Saturday, April 04, 2009

March 30, 2009: Luscious Moroccan pumpkin

My collection of recipes to try from other blogs is creeping up towards the 500 mark! However I've done what I can to make use of them this week, and we have four delicious and diverse examples to show you as I tick them off. The first is this Moroccan-spiced pumpkin, served with couscous and shallot-prune confit, which Lucy published on Nourish Me more than a year ago. (Though I'll copy the recipe here, you should click on over to admire her photos of the process.) It takes a little more effort than you're likely to have spare on a weeknight but the meal is so satisfying and the leftovers so perfect for lunch - even at room temperature, after travelling roughly in a lunchbox - that we didn't regret it one bit.

The pumpkin itself is roasted to melting softness, but the sweet yielding flesh belies a fiery spice rub that includes chilli, cumin and coriander. Prunes don't have the most glamourous image but they are at their most luscious in this confit - they almost disintegrate into syrup around the shallots and garlic that are already braising in the same pan. The confit is finished with a handful or two of blanched almonds. If I'd carefully read ahead I probably would have purchased ready-blanched almonds but I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to separate them from their skins; I'll do it again with confidence when a recipe requests that its almonds be blanched.

It all rests on a bed of couscous, and is finally strewn with fresh herbs. What a way to welcome autumn!

Luscious Morrocan pumpkin, with prune-shallot confit and couscous
(following a recipe from Lucy of Nourish Me, who credits Nadine Abensur's Cranks Bible)

For the pumpkin:
1 small jap (kent) pumpkin, ~1.5kg
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons chilli flakes
1 heaped teaspoon ras el hanout
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tamari

For the confit:
500g shallots (these ones)
2 handfuls raw almonds
300g prunes
2 tablespoons olive oil
a pinch of sea salt
6 cloves garlic

For the rest:
1 1/2 cups couscous
1 generous pinch saffron threads
1 3/4 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch mint (or coriander), washed and roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cut the pumpkin into large wedges; scoop away any seeds and pulp, but keep the skin on.

Gently heat a frypan and toast the coriander, cumin and chilli for a couple of minutes, until fragrant. Give them a few minutes to cool, then grind them rounghly with a mortar and pestle. Transfer the spices to a large bowl, and stir through the ras el hanout, maple syrup, oil and tamari.

Toss the pumpkin pieces through the dressing, then place them in a baking dish (or two). Sprinkle over the remaining dressing (if you have any - we didn't!) and bake the pumpkin for 45-60 minutes, until tender. Check the pumpkin each 15 minutes and turn them over.

While the pumpkin is roasting, bring a medium-sized saucepan of water to the boil. Add the shallots, whole, and simmer them for just one minute. Scoop them out but keep the water. When they're cool enough to handle, peel the shallots and set them aside.

Reheat the water and add the almonds, blanching them for 2 minutes. Scoop them out onto a plate and again keep the water. When the almonds are cool enough to handle, you'll notice their skins are puffed and wrinkled! It doesn't take too much effort now to pop them from their skins. Lucy suggests toasting these in the oven for 8 minutes but we didn't have any room with all that pumpkin; instead I toasted them in the same frypan we used for the spices.

Remove pits from the prunes, if they have any. Use the same frypan again to heat the oil for the confit. Fry the shallots until they're deeply golden; be patient and don't skimp on this step. Add the salt, garlic and prunes. Give them a stir to coat everything in oil, then add a generous scoop of the blanching water. Cook the confit at a rapid pace for at least half an hour, adding more water as its absorbed. The shallots should hold their shape (treat them gently!) but encourage the prunes to break down a little into the sauce. Stir through the almonds during the last few minutes.

In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the couscous and saffron. Pour over the boiling water, add the oil, and give it a very brief stir before covering the couscous and allowing it to rest for 5 minutes. Gently toss the couscous with a fork.

On each plate (or a single large platter), layer up the couscous, confit and pumpkin wedges. Sprinkle over the fresh mint and serve.


  1. this is a recipe that I have long had my eye on but it does seem to require time and effort so gets put on the backburner - I agree that prunes don't have glamour but they taste so good - just made a great cake with prunes this week which I will post soon!

  2. Cindy, I'm so pleased you liked it! Isn't that prune and shallot confit a revelation? I keep a bag of prunes now just for the confit itself...and pleased - very - that it keeps for the next day. The blokes around here eat it all in one sitting each time I make it, so I'm glad it travels well. Ohh. Chuffed, I am.

  3. Indeed, Johanna - it's worth waiting until you have a few hour's leisurely cooking time available. I'm looking forward to seeing your cake. :-)

    Lucy, I did suspect that you might not have the opportunity of leftovers. :-D I just might be keeping prunes in the pantry, too.