When day and night are of equal length and druids encircle Stonehenge; the moon grows fat and glows blood-red. Summer turns to autumn. Farmers and their families work hard to ensure their crop comes in before the first frost. It’s harvest time.
The more delicate crops, beans and leafy greens, get picked first.
The pumpkin, large, round and orange, peaking out from under its deep green leaves, soaking up every last ounce of summer sunshine until eventually it too must be picked. But whilst the rest of the crops are ready to be consumed, the pumpkin has another month to develop. As it further ripens, its starches turn into sugars giving the pumpkin its sweet taste. The pumpkin needs this time to mature and for its skin to harden.
Come late October, the pumpkin has reached perfection. The excess of them meaning that they get churned out as Halloween pumpkins but for others, it is time to give thanks to the hare, the spirit of the land, for a bumper crop in this year and for the next.
And a whole pumpkin baked in the oven, a la river cottage, can’t be anything less than delicious!
Whole Oven Baked Pumkin
1 whole pumpkin
250g Grated cheese (Gruyére,cheddar, emmental, etc)
300ml Double cream
500ml Vegetable stock (or chicken stock should you prefer)
2 Bay leaves
Rasp of Nutmeg
Salt & pepper
1st: Pre-heat your oven to 190°c. Place the pumpkin on a baking tray and cut the top quarter off the top of the pumpkin. Reserve to one side.
2nd: Scoop out the seeds from the interior and any fibrous bits.
3rd: Fill the pumpkin with the cheese. Use any cheese you wish, I used a packet of pre-grated cheese which had a mix of Emmental, Gruyére, Cheddar and Red Leicester, but you are more than welcome to stick to one cheese or combinations of cheeses that you prefer.
4th: Pour in the pot of cream.
5th: Add the bay leaves, nutmeg and salt & pepper. Top up the pumpkin with your choice of stock but make sure not to fill it to the brim.
6th: Put the lid back on the pumpkin and place it in the oven for approx 1hour (this can take any length of time from 45mins to 1hr 15mins), until the flesh comes away from the pumpkin’s skin or a knife can be pushed through (careful not to pierce the skin).
“At this point the pumpkin is in real danger of collapse. The larger the pumpkin, the greater the danger! Don’t panic, it will look deflated but will taste delicious.” HFW.
7th: Fish out the bay leaves and serve piping hot.
If there is any leftover, scoop the remaining flesh out and blitz with some extra cream, cheese & stock.
The perfect pumpkin recipe to celebrate this fantastic gourd and welcome in those longer autumnal evenings.