeled & sliced into small cubes
Oil for roasting and frying
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 onion – diced
1 clove of garlic – sliced
1 tin of plum tomatoes
Half a lemon – juiced
1 heaped teaspoon of tahini paste
Salt and black pepper
1-2 large onions
Fresh coriander leaves (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200 (fan)/220 (conventional)
- Warm up a tablespoon of oil in the oven for 5 minutes and roast the pumpkin/butternut squash for around 50 minutes until tender and just beginning to brown and crisp around the edges. Stir in a sprinkle of salt and the smoked paprika towards the end of the cooking time.
- Meanwhile start the tomato sauce by dicing 1 onion and frying on a medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and give it a good stir.
- Tip in the tin of tomatoes using the wooden spoon to break up the fruit – or use your hands. Fill up the can with water, pour that into your saucepan and let the tomato sauce simmer for around 30 minutes until it has reduced and has thickened up. Turn off the heat, stir in the lemon juice, tahini paste and season accordingly. You can also add some more smoked paprika if you are a fan.
- If your freekeh grains need cooking from scratch, rinse them under the tap in a sieve and draining well, before boiling in about 500 ml of water with a pinch of salt (follow the instructions on the packet). Add some more water if it needs it during the boiling period, which usually takes around 15 minutes. Drain any excess water off.
- With the ready-cooked freekeh, heat it gently in a large saucepan for a few minutes before the last step of mixing up the grains with the tomato sauce and pumpkin.
- Whilst the freekeh is cooking, finely chop the 2 remaining onions and fry in a teaspoon or two of oil until translucent. Keep going until, for say around 20 minutes, letting the onions turn a deep golden colour and begin to brown at the edges. Stir regularly to stop them catching on the bottom of the pan though.
- To finish, combine the tomato sauce with the cooked freekeh and add the roasted pumpkin, stirring it in gently. I usually garnish the dish with the fried onion, along with the coriander if using, but you can also stir it through.