Sunday, 15 September 2013

Packin' a Punkin'

Zucca Bianca Ripiena di Lenticchie Rossi al Pomodoro & Zenzero, in Cartoccio
Patisson Pumpkin & Tomato & Ginger Red Lentil Parcel 

This was the first time I had tried out a larger Patisson, or "patty pan" pumpkin- it was just so adorably small and innocent looking in white, that I felt compelled to take it home and do something crazy with it! But only good things of course! 

I had tried those little patty-pan pumpkins before- the tiny, little 2-bite variety that basically taste akin to a regular zucchini to be honest, so I was curious to find out how this one would be. The lady at the market hall informed me that you can eat these un-peeled and that they are even suitable for eating raw in a salad... so many new things waiting to be discovered!

I decided to make something pretty, something tasty and something healthy- all rolled into one... again! In fact, I decided that it was so pretty it needed to be gift-wrapped before I set it out at the table- haha! Of course, the wrapping is a bit of a gimmick, but not a senseless one, as it allows you to easily serve up all ingredients of this dish piping hot and at the same time, to capture all of the aromas, so that they wow your guests (or yourselves) and yes... to have fun!

I started off by slicing away the top of the pumpkin and scooping out the seeds and also a little of the flesh, to allow for a a little more space for the filling. The extra pumpkin that I scooped-out, of course, I tried raw as it was- after all, the lady at the market had told me it can be served as a salad. And you know- it wasn't that bad! Maybe an idea for another time though. For this dish, I placed the top and bottom of the pumpkin onto a steam rack, into a saucepan and on to the stove top to steam away for 10 minutes...

Whilst the pumpkin was steaming, I finely chopped a Spring onion and a half-stick of celery- a nice, small, tender one, a little crushed garlic and about a 2" piece of ginger, very finely chopped. I started these frying in just a drop of olive oil in a saucepan and then added 2 cupfuls of lentils and 1 tablespoon of tomato paste. I stirred these ingredients all together well and seasoned with salt, pepper and a hint of cayenne. 
I deglazed the saucepan with just enough boiling water to cover everything and reduced the heat to a low simmer... and there the lentils stayed for the next 5-6 minutes.

In the meantime, the pumpkin was done, so I set it out on a sheet of baking powder and seasoned it with salt, pepper, and a drop or two of sesame oil. After 5-6 minutes of cooking, I spooned the lentil mixture into the pumpkin and added a drizzle of sesame oil too, popped on the lid and then added a handful of arugula leaves which I just happened to have lying around... spinach would also have been good, but as always- I used what I had! I seasoned all with a little salt and pepper, a last light drizzle of sesame oil and then I wrapped the parcel together and tied it up, ready for a brief stay in the oven. 

After 4-5 minutes, the pumpkin and lentils were piping hot and the arugula had "half-wilted" down... perfect! A nice vibrant green color, a slightly bitter, nutty flavor- just perfect in combination with the sweet pumpkin and the spicy lentils!

Whether you eat the skin of the pumpkin or simply spoon-out the soft flesh remains up to you- but the flavor will delight you one way or other! Make sure to use plenty of ginger to bring the otherwise bland pumpkin to life and you won't regret it! A quick drizzle of Hoisin sauce was the finishing touch for me and dinner was served! Hope you and your guests have as much fun with it as I did!

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