As we approach the end of October, the air is still mild and the autumn display provided by the trees and hedgerows is spectacular, one of the most beautiful of recent years. Moons are large and mellow and hedgehogs are still to be spotted, if we are very lucky. Now that the clocks have gone back the nights draw in but I am not quite ready to withdraw indoors and my thoughts turn to Hallowe'en. I love Hallowe'en, and enjoy carving pumpkins, lighting candles and having bonfires. It isn't all about scary costumes, but rather the soft light and the sense of something special being afoot. So for me, a party is essential. And where there is a party there is food. This is such a wonderful time of year for fresh produce to cook with. There are apples, pears and quince, turnip, beetroot, pumpkins and other squash, courgettes and cucumbers, not yet bitten by the first frosts.
There are many benefits to eating pumpkin. It is a rich source of beta-carotene, the compound which makes them orange. This is an antioxidant, protective against cell damage and converts to vitamin A, which is important for eyesight, especially night vision. And the seeds are rich in nutrients, too, especially zinc which is essential for the immune system, skin health, fertility and vision. Consuming pumpkin seeds may also help to balance cholesterol. Pumpkin is a versatile culinary ingredient. It can be cloaked in many guises: risotto, soup, roasted, curry, salads, pickle and of course pumpkin pie. So carve those pumpkins and save the flesh and seeds for a feast. It freezes well, too, so you don't need to keep eating until you don't like it any more.
Warm Pumpkin Salad with tahini dressing (Serves 6-8)
1 kg pumpkin flesh, cut into large wedges.
150g kale or other dark green, leafy vegetabe (washed).
3 garlic cloves, chopped
Seeds of one pomegranate
For the dressing:
1 tbsp tahini
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Juice of half a lemon
4tbsp filtered or mineral water.
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling.
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Season the pumpkin and coat with olive oil. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until tender.
Finely chop the kale and cook in olive oil on a low heat for two minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Season and remove from the pan.
Mix the garlic, lemon juice and tahini in a bowl. Add the water 1 tbsp at a time, until a creamy pouring consistency is achieved.
Mix the roasted pumpkin with the wilted kale and chickpeas and lay on a platter. Scatter with pomegranate seeds and drizzle with the tahini dressing.