Sunday, April 15, 2012

Stuffed Baby Pumpkins ... inspiration from the produce section

I was browsing the produce section the other day, looking for some inspiration for dinner ~ I often see something that looks particularly fabulous, and decide to base a meal around it. Then I came across these...

... oh happy days :)  So teeny and adorable - I just had to use them. I was thinking, Middle Eastern flavours, brown rice and ??? Had to be a pistachio crust! So - despite posting 2 recipes in a row that take a while to prepare - I wanted to share this with you all. As always, it was an experiment - so feel free to experiment yourself! Turned out pretty beautifully though...

               Stuffed Baby Pumpkins

Ingredients (serves 4 as a large side dish)
2 ‘baby’ pumpkins
2 cups of shelled pistachios
1 cup brown rice
2 chicken-flavoured stock cubes
2 1/2 cups filtered water
Olive oil
1 large onion (preferably red)
4- 5 cloves of garlic (depends on your taste)
I lemon (use a potato peeler to remove 4-5 strips of lemon peel, then juice)
4 Cardamom pods
1 teaspoon of Coriander seeds
4 Cloves
1 teaspoon of Cinnamon
2 teaspoons of Cumin
1/2 teaspoon of Paprika
Pepper & salt to taste
Fresh Coriander (half a bunch)

Before you do anything, put on some really cool music...

(anything by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan would work particularly well!)


If you're going to shell the pistachios yourself, do this first - it takes time.

Preheat oven to 200°C

Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the pumpkins in half. Scoop seeds and membrane from pumpkin and discard. 

(I love the way they look like little love hearts!) 

Place pumpkin halves cut side-down on a lightly greased baking tray. Cover the tray with foil. Bake for about 30mins or until flesh is just tender. When cooked, remove foil, turn over and press down slightly with a spatula so that the bottom flattens enough to allow the pumpkins halves to stand up (so they can be filled).

When pumpkins go in the oven, boil the water and add stock cubes – mix well. Add rice to a medium sized saucepan and add stock and lemon peel to the pan, stir. Cook uncovered on med-high, without stirring, until all the stock is absorbed. (pay close attention near the end - about 12 mins - listen for a slight crackling sound, which indicated that the stock is almost gone). Remove from heat, cover and leave for 5 mins. After 5 mins, fluff with a fork and remove lemon peel.  

Use a food processor or mortar & pestle to grind pistachios to a fine crumble consistency. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix. Put aside.

Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook onion, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. While onion is cooking, grind up the cardamom pods (remove outer shell once ground), coriander seeds and cloves in a mortar & pestle. 

Add the cinnamon, cumin and paprika and pepper, and mix (you could add some chilli here if you like it spicy). Add the spice mix and the garlic to the onion mixture and stir for a few minutes. Remove from heat and put aside.

Remove some flesh from the pumpkins (leaving a 2-3 cm border) and chop, then add to a large bowl. Add rice, onion/spice mix & coriander and lemon juice to the large bowl & mix. Taste and add a little salt if needed.  Fill pumpkin cavities with rice mixture, pressing down firmly with the back of a spoon. Carefully sprinkle pistachio mix over the top of each pumpkin and press down with hands (creates a crust). Return to oven and bake for about 15 mins (until crust is browned a little). Remove from oven and sit for 5 mins before serving.

I served this with other roasted vegies ~ YUM! Enjoy. 

(just between you and I, this meal almost begs to be enjoyed with a nice glass of red wine...I'm just sayin')

Next time, I will probably add some chopped up chickpeas to the rice mixture for some added protein. This recipe can of course be done with large pumpkins, with varied oven times. 

Let me know if you try any of your own versions of this ~ there are lots of other spice combinations that would work. 

Have an amazing week. 

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