Autumn is here, ushering in cooler nights, stunning days, and pumpkins galore. The popular local vegetable is native to North America and is one of the oldest domesticated plants, with evidence of their use as far back as 7500 BC. Pumpkins are now grown around the world, some bound for the dining table, others intended for animal feed or ornamental use. So favoured are they, in fact, that the prolific pumpkin is grown on every one of the seven continents, save for Antarctica.
Here in New Zealand, the Grey Crown Pumpkin is a familiar sight, with its tough blue-grey skin contrasting beautifully against the rich orange flesh. There are an abundance of ways to use pumpkins in the kitchen, and going into the darker days of fall and winter there will be no shortage of recipes I'll share employing them.
Today I'm going with straightforward roasting, which highlights the grey crown's inherent nutty sweetness. To offset the simplicity of the dish I decided to make a delicious dip that is a nod to the pumpkin’s country of origin, Mexico. Sikil P'ak is a thick pepita based dip from the Mayan Yucatan Peninsula. It is made using ground, roasted pumpkin seeds blended with roasted tomatoes, hot peppers, coriander and citrus. Think a nutrient rich stand-in for hummus or guacamole, and it is gooood.
1 Pumpkin, cut in half and then in wedges, skin on and seeds removed
4 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 cup Raw Pumpkin Seeds
3 Tomatoes, halved
1 small Jalapeño or 1/2 Habanero Pepper, deseeded *see note
1 medium Onion, quartered
3 cloves Garlic
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 cup Coriander, chopped
2 large tablespoons Lime Juice
Zest of 1 Lime or Orange
3 tablespoons Olive or Pumpkin Seed Oil
The How To:
Preheat your oven to 200. Roast the tomatoes, pepper, onion and garlic for the dip; put in a small baking dish, toss with a drizzle of oil and salt, and roast for 30 minutes. Cool.
Place pumpkin wedges in a large bowl, then drizzle with oil and salt. Toss to coat. Spread the pieces out over a large tray (depending upon the size of your pumpkin you may need two trays), giving them a bit of room for the hot air to circulate. Roast for around 45 minutes, or until soft with golden brown hints.
In a large pan over low-moderate heat dry toast the pumpkin seeds for about 5 minutes or until they begin to change colour and pop. Stir constantly and watch the heat, as they tend to burn quickly. Remove from the hot pan at once. Once sufficiently cooled, transfer to a food processor.
Add roasted tomato mix to the food processor, along with remaining salt, coriander, lime, zest and oil. Pulse to blend. In small increments add up to 1/2 cup of water, just enough to really blend the contents but not make it thin or watery. Taste, adjust seasonings accordingly.
To serve, place hot pumpkin wedges on a platter, then dollop with sikil p'ak, plain yoghurt, and fresh coriander.
Jalapeños vary in heat, and habaneros are spicier. The seeds of hot peppers contain a lot of the heat, so often recipes will direct you to deseed first. If you love your spice then by all means use some or all of the seeds. If you're like many a Kiwi and chilli peppers are simply not your idea of a good time, use a light touch of dried chilli flakes in place of fresh chillies in the recipe above.
Extra dip can be stored in an airtight container for 6 days.
Created by Elena Keir of Naked Cakes and Wholefoods