As the leaves on the tree turn to rich shades of yellow, orange and brown, we start to see more of the same colours in our groceries as Halloween pumpkins and winter squash become the order of the month. Here are just some of the varieties you are likely to see in Irish food shops this month, and how to use them.
The name your Halloween pumpkin normally goes by, field pumpkins are grown mainly for their size and exterior. Pumpkins have well and truly taken over the traditional Irish Jack O’Lanterns, which were once made from turnips – anyone who has tried to carve out a turnip may understand the reasoning behind this! While field pumpkin innards are fairly tasteless compared to other varieties of squash available at this time of year, they can be still be used as a base for a spicy autumn soup along with some other orange vegetable varieties. Try out the recipe for Pumpkin Soup below with any of the squash varieties listed here.
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 2 onions, finely chopped
• 1kg pumpkin or squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped into chunks
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 tablespoon curry powder
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 700ml vegetable stock or chicken stock
• 150ml double cream
For the croutons
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 4 slices wholemeal seeded bread, crusts removed
• handful pumpkin seeds
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, gently cook the onions for 5 mins until soft
2. Add the pumpkin or squash to the pan, cooking for 8-10 mins, stirring occasionally until it starts to soften and turn golden.
3. Pour the stock into the pan and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins until the squash is very soft.
4. Pour the double cream into the pan, bring back to the boil, then purée with a hand blender. For an extra-velvety consistency you can pour the soup through a fine sieve. The soup can now be frozen for up to 2 months.
5. To make the croutons: cut the bread into small squares. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the bread until it starts to become crisp. Add a handful of pumpkin seeds to the pan, cook for a few mins more until they are toasted. These can be made a day ahead and stored in an airtight container. Scatter on soup with some olive oil and serve.
Sugar Pie Pumpkin
The sugar pie is a small version of the field pumpkin, though it comes in a deeper shade of orange and the flesh provides a great deal more flavour. If you’re not keen on Halloween, hollow out small colourful varieties of squash such as this and use as a pretty Autumn centrepiece. Sugar pie pumpkin grow fairly well here under the right care if you want to create a miniature pumpkin patch of your own for Halloween 2018.
Butternut squash has become a regular fixture in modern Irish supermarkets and households. If you’re not sure how to approach it, start by simply roasting with a brush of olive oil to add a little crispy caramelisation. Most people however are intimidated by the task of peeling the hard outer skin. Unless you have a set of chef’s knives and a decent peeler you’re handy with, it’s best to quarter and cook first, then separate the flesh with a spoon!
Native to Northern and Central America, the acorn squash is a feature of many Thanksgiving dinners. It can be hard to track down in supermarkets but can be come across at markets and small producers, plus seeds can be bought online if you fancy trying some home grown. Named for its shape rather than taste, this squash variety lends itself very well to sweet desserts and dishes, and is delicious halved and covered with maple syrup before baking.
Finally, don’t forget to use the seeds! Toasted pumpkin and squash seeds make a great snack or addition to salad medley meals. They are full of minerals, protein and zinc to give you a lasting energy boost.
Article by: Kayleigh Ziolo
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