The gradual cooling of summer into autumn always yields one of my favourite vegetables (well, technically fruit, but it’s normally thought of in a savoury sense-except for pie): pumpkin. Like many members of the autumn squash family, its flavour is best enjoyed when roasted. Steaming or boiling simply leeches much of the inherent flavour into the water. When receiving a beautiful, small sweet sugar pumpkin in my weekly local vegetable delivery from Riverbend Gardens, I wanted to cook a couple of things with it. Soup and bruschetta were the result…..
Honey Chilli Roasted Pumpkin
1 medium Riverbend Gardens sugar pumpkin (roughly 25cm/8″ diameter)
1 Tbsp Coal Lake Honey Farms mixed flower honey
1/4 cup Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed canola oil
1/2 tsp dried red chilli flakes (I dry a bunch of Doef’s Greenhouses red chillis for future use)
Preheat oven to 220 degrees C/450 degrees F.
Halve the pumpkin and scoop out the string pulp and seeds. Toast the seeds on a dry baking sheet for 7-10 minutes. Save for another use.
Line a 25cm/8″ square cake pan with foil. Place one half of the pumpkin skin side down inside. Whisk together honey, oil and chillis and pour half of this mixture into the pumpkin’s cavity. Pour 1/2 cup water in the bottom of the pan, cover with more foil and bake for 40-45 minutes. Scoop flesh from the skin and purée until smooth. Set aside 1/2 cup for bruschetta and the rest for the soup.
Cut the other half of the pumpkin into quarters. Place on one of its flat edges and carve the skin off with a sharp chef’s knife (A vegetable peeler could work but the odd shape of pumpkin makes it more dangerous to use a peeler than a knife to carve away from you). Cut the peeled pumpkin into rough 1cm(1/2″) chunks. Toss in the remaining honey/oil/chilli mixture and spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer. The parchment paper is crucial for this method. Anything else will have the chunks stick to them and turn to mush. Bake in the preheated 220 degree C/450 degree F oven for 15 minutes, turn the pan then bake for another 15-20 minutes until golden on the edges. Set aside.
Peel and cut one large sweet Riverbend Gardens onion into thick slices. Brush lightly with oil and bake in the same oven for 15 minutes until deeply golden. Roughly chop and reserve 3/4 cup for the bruschetta.
For the Honey-Chilli Roasted Pumpkin Soup:
Majority of the roasted onion chunks
Majority of the Honey-Chilli Roasted Pumpkin purée
2 cups homemade chicken stock
1 tsp, each salt and black pepper
3 Tbsp Bles-Wold sour cream
Add the roasted onion, pumpkin purée and homemade chicken stock to a medium saucepan. Bring to a low boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Purée with a hand blender until smooth. Set aside until ready to serve.
For the Honey-Chilli Roasted Pumpkin Bruschetta
1/2 cup Honey-Chilli Roasted Pumpkin chunks
1/2 cup Honey-Chilli Roasted Pumpkin purée
3/4 cup Roasted Onions, cut into 1cm(1/2″) chunks
1 fresh Doef’s Greenhouses red chilli, finely chopped (or 1 Tbsp chopped sweet bell pepper if you don’t wish for any spice)
12 slices of focaccia cut into finger sized pieces (or comparable amounts of baguette slices)
In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin chunks, purée, onions and chilli until uniformly combined.
Grill the focaccia slices or baguette slices on a hot grill until toasted (or toast in the same 220 degree C/450 degree F oven for 7-10 minutes). Top with the prepared bruschetta topping and serve with the soup ladelled into bowls. Swirl a teaspoon or two of sour cream into each bowl of soup and serve immediately. Serves 3-4 people as a starter.