Fresh chestnuts at the Venice food market.
For a lot of people the dawn of Autumn is somewhat depressing, spelling dark nights and chilly days ahead. For me it's different, it makes me smile -it's a season of deep earthy energy. It means hot comforting food, roaring fires, crunchy leaves and visually the countryside is just bloody gorgeous! I love this dish as it's so very Autumnal and you get to cook and serve it in the pumpkin, providing a great centre piece for a dinner party -as well as less washing up!
- Choose the size of your pumpkin depending on how many you're feeding. Turn on the oven to 220C Gas 7. Carefully cut a lid out of the top and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits.
- Place the pumpkin on an oven proof dish, rub the inside with sea salt, fresh black pepper, chopped garlic and olive oil. To prevent drying out put two desert spoons of water inside, pop the lid on and pour 1 cm of water into the cooking dish.
- Put into the hot oven for 20/25 mins.
- Meanwhile chop an onion, two cloves of garlicand gently fry, in butter and olive oil.
- Add some herbs to the pan -sage, thyme, parsley...as you wish.
- If you cant get anything else you could use button or field mushrooms but try your best to get a variety of the more interesting fungi -oysters, chanterelles, whatever the local green grocer has ...or if you've collected edibles before and know what you're doing -then go wild! Chop the cleaned mushrooms, add too pan and continue to sautee.
- The handiest thing to use are chestnuts that have been cooked already -but don't be afraid to prepare them from fresh either.To do this score an x in the flat side, bake in the over for 15/20 mins 220C Gas 7. Allow to cool a bit before peeling.
- Roughly cut up the cooked chestnuts and place in with the mushrooms and herbs. Continue to cook for 5 mins.
- Next to create some sauce you can just add stock and thicken with cornflour or you can add cream and season well.
- Remove the pumpkin from the oven, pour out any excess water from inside and gently add your hot chestnutty mushroomy filling.
- Return to oven and cook for a further 20 mins or until you can stick a skewer into the flesh of the lid. If it begins to burn cover with foil.
- To serve bring to the table and chop it up, while still in the oven dish, accompany with crusty bread and some salad leaves.
Fungi -the dolphin