Roasted pumpkin with taleggio cream, sage and curry leaves
The idea of seasons is so important, they indicate change and movement yet are cyclic and are constantly returning. Here in Australia, though, they are somewhat curious, as we live by a European notion of them that has never really correlated with the actualities of the land we live on. Add in climate change, fires, floods and intense rains and it’s even harder to distinguish what seems normal or proper at any given time. Regardless, there is
a tangible chilling of the air, a slow darkening of the evenings and a feel of change that seems to signify a craving for more reassuring and comforting foods.
And so, we come to pumpkins, one of the many fruits that we treat like a vegetable, and one that feels so very autumnal despite growing year-round. Maybe it’s their colour, the orange hues reminiscent of the change of leaves on trees from green to golden, or maybe it’s just their rich and warming flavour. Perhaps also it’s the dishes I associate with them: a comforting soup; a scone with cheese for afternoon tea; an oven-baked accompaniment to a Sunday roast; or any number of classic Italian pasta dishes, such as cannelloni, or ravioli with some mostarda and laden with parmesan.
The only potential trouble with pumpkin can be its sometimes overbearing sweetness. This is best tempered by pairing it with strong, salty flavours. Capers and black beans and bacon for salty; chilli and ginger for strength. Pumpkin loves the hard herbs such as rosemary and sage, and is at its finest with some form of dairy. It is excellent with butter and delightful with cheeses of all varieties, being delicate enough for a creamy ricotta yet tough enough to stand up to a strong taleggio or blue.
This recipe goes down the richer Italian-esque route and is definitely not an every-night kind of thing. There is cream, cheese and butter galore, it’s indulgent and rich, not too tricky to make and is perfect for an impressive side at a dinner party.
The pumpkin in this recipe is roasted until it’s almost giving way completely, there should be nothing al dente about cooking these gourds. I like to leave the skin on as when roasted it becomes chewy and caramelised, a great textural contrast to the soft, giving flesh. There are two sauces: one a puddle of creamy cheese, the other buttery with crunch and tang to stop the dish falling into the trap of being too sweet and creamy and texturally one note. The capers give a salty accent, the seeds an earthy bite and the sage and the curry leaves a herbal accent with a slight bitterness. Despite being from disparate parts, these leaves work together in harmony, much like our seasons should with our land.
Serves 4-6 as a side
Time: 40 minutes preparation and cooking
- 150g taleggio, cut into rough 2cm dice
- 300ml pouring cream
- white and black pepper
- salt flakes
- 100g butter
- 40g pumpkin seeds
- 800g Kent pumpkin
- olive oil for cooking
- ½ cup picked sage leaves
- ½ cup picked curry leaves
- 20g capers
- squeeze of lemon
- Place the taleggio and cream into a small heatproof mixing bowl and cover with cling wrap. Put this over a very gently simmering pot of water and let it sit and infuse for about 30 minutes. Blend this mix with white pepper and a little salt until smooth. Set this aside until you are ready to serve, at which stage you’ll want it to be still warm, sitting on the edge of hot.
- Prepare your pumpkin by washing the skin and scraping out the seeds. Put the pumpkin seeds and half the butter into a small saucepan and place over a medium heat until the butter melts. At this stage turn the heat to as low as possible and gently cook the seeds for 20 minutes (they will plump and soften a little). Once done, strain off the butter, reserving, and set aside.
- Cut the pumpkin into eight slightly irregular wedges. You want the wedges to be able to sit up by themselves and be even enough so they all cook at the same time, while the wedge shape means you should have well-cooked dark caramelised tips and soft centres. A range of textures, if you will.
- In batches in a large, heavy-based frypan with ample oil on a high heat, brown both sides of each pumpkin wedge (about two to three minutes each side). Season generously with black pepper and salt as you fry each side. You want to have a nice amount of colour. As each wedge is browned, add it to an oven tray with baking paper. Once all the pumpkin is spread out, place it into a preheated oven at 200°C and roast until properly cooked through (15 to 20 minutes).
- While the pumpkin is cooking you can prepare the remaining ingredients.
- Add the other 50 grams of butter, sage and curry leaves and capers to a medium-sized frypan and place over a medium heat. Also add in the reserved butter from the pumpkin seeds. Swirl the pan as the butter melts, stirring and mixing everything so the leaves cook evenly. As it all begins to fry, add in the pumpkin seeds and continue cooking until the leaves look crisp (about three to four minutes). At this stage, give the sauce a little squeeze of lemon and remove from the heat.
- So now you should be ready to construct. Pour the warm taleggio sauce into a wide serving dish and carefully sit the pumpkin wedges in it so the points are facing up. Pour and spoon the butter sauce with all the bits over the top and serve immediately.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 7, 2022 as "Gourd’s gift".
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