Maybe it’s a personal thing that I shouldn’t talk about, but I find any dish involving roast pumpkin very attractive; this one, however, takes the cake. Hard to believe that something so proudly good-looking came about of necessity. In the restaurant, we do it when we build up a stock of undersized Hokaido pumpkins. It also tends to be a ‘leftover risotto’ dish, but presuming you don’t often have quantities of leftover risotto, I’ve given quantities for a small amount of risotto. In any case, the risotto needs to be cooled down before you use it. If, in the instructions, it seems that you need to do a lot of things at the same time, give yourself a break by preparing the parsnips beforehand, up to tossing them in butter; and make the leek sauce up to the addition of the cream.
HALVE THE PUMPKINS and scoop out the seeds. Bring a pot of water to the boil and cook the pumpkin halves in it until just tender. This should take about ten minutes. Remember that the pumpkins will fall apart easily if overcooked, but will not cook very much more in the oven later, so getting to ‘just tender’ at this stage is important. If you like, you could use some of this cooking water, with stock added, for the risotto.
Keep the stock at a low simmer while you start the risotto by cooking the onion and garlic in a little of the butter. When the onion has softened, pour in the wine and stir until it has all but evaporated. Now put in a ladle of the stock and allow the rice to simmer in it, with only an occasional stir. When the liquid has almost completely evaporated again, put in a further ladle of stock; continue with this until the rice grains are cooked through but retain some firmness.
While the risotto is cooking, roast the hazelnuts in a low-medium oven, peel them if you like by wrapping them in a tea towel and rubbing them together, then slice or chop them. For such a small quantity, do this by hand - a food processor will give you an uneven mixture of powder and whole nuts.
When you feel the rice is done, stir in the hazelnuts, the lemon rind and juice, parmesan, butter, olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper. Leave the risotto to cool to room temperature before filling the pumpkins. If you use it now, the risotto will be too wet and might simply run out from underneath the inverted pumpkins.
While the pumpkins are cooking, fry the leek and garlic in butter for a few minutes in a small pan, then add in the wine and stock and boil for one minute. Just before you serve the pumpkins, add the cream to the leek pan and boil it for two minutes to get a thickened sauce. Off the heat stir in the grated parmesan which should just about melt into the cream. Season carefully with salt and pepper.
Serve one pumpkin half per person, with a generous ladle of the leek sauce and some roast parsnips and sweetcorn. Some simply cooked green beans or other greens would be a fine accompaniment.
Peel the parsnips and chop them into fairly large pieces, allowing for them to shrink by about a third in the oven. Cook the pieces in boiling water for one minute, then toss them in enough butter to coat them, a teaspoon of honey if you have it, and seasoning.
© 1999 All rights reserved. Published by Cork University Press.