Pumpkin stuffed with farro, chestnut and mushrooms
Pumpkins are everywhere in my life at the moment. The restaurant is decorated with an array of beautiful specimens, the racks on the verandah are full of them and there are crates of little ones stacked neatly out of the weather.
As with so many vegetables, the abundance of different textures and flavours amazes me. There’s marina di Chioggia, a knobbly green-skinned pumpkin whose flesh is, not surprisingly given its name, good for gnocchi and ravioli. There’s the gracious musquee de Provence, with her chestnut skin and a size that enables her to be sold by the slice in the markets of France. And my favourite: galeux d’Eysines, a salmon-skinned beauty, covered in warts. The warts are caused by the concentration of sugar in the skin, so it is to be expected that the flesh is rich and sweet. All these pumpkins can grow to up to 10 kilograms.
Then there are the little guys. We grow a lot of a variety called golden nugget. This is mainly because they are a very compact plant that doesn’t take over the whole yard and are also a wonderful decorative feature to any table. They are the perfect size for one person, have a firm flesh that roasts beautifully and skin that will roast to a burnished orange. You can eat the lot, skin and all.
Farro, chestnuts and mushrooms are flavours of deep autumn/early winter and combine well in this delicious little vegan dinner. The base mixture doesn’t have to be stuffed into a pumpkin, but if you are making it to eat as a risotto-style dish, you will need to roast the diced pumpkin flesh first. When stuffed into the pumpkin and roasted, the top of the stuffing gets a delicious nutty crunch to it that is absolutely irresistible.
- 2 small pumpkins, about 10cm across
- 200g farro
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 3 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 leek, finely sliced and well washed
- 4 sage leaves, finely chopped
- 1 flat mushroom, sliced
- 6 chestnuts (it’s easiest to buy peeled chestnuts in a jar, but you could roast and peel fresh ones)
- 200g diced peeled pumpkin flesh
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cut the lid off your pumpkins and scoop out the insides, leaving a large cavity. Set aside.
- Rinse the farro under cold water. Cook the farro using a ratio of one part farro to three parts water. Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and cook until tender (about 30 minutes).
- While the farro is cooking, place a frying pan on the stove and add one tablespoon of olive oil. Heat to a medium heat and add the onion, garlic, leek and sage. Sauté gently until all the ingredients are softened. Add the mushroom and sauté for another couple of minutes. Set aside.
- Once the farro is cooked, drain off any excess water and add the grain to the pan. Add the diced pumpkin, cooked chestnuts and combine. Season to taste.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Brush the inside and outside of the pumpkins with olive oil, and season the inside well with salt and pepper.
- Spoon the filling mixture into the pumpkins – packing it fairly tightly – and place the lid on top.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, until the pumpkin is burnished and soft. If you are using a larger pumpkin, adjust the time in the oven and turn the oven down to 180°C so the outside doesn’t burn.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on June 5, 2021 as "Orange bounty".
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