Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Rich cream-filled baked pumpkin (vegan)

Oh joy and happiness, pumpkin season is here! Years ago, in my vegetarian days, I once made this (very non-vegan) recipe for a roasted pumpkin filled with cheesy cream. I've been meaning to veganise it for a while as I remember it being delicious, and yesterday finally got around to it. It was amazing - I think I might have found my Christmas main! I took some inspiration from this 'moxarella' recipe for the filling.

This dish is rich, delicious, easy, and it looks absolutely gorgeous! You could make one large pumpkin as a centerpiece that everyone can scoop their share of roasted pumpkin and 'cheesy' cream from, or, if you can find them, use little individual pumpkins for each diner.

Pumpkin sizes vary, as does the thickness of their flesh and the size of their cavity when you remove the seeds, so you may have to play around with the amount of filling and cooking time. You may also, tragically, be forced to eat any leftover filling with bread or a spoon :)

This is a rough guide, but of course, use your own judgement and keep an eye on your pumpkin as it cooks. The recipe below uses a 700g pumpkin to serve 2, bakes for about 50 minutes in total, and makes about 400 ml of filling - I had some left over, but of course it's better to have too much than too little. 

- To serve 4, use a 1.5 kg pumpkin, and double the amount of the cream sauce below for the filling, bake for about 1hr 15 minutes or until the pumpkin flesh is tender.
- For individual pumpkins, use little 300g pumpkins, with about 100-150ml of filling each, and bake for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through.

You can use any variety of pumpkin or firm yellow squash with a decent-sized seed cavity: acorn squash, cow pumpkins and hokkaido pumpkins will all work well, but a butternut squash is less suitable as its seed cavity is usually quite small.

Ingredients (serves 2):
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast 
  • 1 tbsp tapioca flour 
  • 1 tsp onion powder 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder 
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard seed 
  • salt to taste  
  • 200 ml vegan cooking cream (I used an oat-based one) 
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup of raw cashews, soaked for 6-8 hours and drained (or, if like me you didn't prepare, quick-soaked in boiling water for half an hour) 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium scallion, sliced 
  • 4 garlic cloves (or to taste), finely chopped  
  • 1 tsp dry thyme 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • pepper to taste 
  • a 700g pumpkin (or two 300-ish g ones)

1) Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F

2) In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients: nutritional yeast, tapioca flour, onion powder, garlic powder, ground mustard seed, and salt, then transfer to a blender or wand blender container

3) Add the soaked cashew nuts, cooking cream and lemon juice, and blend until you have a smooth, creamy paste. If it seems very thick (it might if your cooking cream is thick) add a little unsweetened plant milk.

4) Prepare your pumpkin: If the pumpkin won't sit upright - some varieties like hokkaido have an outtie which can make them wobbly - carefully cut off a flat slice across the bottom: don't cut too deeply though, or the bottom will become too thin and leak. You can also build it a little support ring from tin foil to keep it straight.  
Cut a small lid from the top (keep this in one piece, you'll be using it), and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Wrap the bottom half of the pumpkin in tin foil, to stop the filling from leaking out in the unlikely event that your pumpkin bursts during cooking.

5) In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and add the scallion and garlic. Fry for a couple of minutes, until the garlic is only just beginning to brown. Then lower the heat, and pour in your cream mixture, and add the thyme, bay leaf and pepper. Stir the sauce constantly until it thickens and becomes elastic, pulling away from the sides of the pan as you stir it, about 5 minutes. Your sauce may get a strange curdled look halfway through - don't worry, it will smooth out again!
Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. I made mine quite salty because yum, and also because the pumpkin is unsalted and dilutes the saltiness as you eat it with the filling.

6) Spoon the cream filling - including the bay leaf - into your pumpkin until it is almost full, and replace the pumpkin lid. Put the pumpkin in an oven dish (again, for the unlikely event that there is leakage), place in the hot oven, and bake for about 35 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure your pumpkin hasn't split and isn't burning - but don't worry if the lid blackens a little.
After 35 minutes (or 15 minutes before the end of cooking time if you're using a different-sized pumpkin), remove the lid, and check if it seems properly cooked. If so, remove the  lid from the oven, and let the pumpkin bake without the lid for a further 10-15 minutes, until your cream filling is starting to lightly brown.
You can use the baking time to make your side dishes - I recommend a green salad and crusty bread for dipping in your pumpkin!

7) Remove from the oven, and serve! You can serve straight from the pumpkin at the table (which I think looks fantastic), or scoop the roasted flesh with cream sauce into individual bowls before serving.


Possible variations: Next time I am going to try this with leeks in stead of the scallion, and will be adding a small splash of white wine to the filling. Let me know in comments if you come up with any new and wonderful variations of your own!