The Autumn evenings are so much cooler and the leaves crisp on the ground and pumpkin season is well and truly here. I sent Chub out to buy me a pumpkin a couple of weeks ago and he came back with a whopping 5kg specimen from Lidl; I did spot smaller ones in Tesco at the weekend though, which would be also perfect to cook with although it is important to hold one back to carve. I love searching the internet to find an unusual pattern to carve my Halloween pumpkin in and I think this year Pinterest is going to prove very useful indeed. Last year, I told you how Chub carved lanterns out of turnips for trick or treating, which I had never heard of before; it must be a Scottish thing, but it’s surprising how many people end up finding my blog by searching ‘how to carve a turnip’ God love them, it’s hard enough to peel a turnip let alone carve a face into it!
My first time cooking with pumpkin was only about 5 years ago, when I made this ‘cauldron’ or chicken casserole and it has become a firm favourite in our house. Thanks to the whopper size of our pumpkin, it made lifting the cauldron in and out of the oven a little tricky (remember left from the legs – we don’t want any back injuries around here) But on the plus side, I ended up with lots of extra pumpkin puree from the shell walls that I will use to make a bumper amount of pumpkin soup with hardly any work.
Pumpkin Cauldron – Chicken, Bacon and Pumpkin Casserole
Serves 8 for dinner plus extra pumpkin for soup
- I was left with 2.3kg of roasted pumpkin left over from the shell walls. When all of the casserole has been emptied out of the inside of the pumpkin, allow the pumpkin to cool before slicing up and peeling the skin away from the flesh. The pumpkin flesh can be stored in the freezer and can be used for soup or other casseroles.
- Add double cream to taste if you prefer a creamy casserole sauce.
- large pumpkin, about 5kg in weight
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 6 smoked bacon rashers, back or streaky, cubed
- 3 large chicken breasts, or 1 small one per person; cut into large chunks or use about 6-8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- 30g plain flour
- 12 sage leaves, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 200ml vermouth or white wine or chicken stock
- 600ml chicken stock
- Vegetable oil
- Cut a lid from the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits. Carefully using a knife or spoon, scoop out some of the pumpkin flesh, it is very difficult to get actual cubes and you will end up with shaving the flesh but that’s okay. Just be careful not to cut through the skin.
- Oil the pumpkin and lid and place on a large oven tray.
- Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees or 170 fan.
- In a large saucepan over a low heat, sweat the onions in a tablespoon of oil until translucent. I always add a pinch of salt to the onions to make them extra sweaty, if you have an old butter wrapper, use it as over the onions to speed up the process. When the onions are soft, add the garlic, stir and leave for about 2-3 minutes. Remove the onions and garlic with a slotted and place in a bowl.
- Put the saucepan back on the stove and turn up the heat. Add the bacon and fry until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and place in the bowl with the garlic and onions.
- Add a little bit more oil, if required and brown the chicken pieces to seal in the juices. Add the onions, garlic and bacon back to the saucepan, add the flour and stir to combine, cook for about 2-3 minutes before adding the pumpkin. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Spoon the saucepan contents into the pumpkin shell.
- Add the vermouth to the saucepan, it will boil and bubble furiously. Keep stirring and try to get the little bits off the bottom of the saucepan to come into the liquid. This is called deglazing, and ensures great flavour! Once the vermouth has reduced by half add the stock, sage and bay leaf. Allow to come to the boil, adjust the seasoning before carefully pouring on top of the other ingredients in the pumpkin. Add the lid to the pumpkin and place in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and piping hot. The pumpkin lid might collapse during cooking at the shell contracts back, but don’t worry, just fish it out when cooked.
- Serve straight to the table with a big bowl of colcannon or on its own with some extra green vegetables.
And now relax and lie on a cushion!