Thursday, 14 June 2007

HotM #4: Deconstructed pumpkin hummus

Let me tell you how much I love pumpkin. It is one of the few vegetables I ate regularly as a child and still love eating often. It adds so much flavour and colour to casseroles, curries and soups, is fantastic roasted for a couple of hours with the skin on, and was part of my favourite childhood mash of potato, pumpkin, peas and vegemite!

Imagine how difficult I found it living in the UK where pumpkin seems to be wheeled out at Halloween for jack o’ lanterns and a laugh. I did a spot of work as a carer in a little village in Warwickshire (no shops and two buses out a week) where I had to order food in once a week and had very little to do other than watch the telly, walk down the high street of thatched cottages, and think about what to cook for dinner. How excited was I to find that the next door neighbour grew pumpkins! But he only grew them for his pigs and thought I was crazy to want to cook with them. Admittedly they were not a patch on a Queensland Blue or a Kent pumpkin but it was good to find one when they were so thin on the ground.

Last night I had a yen to eat pumpkin and tahini. E was out so I was free to experiment without worrying about what I might serve him or others. So I did a search on the net. Most recipes were pumpkin salad with tahini or pumpkin hummus. Delicious recipes for summer. Not right for a cold winter night. Then I found one called Pumpkin with Chickpea, Tahini and Onion which seemed interesting.

The recipe from Mary Laird Hamady's Lebanese Mountain Cookery, calls for the frying of batches of pumpkin in an inch of oil. It sounds like a great idea if I had the time and the metabolism. But I decided to just throw the pumpkin in with the onions and sort of stir fry which meant it was probably mushier than MLH intended – in fact I don’t think she would recognize the recipe. But I love pumpkin mash. And once I had finished it, I saw that it was a warm deconstructed pumpkin hummus.

I served it with shards of crisp pitta bread in memory of the fantastic dish I had at the Moroccan Soup Bar last month. It is a thick warming stew that sticks to your insides. So I was glad I had a ‘salsa’ with it to lighten the creamy sauce. It made it a little healthier too. Tahini is good for you with lots of calcium but it is too oily and rich to have in large quantities. But this is a flexible alternative to the usual tomato based stews – it could have less tahini and more seasoning to make it lighter and other vegetables could be used such as more mushrooms, cauliflower, or some beetroot.

The salsa is one I found in my recipe notebook which had strawberries, cucumber and mint but I thought I could just as easily use coriander to use up the bunch I bought for my TGRWT challenge. It is a sign of how little I buy coriander that I got it confused with flat leaf parsley and threw it in to my stew, thinking it smelt odd. Too much racing around the kitchen just before serving and thinking I had my bunches of herbs sorted out. I had to scoop it out because I didn’t want coriander in my nice stew. But I actually thought the coriander went well with the salsa.

Deconstructed Pumpkin Hummus with ‘Salsa’
Serves 4-6

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1,350g pumpkin, diced (approx 3 lb)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
200g button mushrooms, sliced
450g can chickpeas (or other white beans – I used cannelini beans)
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp chilli paste
½ tsp salt
⅔ cup tahini
⅔ cup cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
1 cup water
4 small wholemeal pitta breads (or rice)

- Preheat oven to 180ºC
- Heat oil in a large stockpot. Fry onion on medium low heat for 5 minutes.
- Add pumpkin, garlic, chickpeas and chilli paste and fry for 20 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently or til pumpkin just tender.
- Add mushroom and chickpeas and stir another 5 minutes.
- Add salt, tahini, vinegar, and water. Simmer about 10-15 minutes.
- While stew is simmering, put pitta breads in the oven for 15-20 minutes til crisp (I had mine in for 15 minutes and they were crisp outside but the middles could have crisped up a bit more but I worried the outer edges would be too crisp). When done, chop or break into pieces.
- Divide pitta bread pieces between 4 bowls. Spoon pumpkin stew over pitta bread. (For a gluten free version serve with rice.) Top with Strawberry and Cucumber Salsa (see recipe below) or steamed green vegetables

Strawberry and Cucumber Salsa
Half telegraph cumcumber, diced
12 large strawberries, diced (approx 150-200g)
50g baby spinach leaves, thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh coriander or parsley or mint, finely chopped
Raspberry vinegar to drizzle

Toss vegetables together. Drizzle with vinegar

On the Stereo
Best of Roxy Music – Roxy Music

I am submitting this to the Heart of the Matter which is being hosted by Joanna’s Food in June. This month’s theme is vegetables.


  1. This is one of those recipes that made my eyebrows rise! I've never come across pumpkin humous before so reading about deconstructed pumpkin humous was a leap for me. :)
    Simply can't imagine it therefore will have to try it.

  2. I haven't put pumpkin and tahini together before but I'd think they'd make a great pair!

    The use of pumpkin in the US is a bit different again: more jack o'lanterns, and then pumpkin pie for dessert at Thanksgiving. While I was studying there a couple of years ago, one guy asked me, "So have you ever eaten pumpkin as, like, a vegetable?" I'd never eaten it as anything else!

  3. This sounds fabulous a kind of stew-mash-hummous hybrid. Three of my favourite types of food, and with pumpkin thrown in for good measure.

    I grew up in the UK and had never eaten pumpkin until I came to Australia. Pumpkins were in the Charlie Brown cartoon and used for Halloween lanterns only. I remember making one and throwing out all the inside! What a horrendous waste now I think about it!

  4. Wendy - I found it so hard to get pumpkin in the UK that I can well imagine your surprise - try some pumpkin if you can find it

    Cindy - I saw something recently on an American website saying pumpkin was mostly for sweet recipes and I found it a weird comment so interesting to hear your experiences - I grew up thinking when we taked about meat and three veg that pumpkin was one of these common veg!

    kathryn - I am glad you have discovered how wonderful pumpkin is and will never throw out the inside of a jack o'lantern again. We think it is such a small world and yet there are still so many regional differences.

  5. Yum. That salsa sounds great.

    Imagine feeding pumkin to the pigs? Lucky pigs. We do have access to some of the best pumpkins here. Poor Australian pigs - bet they don't get to eat pumpkin.

  6. thanks Lucy - yes our pumpkins are great - I went into a little fruit and veg store in lygon st yesterday and they had such a great range of pumpkins - would have bought one but was riding my bike and limited in what I could carry but will be back there soon I hope.

  7. Pumpkin can be done up in the same manner as eggplant, so why not pair it with hummus? We can grow any kind of pumpkin here, but the commercially viable ones are the Halloween variety which are not pie pumpkins. If you travel into the countryside, you can find a nice assortment of lesser known culinary squash of all kinds, suitable for sweet and savory.

  8. Susan, I am not quite sure what pie pumpkins are but I am glad to hear you can get a good range of pumpkins as they are so attractive and versatile.

  9. What an original and interesting combo! i also have enjoyed pumpkin since i was a kid, but i've never had it like this. Great idea!

  10. Pumpkin is one of my favourite vegetables, I absolutely adore it. I can't imagine growing up without it, or throwing out the insides when making halloween pumpkins! (we made pumpkin soup with the insides when we had our halloween party, yum) Makes you wonder what foods we may 'waste' that people in other countries would find odd.

  11. tara, I too find it difficult to imagine growing up without pumpkin - and I like your point of thinking about what we throw out that would horrify others - I am most definitely guilty of that with some leaves and stalks that I know others eat!


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