Autumn and winter bring many wonderful things to eat that compensate for the passing of summer. One of the most spectacular and colourful arrivals is the pumpkin in its many guises. The Cinderella coach of pumpkins makes the most dramatic of entrances at the end of October. This vegetable often of gargantuan proportions is more likely to be snapped up to become a lantern than lunch. However if you can find one of more moderate size – say a kilogramme in weight it is as delicious to eat as it is delightful to see twinkling on a doorstep.
Pumpkins are versatile; they lend themselves to sweet and savoury dishes. The flesh is watery when boiled or steamed and has to be squeezed dry, I therefore prefer to roast or micro-wave them. Pumpkin soup and roast pumpkin with root ginger are two of my favourites. In the US pumpkin pie plays an important role in the traditional Thanksgiving feast. In many Italian regions, pumpkin is used as part of an autumnal stuffing for tortelli and other filled pasta shapes. This fish stew from Cambodia combines, fish, prawns and pumpkin and is a rollercoaster of aroma, flavour, colour and texture guaranteed to raise the most flagging spirits during the change of seasons.
500 ml coconut cream
2 teaspoons chilli paste (add more if you like your curry highly spiced)
1 small jar lemongrass paste 90 g
½ teaspoon shrimp paste
1 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar (or Demerara sugar)
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon chilli powder
2 heaped teaspoons turmeric
1 whole star anise or 1 teaspoon of ground star anise
½ teaspoon ground coriander
500 ml fish stock
1 small pumpkin – weight 1 kg
300 g whiting – skin on - cut into 2 cm strips
400 g raw shell-on prawns
Small bunch of fresh coriander
Put half the coconut cream in a large saucepan, rinse out the carton with 125 ml of hot water and add this to the pan; add all the spices and flavourings, whisk well and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes for the aromas to blend, add the stock, increase the heat and boil for five minutes.
While the sauce is cooking, cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds and cut into large wedges. You only need 500 – 600 g of the pumpkin flesh. Put on a plate, cover with cling film and put in a microwave oven on high for 3 - 6 minutes, at which point the pumpkin should still be firm but easy to cut away from the skin. Leave until cool enough to handle and then cut the pumpkin flesh from the skin and transfer onto kitchen paper to drain. When cold cut into 2 cm strips and salt lightly.
When the sauce has boiled for five minutes, reduce the heat to medium and add the prawns and the pumpkin and cook for 3 – 4 minutes, after two minutes add the fish and cook until the fish is just cooked and the prawns have turned pink. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the fish, prawns and pumpkin then set on one side.
Increase the heat and cook the sauce until reduce by half.
Reduce the heat again and whisk in the remaining coconut cream, return the fish to the pan and reheat gently.
Stand for ten minutes before serving.
Serve topped with fresh coriander or flat leaf parsley and boiled rice on the side.