- Food & Drink
Pumpkin and goat's cheese bake
Pumpkin is such a disappointing vegetable. They look huge and impressive but inside it’s just air and membrane and seeds. And they are so wet. When you peel them, they dribble and drool all over the kitchen and the resulting puddle of pumpkin flesh sits sweating in the pan like The Wicked Witch Of The West. If you put your ear close to it, you can hear the pumpkin wailing: ‘I’m melting! I’m meeeeeelting!’
The pumpkin’s essential wetness is why you end up with so many soup recipes for it. If it’s determined to be so soggy, then let it swim, goes the thinking. Soupy curries, watery stews and casseroles you can paddle in are other favourite ways to deal with this squelchy squash.
Today’s Jack O’ Lantern carving is going to leave us with piles of pumpkin in need of cooking. It’s a shame we’ve abandoned our traditional turnip and swede lanterns in Britain, because they are much more promising vegetables. But now we have TV, our evenings aren’t quite so empty that we need to chisel hard-as-nails vegetables into amusing lamps to pass the time.
Still, when faced with a sow’s ear, I like to make a silk purse. If you are staring at a heap of orange pumpkin flesh and want to make a seasonal supper to mark the night when the Gates of Hell stand open and the dead go rambling, try this bake.
Pumpkin and goats’ cheese bake
800g-1kg pumpkin flesh, peeled, deseeded and chopped (this is the post-preparation weight)
400g leeks, trimmed and sliced into rounds
100g strong, hard goats’ cheese, crumbled
The leaves from 1 large sprig sage
20g pecans, roughly chopped
300ml double cream
1 Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/fan oven 160°C. Spread the pumpkin over a baking tray and drizzle over 1/2–1 tbsp olive oil. Rub the oil all over the pumpkin to coat and then bake for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 2 tsp olive oil in a frying pan over a low heat. Add the leeks and gently fry, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, until the leeks are soft and tender.
2 Tip the pumpkin into a colander and drain off any liquid. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Place half the pumpkin in a snug ovenproof dish (around 20cm x 15cm). Spoon over the leeks and half the goats’ cheese. Scatter over the sage leaves, torn, and season generously (this is important) with salt and black pepper. Top with the remaining pumpkin, then scatter the remaining goats cheese and the pecans. Pour over the cream and bake for 30–40 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender.
3 Serve with a salad of bitter and peppery leaves, such as radicchio, frisée, mizuna, rocket and watercress, dressed with oil, vinegar, honey and garlic and bread to mop up the creamy juices.