Pumpkins are funny old things. In the USA, they are relegated to carving at Halloween, overly sweetened pie at Thanksgiving and for decoration on front porches throughout New England. In the UK, the only time you ever see pumpkin is in insipid ‘Butternut Squash’ soup that always tastes like water or when someone such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests you may dare try some as an addition to a warm salad. Meanwhile in Australia, we cook it in just about as many ways are there are types of pumpkin. Sweet, savoury, soups, stews and scones – you name it, we eat it. Which is why it was such a surprise to see a recipe online in The Guardian for Butternut Squash & Tahini Spread. Oh, I should have known, it’s my old friend Yotam Ottolenghi. St Otto (as I saw someone call him in a recent online book review) is trying to change a nation’s tastes, one dip at a time.
This recipe is so quick and simple to make, you’ll want to have it as a standby for dips, sandwich fillings and as a sauce for all manner of grilled meats. As always, you will find my ideas and tips at the bottom. Yotam has some funny ideas about the cooking time for pumpkin so I have made a major alteration to the suggested time.
Pumpkin (Squash) & Tahini Spread
- 1kg of pumpkin peeled and cut into chunks
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 70g tahini paste
- 120g natural or Greek yoghurt
- 2 small garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 tsp mixed black & white sesame seeds
- 2tsp chopped coriander
- 2tsp chopped spring onions
- 1 tbsp pomegranate /molasses paste (see notes)
- Place pumpkin in a freezer bag, adding oil and toss to coat
- Spread pumpkin on a baking tray and sprinkle with cinnamon and salt. Cover with foil
- Place in to preheated oven at 180c for 40 – 45 mins until soft. Remove and allow to cool
- Transfer cooled pumpkin to a bowl and mash gently with a potato masher or fork. You want a coarsely mashed paste, not a smooth pulp
- Mix through tahini and yoghurt
- To serve – spread the mix on a plate, dragging a fork through to make a wavy pattern. Drizzle pomegranate paste or molasses over and then scatter with coriander, spring onions and sesame seeds
- All done! Enjoy with home made pita or Naan or warm Turkish bread.
– I’m not a fan of the suggested butternut pumpkin so I used Kent (Jap) but with so many choices on offer, I think any would be fine. The flavour will differ, depending on your pumpkin choice.
– Next time I’m going to sprinkle on cumin as well as cinnamon to give it a real Middle Eastern flavour profile
– Yotam, are you crazy? 70 minutes suggested cooking time for pumpkin? That’s just way too long. Maybe the squash in the UK are tough but 40 – 45 minutes should be plenty of time for Aussie pumpkins.
Finally, let’s talk about Pomegranate Molasses. It’s a mythical beast that I have been in search of ever since Nigella mentioned it as an accompaniment for her Warm Shredded Lamb Salad, which many of you have enjoyed at my parties. No one seemed to sell it so I was starting to think that maybe the word ‘molasses’ was a loose interpretation. In fact, Herbie’s do sell it but I only recently discovered this and thought it was a bit extravagant to mail order one tiny bottle. In the past I had a bottle of Pomegranate Syrup but was not particularly happy with the flavour. Recently I picked up a small bottle of Pomegranate Paste for $5.99 at a Middle Eastern grocer. It’s misnamed as it’s not a paste but a syrup. Yotam actually suggests you use date syrup as a natural sweetener on top of the pumpkin spread which again indicates to me that the squash in the UK aren’t as sweet or tasty as the pumpkins here. I’m sure it’s just as difficult to source anyway (and he suggests if you can’t get it, not to worry) so I thought ‘why not give the Pomegranate Paste a go?’. Well I did and it’s bloody delicious! Sweet, tart and tangy, it really perks up the dish and tastebuds. I’m so keen on it, I’m going to try it with soda water and see if it might make a nice summer refresher or a base for a cocktail.
Of course the other thing we know about Pumpkins is that every Halloween, The ‘Great Pumpkin’ rises out of the pumpkin patch that is deemed ‘most sincere’ before flying through the air to deliver toys (and Pomegranate Molasses) to all the good little children of the world.