Seasonal Produce: Stuffed Pumpkin Meets its Match in Wine

There is no better time to be making the most of the finest seasonal produce, and with Halloween just around the corner we wanted to encourage you to cook with the king of the vegetable patch rather than just carve into them! A brightly coloured squash that is full of beta-carotene, the humble pumpkin deserves a prolonged stay of execution before you carve your ghoulish faces and wacky designs on them this Halloween. Aside from the obvious and absolutely delicious pumpkin soup, there are many other ways to be creative with your pumpkin dishes. Treat it like you would a butternut squash and cut it into chunks and roast it with root vegetables for a wonderful side dish, include it in a spicy curry, or make a deliciously creamy risotto with it.

Alternatively, if you really want to impress, stuff the pumpkin and bake it whole in the oven. This recipe for stuffed pumpkin is the perfect dinner party showstopper. Whether you choose to serve it alongside a roast chicken for that wow factor side dish, or whether it acts as your main centre piece for a vegetarian sensation, this pumpkin tastes and look fantastic. A flavour combination of thyme, cranberries and orange that are reminiscent of Christmas makes this pumpkin the perfect way to get excited for the coming festivities, whether it be for Halloween, Bonfire Night, or Christmas Eve.

Of course, a dish like this is not quite complete until it meets its match in wine. A rich dish like a stuffed pumpkin will need a wine with a relatively high acidity to compliment the flavours and the sweetness in the squash.

A Prosecco like Bolla Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene would counterbalance the sweetness in the dish and complement the risotto-like aspect of this dish.

The Tinpot Hut ‘Mckee Vineyard’ Gruner Veltliner also makes for a great match with this dish. The citrus notes in this wine will combine perfectly with the orange flavours of the stuffed pumpkin.

The Enrico Serafino Barbera d’Asti is a delicate style of red wine, with good acidity which works well to cut through the rich flavours of the stuffed pumpkin. Its herbal character perfectly pairs with the thyme flavours in the rice, meaning it is a great wine to pair with this dish.

Stuffed Pumpkin
Serves 6-7 as a side dish, 4-5 as a main dish

As pumpkins come in such a large variety of sizes, use this great tip from Nigella to work out how much rice to use: put a freezer bag in the hollowed-out pumpkin. Fill the cavity with enough rice so that it is half full. Tip the rice into a measuring jug to see how much you’ve got, and simply use double the amount of stock to rice. Adjust other ingredients accordingly.

1 large pumpkin
1 onion (finely chopped)
1 stick celery (sliced thinly)
4 cloves garlic
80 grams dried cranberries
1 teaspoon nutmeg, grated
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of ½ orange
200 grams chestnut mushrooms (sliced)
100 grams spinach (roughly chopped)
400 grams rice (approximately)
1 litre vegetable stock (approximately)
Vegetable oil
A small handful of almonds (optional)
100 grams feta (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan.
2. Use a sharp knife to remove the top from the pumpkin. Scoop out the stringy insides and the seeds (see below for how to roast pumpkin seeds). Rub the inside of the pumpkin with one of the garlic cloves and a teaspoon of salt and replace the lid. Wrap the base of the pumpkin in two layers of foil, using enough foil so that it goes up the sides too (about a quarter of the way up). Place the pumpkin onto a baking tray and put it into the oven for half an hour whilst you cook your rice.
3. In a large saucepan, fry off your onions and celery in a splash of vegetable oil until softened. Then add the remaining garlic cloves (minced), the nutmeg, the orange zest and the cranberries (keeping a handful for decoration). When the mixture is well combined, add the rice and stir well for a minute until well coated.
4. Pour in the vegetable stock and let the pan come to the boil. Then, put a lid on the saucepan and leave it on a very low heat for 15 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, fry your mushrooms in a saucepan with a splash of vegetable oil. Once they are beginning to brown, turn off the heat and stir in the spinach.
6. The consistency of the rice mixture after fifteen minutes should be quite moist, so add half a cup of boiling water if it has all evaporated. Add the mushrooms and the spinach to the partially cooked rice, add the thyme and the juice of half an orange and stir well. Check for seasoning and add pepper and more salt, nutmeg and thyme if you wish.
7. Take the pumpkin out of the oven and stuff with the rice mixture. The pumpkin will not be entirely filled, but the stuffing will swell as it continues to cook.
8. Replace the lid and put back into the oven for an hour and a half, or until the pumpkin is tender (cooking time will depend on the size of the pumpkin. It will be cooked once you can easily push a knife through the skin).
9. Serve the pumpkin at the table so your guests get a chance to see it whole before it is cut up. Cut the pumpkin into portion sized pieces like you would a cake, and sprinkle the chopped feta or chopped almonds and the remaining cranberries on top. Exclude the feta cheese to accommodate for those intolerant to dairy.

Don’t waste the pumpkin seeds – remove the stringy bits of pumpkin, rinse the seeds in a colander and dry them with a tea towel. Then put the seeds on a baking tray with 1-2 tbsp olive oil and a good sprinkling of salt and bake in the oven at 180 fan for seven minutes, or until brown and crispy. A great source of zinc and full of antioxidants, pumpkin seeds make for a delicious salad topping or a healthy snack.

Bolla Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene DOCG NV £11.99
Italy | Veneto
Delicious, abundant, creamy fizz with a dry finish. Delicately flavoured citrus notes some say lemon zest, define the flavour of this classic sparkling Prosecco which is produced in the Veneto region of north-east Italy.
Tinpot Hut ‘McKee Vineyard’ Gruner Veltliner 2012 £13.99
New Zealand | Marlborough
Delicate aromas of orange blossom, citrus and stonefruit blend with hints of sweet floral honeysuckle. Grüner Veltliner is a very textural wine with a lovely full mouthfeel. Flavours of white peach mingle well with the subtle peppery spice notes. Mineral complexity gives this wine a clean and crisp appeal. The balance of the fruit, acidity and phenolics work very well together and lead to a long dry finish.
The tinpot hut that gives this cool-climate, strikingly aromatic wine its name, is an old mustering hut in the remote hills between the Wairau and Awatere Valleys. The huts were used as a base for musterers as they rounded up the sheep that had been in the hills from spring to autumn. The name links Marlborough’s past as a sheep farming centre with its current state as one of the world’s most dynamic wine regions.
Enrico Serafino Barbera d’Asti 2011 £10.99
Italy | Piemonte
From Piedmont's iconic wine brand comes this fresh and red-fruited Barbera d'asti. Aged for about six months in large oak barrels to soften and integrate the tannins. Lightly chilled this pairs deliciously with fish or a big plate of prosciutto and cheese.
Softer and more approachable in its youth than the Nebbiolo grape used to make Piedmont's most prestigious wines, Barbera is a firm favorite among winemakers and consumers because of its accessibility and abundant fruit flavours. It is also the region's most widely planted red-wine variety and this version is produced by a winery, Cantina Enrico Serafino that was founded in 1878 in Canale d’Alba, one of the main towns of the Roero district and a farming centre with a long history that can be traced back to the early Middle Ages.

Written by: Lucy Prosser

Lucy Prosser 


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