After yet more mild weather here in Adelaide, autumn has finally landed big time – well, up here in the hills it has – and I write this post sitting next to my gently glowing slow-combustion stove which I’ve lit for the first time this season. As I mentioned to you last week, I’m very fond of the comforts of the cooler weather – warm fires, fluffy slippers, red wine and the seasonal foods that are around at this time of year. Pumpkin always features pretty strongly around now and it is one of my favourite vegetables.
Pumpkins are grown all around the world as commercial food crops, for animal feed and for ornamental reasons. In fact, of all the seven continents only one – Antarctica – is unable to produce them, with the biggest producer-nations being the United States, Canada, India and China. They are a versatile and adaptable vegetable and the variety of dishes which can be prepared are not just limited to the flesh of the plant. Pumpkin seeds are a popular and highly nutritious snack food when roasted and also yield an oil which contains essential fatty acids, and is considered a delicacy in parts of Europe.
There is a vast variety of pumpkins and squash which can be grown, but you would be forgiven for being unaware of this fact as the range available in supermarkets is limited to only a very few. Once again, here is where farmers markets and CSA’s come into their own as the producers not bound to the limited growing options of the large retailers can experiment with smaller crops and some of the lesser known or forgotten varieties. Jupiter Creek Farm subscribers will have found some lovely, little orange pumpkins called Potimarrons in their boxes of late. These are a French heritage variety whose name derives from “potiron” for pumpkin and “marron” for chestnut, due to their aromatic chestnut flavour when roasted.
I combined mine with some local garlic which I had preserved in olive oil, some cheesey pastry and a jar of sublime marinated feta from Udder Delight’s Divine Dairy range. I made the confit garlic in my Thermomix, but it can be done very simply in a saucepan too – directions to do this are included.
Begin by peeling 4-5 heads of garlic. I use the method suggested by Saveur.com in this video – it’s not perfect, but does work surprisingly well. If you have a Thermomix simply add the peeled garlic to about 500 mls of really good olive oil, set the temperature to 80C, reverse stir setting and let it go for 2-3 hours. Start checking after 2 hours. You do not want the garlic to change colour, but it will become soft when done. If doing the garlic in a saucepan, keep the heat just under a simmer for the same amount of time and, once again, keep an eye on it. If it changes colour the taste will alter. If you have a cooking thermometer you might like to use that.
Store the finished garlic in the oil in a sealed jar. Keep refrigerated and use the extra oil for whatever takes your fancy – it’s delicious!