It is hard to keep up with Wellington weather. What to wear? What to eat? Should I take a raincoat or sunscreen? What to eat gets me the most. I never know if I should be bunkering down with the comfort foods of winter or holding on to those fresh, clean tastes of summer. Winter vegeatables are appearing at the market alongside the last of the season’s stone fruit. And yesterday I think I got sunburnt. Wellington can be a testing place to live.
But, nonetheless, it was impossible to resist this little pumpkin last week. It fit into the palm of my hand, small and green with a little button top. I wanted to coo and whisper sweet somethings to it. Instead, I roasted it, whole. I cut around the button top, pulled it out like a plug, then scooped out the seeds and pulp. I rubbed olive oil, salt and pepper around its insides. I placed three peeled cloves of garlic and some chopped up feta in the middle and replaced the lid.
In the oven the pumpkin steams and roasts within its skin. The cuteness of the pumpkin seems to disappear; the skin crisps up and weathers slightly. It almost wrinkles as the flesh within begins to pull away from the sides. Then you know it is going to be good. The pumpkin at the top is almost plain, with a hint of sweetness, while at the bottom the flesh is almost soupy. The sharpness of the feta disappears and instead there is a salty, creamy broth.
My mother used to cook pumpkins like this. The trick is lots of garlic, three or four whole cloves per pumpkin. And something salty: strips of bacon curled around the insides of the pumpkin works wonderfully, holding in the very best of the pumpkin flavour.
There is something very pleasing about cooking a whole pumpkin, whether to be carved and shared at the table or to enjoy a little one for yourself. Take great delight in pulling off the stopper and scraping the flesh off the top, as you would a soft boiled egg.
Enjoy no matter the weather; these baby pumpkins are too good to wait for colder days.
Roast Baby Pumpkin with Feta
Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Cut around the top of each pumpkin. You may need a spoon to lever out the top. Use the spoon to scrape out the seeds and all the stringy pulp. Pour in a tablespoon of olive oil and spread around the sides. Add ground salt and pepper and spread evenly.
Peel three cloves of garlic per pumpkin. Place inside the pumpkin along with several cubes of feta, so you can’t see the bottom of the pumpkin. Place the stopper back in its hole. Place in a tin foil lined baking tray. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the side of the pumpkin meets no resistance.
For more of a soup add a 1/2 cup of chicken or vegetable stock. Replace feta with bacon or strips of red pepper. Add ground chilli to the salt and pepper for a little bit of a kick.