This really delicious stuffed pumpkin tastes and looks amazing, it makes a fantastic center piece on the table for a vegetarian dinner, Sunday lunch, Christmas or Halloween. If pumpkin isn’t in season you can use any large squash or vegetable that you can stuff. It’s packed with nuts and fruit, is perfumed with saffron and based on a traditional Turkish recipe from a cookbook by Ghillie Basan but I’ve made it a bit easier. It’s great with roast potatoes and all the trimmings of a traditional roast dinner instead of turkey or even with turkey or you can stay traditional and serve it with other middle eastern dishes and salads, it’s also perfect with labneh with garlic in it.
Serves 3-4 (or make more for bigger parties)
1 small pumpkin about 1 kg-1.5 kg
1 sachet of cooked basmati rice from supermarket (or 2 cups of cooked rice)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter (optional if dairy free or vegan)
2 medium red onions very thinly sliced
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
A big pinch of saffron threads
3 strips of orange peel sliced into skinny strips (I use a potato peeler)
3 tablespoons of pistachios
3 tablespoons dried cranberries soaked in boiling water for five minutes then drained (optional or use sultanas if you can’t get cranberries)
3/4 cup of soft dried apricots chopped
a few sprigs of coriander, flat leaf parsley and mint chopped
More olive oil to fry the onions in
Salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 200c/400f .
Wash the pumpkin and slice the top off the stalk end and keep the top for a lid.
Scoop out the seeds and stringy bits. Replace the lid and put it on a baking dish or tray. Bake for 45 Minutes.
In the meantime, heat the oil and butter(if using) in a large pan. Add the coriander, saffron, orange peel, pistachios, cranberries, apricots and the rice and stir until thoroughly combined. Add the herbs and salt and pepper to taste and set aside. Heat a cup of olive oil in a small pan and fry the onions till they are brownish and drain on kitchen paper.
When the pumpkin is cooked, take it out of the oven, you might find a bit of liquid inside which you need to spoon out. Season the inside of the pumpkin and fill the pumpkin with the rice mixture and press down gently into the pumpkin cavity till filled. Put the lid back on and pop back in the oven for another 20 Minutes. Serve with the lid off and the onions sprinkled on top.