Pumpkin and Squash
A pumpkin is a term used for the bright orange squashes we see in the UK and traditionally used as lanterns at Halloween. Pumpkin and squashes are actually a fruit as they grow on vines and have seeds inside.
Pumpkin season stretches from October to December in the UK, so make the most of this deliciously sweet, honeyed flesh while it's readily available.
Rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, pumpkin is incredibly healthy. What's more, its low calorie content makes it a weight-loss-friendly food. Its nutrients and antioxidants could help boost your immune system ready for winter.
What to do with a pumpkin...a brunch or dinner treat, or both. Try our recipes below.
Venison with Pumpkin Mash & Cavolo Nero
1kg venison shoulder, bone removed (ask your butcher to do this)
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 onion, 1 carrot and 1 celery stick, all roughly chopped
1 bay leaf, 1 star anise, 1 tsp juniper berries
1-litre beef stock
500ml good red wine
75g unsalted butter
3 thyme sprigs
50ml double cream
400g cavolo nero
Heat the oven to 120°C fan/gas 1. Put a deep saucepan or hob-safe casserole (with a lid) over medium-high heat. Season the venison with lots of salt and pepper. Add the oil to the pan/ dish and, once smoking hot, sear the venison, turning regularly, for 5 minutes or until brown all over. Remove and set aside.
In the same pan/dish, add the onion, carrot and celery and fry for 5 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the bay leaf, star anise and juniper, pour in the stock and wine, and then bring to a boil. Submerge the venison in the liquid, cover it with a lid, and then transfer it to the oven. Cook for 3 hours or until the meat is meltingly tender.
Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Peel, deseed and chop the pumpkin into 5cm chunks, then cook it in the water for 10 minutes or until tender – different varieties and sizes of pumpkin will take slightly different times to cook, so keep testing it with a fork after 10 minutes. You want the pumpkin to be soft throughout. Drain and leave to steam dry.
Put the butter in a small pan over low-medium heat with the thyme. Gently cook the butter for 5-8 minutes until it starts to smell nutty and has turned brown (don’t let it burn), then remove from the heat and discard the thyme.
Begin mashing the steam-dried pumpkin in the same pan you cooked it in, adding the cream, and then the brown butter a little at a time until the mash is nice and smooth. Season with plenty of salt and black pepper, then cover and set aside.
Once the venison is cooked through, carefully lift it out of the liquid and set it aside. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve into a clean pan, then put it over high heat to reduce for 15 minutes into a glossy sauce. Meanwhile, wilt the cavolo nero in a covered frying pan with a splash of water for 3-5 minutes, then season with salt and pepper.
To serve, gently reheat the pumpkin mash on the hob and carve the venison into 4-6 equal pieces. Return the meat to the sauce and use a spoon to baste it as you warm it through. Divide the mash among serving dishes, then add the venison and cavolo nero with a twist more black pepper and plenty of sauce.
Pumpkin and Sage Frittata
Olive oil to fry
50g plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
½ bunch sage, leaves picked
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
4 medium free-range eggs, beaten
30g parmesan or vegetarian equivalent, finely grated
Pinch chilli flakes
Cut the pumpkin into very fine slices – no thicker than 3mm – and remove any seeds. If you have them, use round pastry cutters to stamp out small circles (ideally in a few different sizes), trying to waste as little of the pumpkin as possible but avoiding the peel. If you don’t have round cutters, you can simply cut the slices into bite-size pieces.
Pour a generous amount of olive oil into a 15-18cm frying pan and put over a medium-high heat. Dust the pumpkin in the flour, then arrange the slices in the pan in a single layer (you’ll need to work in batches). Fry on each side for 2 minutes until golden brown and crisp, then lift out of the pan and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat until all the pumpkin is cooked.
In the same pan, still over medium-high heat, add the sage leaves and garlic, then cook until the garlic is just beginning to turn golden and the sage is crisp. Lift out and set aside to drain on kitchen paper with the pumpkin.
Heat the grill to high. Beat the eggs, cheese and chilli flakes with a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into the frying pan, swirling if needed to completely cover it, then arrange the fried pumpkin discs on top – some slices will sink into the eggs, which is fine. Tuck the garlic and sage among the pumpkin discs, then lower the heat to low-medium. Cover with a lid and leave to cook for 5-6 minutes or until the egg has set, then slide it under the grill for a few minutes to brown on top. Transfer the frittata to a plate or board and serve.