Stop making faces

It's sacrilege to turn pumpkins into spooky lanterns, says Mark Hix. Cooking with them - and the rest of the squash family - is far from scary.
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Indy Lifestyle Online

We seem to think of pumpkins only at Halloween, when we throw away their sweet, tasty flesh and carve scary faces into the magnificent orange skin. But it's sacrilege to use pumpkins to spook the neighbours when instead we could be turning these massive vegetables into warming cups of fireside soup for Bonfire Night, or baking a sweet winter pie with them.

We seem to think of pumpkins only at Halloween, when we throw away their sweet, tasty flesh and carve scary faces into the magnificent orange skin. But it's sacrilege to use pumpkins to spook the neighbours when instead we could be turning these massive vegetables into warming cups of fireside soup for Bonfire Night, or baking a sweet winter pie with them.

Pumpkins are native to America, where Halloween is bigger business than it is over here and the Thanksgiving holiday isn't complete without pumpkin pie. But this versatile member of the squash family, whose relatives include melons, cucumbers, marrows, courgettes and gourds, has been known in this country since the 16th century. After all this time, we Brits ought to know what to do with it in the kitchen.

Though some varieties are available all year round, there are summer squashes and winter squashes. The easiest way to remember which is which is that the summer squashes have softer, edible skin while winter ones have a tough skin to protect against cold weather. They generally need peeling but once you've removed that thick, armadillo-like "shell" you'll discover the squash's colourful flesh, ready for you to cook in so many delicious ways already discovered everywhere else in the world.

Different ethnic communities here certainly appreciate them. That could be why, when we first put butternut squash risotto on the menu at Le Caprice, they were cheaper in the supermarket than from my wholesale suppliers. Ten years ago it would probably have been more normal to pick up a squash from the local market, and make a curry or a West Indian stew, than it would have been to find it on a restaurant menu.

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