Roasted pumpkin with oozy saffron orzo

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I’m probably coming to pumpkin a bit late in the day this year, but I can’t help but fawn over a forgotten favourite. I’m not loading up on your classic orange-hued, bulbous pumpkin, but instead its uglier cousin, the delica pumpkin. This ugly duckling hails from Lombardy (previously of covid-related fame) and is more squat and smaller than your usual jack-o-lantern type. Despite appearances, the flesh is the real star here. Think velvety and honeyed, but not too cloying. Essentially is it very delicious. The unique flavour and texture owes to its infrequent watering, which allows the pumpkin to develop natural sugars and a subtle sweetness enhanced by a two-month maturation process. You might be able to find delica pumpkins in your local supermarket in the autumn, but I get mine in the market in Brixton, so if you’ve got a good fruit and veg market near you then that’s probably your best bet. When it comes to cooking, I like to keep it simple and just roast mine, skin on, and serve with a simple creamy pasta or risotto.

Ingredients

Serves 2:
Two thick wedges or about 300g delica pumpkin

250g orzo pasta
1ltr vegetable stock
1 onion
1 celery stick
1 clove of garlic

a good pinch of saffron
25g parmesan
olive oil
a knob of butter
salt and pepper

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Add a good pinch of saffron strands to your hot stock and leave to infuse while you get the rest of the prep done.
  2. Chop your delica pumpkin into two thick wedges about half an inch thick, then place in a baking tray and drizzle with a good glug of oil and a sprinkle of salt.
  3. Roast for 30 minutes until soft inside and golden outside.
  4. While the pumpkin is roasting, finely chop your onion and celery. This forms a really nice flavour base for the orzo.
  5. Heat a small knob of butter and a little drizzle of olive oil in a pan, then add the celery and onion and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring so it doesn’t catch. You don’t really want any colour on the celery and onion, you’re just looking to sweat them and bring out some lovely sweetness.
  6. After 10 minutes, finely chop and add the garlic, then stir in your orzo pasta.
  7. Once the orzo is coated in all the oniony goodness, add your stock. Unlike a risotto, you can add it all at once. Just make sure to keep an eye on it and stir regularly so it doesn’t stick.
  8. Once all the stock has been absorbed, taste your orzo to make sure it’s completely cooked. Turn off the heat and add your parmesan before seasoning with salt and pepper.
  9. Ladle your oozy orzo onto a plate and top with the gorgeous golden pumpkin. Crack over some fresh black pepper and grate over some more parmesan to serve.

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