Beautiful colours, crispy leaves and the clocks changing – it can only mean one thing: autumn is finally here. It’s also pumpkin season – a vegetable that can be both hearty or sublime but did you know that it’s classified as a fruit, says Martin Hollis, executive chef at the Old Course St Andrews.
Instantly recognisable thanks to their vivid orange colour and tough skin, pumpkins are not only associated with Halloween carved lanterns, but make an excellent ingredients for all types of dishes. They’re also a great source of fibre, vitamins and minerals.
To make a warming pumpkin risotto, you’ll need 15g butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 onion, 2 cloves garlic, crushed, 1 1⁄2 cups Arborio rice, 1 cup diced pumpkin (I use butternut), 6 mushrooms, sliced, 3 -4 cups hot stock (chicken or vegetable), 1⁄2 cup grated parmesan cheese, salt, freshly ground black pepper, and 1⁄2 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional).
Heat the butter and oil together in a large saucepan or frying pan, gently cook the onion and garlic, add the rice and cook, stirring until the rice is coated in the oil mix – about 1 minute. Stir in the pumpkin and mushrooms, pour over 1 cup of the hot stock, cook, stirring often until the liquid is almost all absorbed, adding stock one cup at a time until the stock is all absorbed and the rice is tender. Stir in the parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper and garnish with fresh parsley.
To make an indulgent pumpkin cheesecake, take 225g digestive biscuits, 60g butter, juice and zest 1 lemon, 450g cream cheese, 340g cooked pumpkin (steamed or roasted), 225g caster sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 2.5g/½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg, 4 eggs, 90ml double cream and 90ml natural yoghurt.
Heat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3, bash the digestive biscuits into crumbs, melt the butter over a low heat and mix in the biscuit crumbs and lemon zest. Lightly grease a 25cm/10in loose-bottomed cake tin and press the crumbs into the base and up the sides slightly. Mix together the cream cheese, pumpkin flesh, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg until smooth. Beat the eggs and fold into the pumpkin mixture.
Turn into the tin and bake in the oven for 90 minutes until the surface is set but the underneath still slightly squidgy, take the cheesecake out of the oven and let it cool in the tin, when cool, turn it on to a serving plate, cover with cling film and chill overnight, whip the double cream until thick and fold in the yoghurt and the lemon juice, spread over the top of the cheesecake and serve at room temperature.
Pumpkins (and other winter squashes) can be stored at room temperature for up to a month, or refrigerated for up to three months, if you have cut pumpkin, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for up to five days.