Oh the joy of feasting one’s eyes on a mound of pumpkins of brilliant colours – some mottled, others streaked or even spotted – in the autumn farmers’ markets. I have a special penchant for the elegant steely grey Crown Prince variety like this one above in our garden. It has a low water content and delicious, richly flavoured orange flesh, which when I see it immediately conjures up images of soups, gnocchi and curries in my mind’s eye. One of our plants used a rose bush as a ladder and raced up to the top of our neighbour’s apple tree, and then ingeniously balanced its fruit on its branches. So when the Cardiff rain inevitably arrives, this Crown Prince has ensured that its fruit won’t be sitting in a soggy puddle of water.
Autumn is the time for foraging for wild mushrooms, which pair up deliciously with pumpkin. It’s the moment when our neighbours in Marnaves, South West France – who are mushroom aficionados – suddenly appear with a basket overflowing with brown ceps for us. But wild mushrooms are now imported from Eastern Europe at an affordable price. Failing wild mushrooms, you can use chestnut mushrooms with some dried (and soaked) ceps, which impart a heady, rich and exotic flavour.
roast crown prince
1 kg slice of Crown Prince, deseeded
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 red chillies, deseeded and sliced
1 whole garlic bulb, unpeeled
1 sprig sage, leaves picked and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
400g mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Slice the unpeeled pumpkin, coat the pieces with oil and spread them out on a large baking tray so that they do not overlap. Add the chilli, whole cloves of garlic in their skins and the sage leaves. Season. Roast for 20 minutes.
Turn the pumpkin slices and add the mushrooms, tossing them in the oil that is already in the baking tray. The dish is cooked when the pumpkin is golden and soft and the mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Serve hot.