Crunchy Pumpkin with Tahini

Kitir Kabak

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    6

Appears in

Anatolia

By David Dale and Somer Sivrioglu

Published 2015

  • About

Long before molecular gastronomy was all the rage, Turkish chefs were using chemistry to create sweets and jams. By soaking hard-shelled fruits and vegetables in quicklime, they’d soften the interior and crystallise the exterior. The most common cases for treatment were watermelon rinds and unripened figs, eggplants, walnuts and olives.

You can’t use quicklime in food preparation these days, but you can get a similar effect with pickling lime or burnt lime (calcium hydroxide). You must still be careful to wash off all traces of the chemical before you start the cooking.

This dish is a speciality of Antakya in the southeast, where they use tahini as an accompaniment, under the influence of their Syrian neighbours.

Ingredients

  • 150 g ( oz/1 cup) calcium hydroxide (burnt lime)
  • ½ blue pumpkin (winter squash)
  • 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 135 g ( oz/½ cup) tahini
  • 115 g (4 oz/1 cup) chopped walnuts
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) thick (double) cream
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Method

Put the calcium hydroxide in a bucket with 10 litres (2 gal) of water. Leave to settle overnight.

Skim any skin off the surface of the bucket of water and discard. Scoop 3 litres 105 fl oz/12 cups) of water from the top, without disturbing the sediment at the bottom, and transfer to a large bowl. Discard the rest of the liquid. Peel the half pumpkin and cut into about thirty square pieces, roughly 4 cm ( in) across and 1 cm (½ in) thick. Put the pumpkin in the bowl and soak for 24 hours.

Thoroughly wash the pumpkin under cold running water for 5 minutes. Put any pumpkin offcuts in the bottom of a wide saucepan, then spread the pumpkin squares on top. Add the sugar. Close the lid and leave to rest for another 24 hours.

Crack the cardamom pods. Add all the spices to the pumpkin and sugar mixture. Put the pan over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes with the lid off. Cover with the lid, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and boil for 5 more minutes on high heat. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Discard the cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks.

To serve, stack five squares of pumpkin on each plate, in a pattern that pleases your eye. Drizzle tahini over the top. Mix the cream and cinnamon together in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the cream mixture on top of each pumpkin pattern, sprinkle with walnuts and serve.