The trees have turned golden as sunlight becomes sparse. The children are waiting with nervous anticipation for Halloween and the accompanying sugar rush. The checklist for Halloween is short – costume, bags of sweets and a pumpkin. Halloween night will be full of excitement but all that goes up must come down. Children will crash out from their sugar high and adrenaline from staying out at night. In the Halloween aftermath sits a forlorn, burned-out pumpkin. Anyone who has gardened knows the delight of having grown a pumpkin to full size. After such effort, it seems a waste to throw the poor pumpkin away.
As kids we always washed the pumpkin seeds, dried them on tea towels and then roasted them in the oven. We loved cracking the shells open with our teeth and pulling out the meat inside. I have recently discovered pumpkin seed butter which I spread on my toast in the morning. This would be a good use of pumpkin seeds otherwise intended for the bin.
The pumpkin meat, can be pureed and used in soup, risotto, gnocchi or used to fill pasta. Just be sure to cut out any wax that may contaminate your pumpkin. More importantly, you need to spend more time to select a pumpkin variety that is delicious. This following recipe is from Lombardia and is accordingly enriched with the bounty of the region – dairy. Cut the hard pumpkin rinds away and chop up the flesh. Cook it in broth until soft and puree with milk. Add tiny ring-shaped pasta or rice to the soup until cooked, stir through a handful of cheese and serve piping hot.
Minestra di zucca (pumpkin soup) – Lombardia
600 grams pumpkin, rind, seeds and stem removed, flesh cut into 3 cm cubes
400 mls whole milk
Place the pumpkin and the broth into a large saucepan, cover and bring to a boil for 20 minutes or until a fork can easily pierce the flesh. Use an immersion blender or add the mixture to a blender, adding together with the milk, and puree until smooth.
Add the puree back to the pan with the pasta or rice and cook until the pasta or rice is cooked (check the timing on the packaging). When ready, stir in the cheese and serve hot.