Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkin, Spice, and Everything Rice

by Lucy Arlington

To me, pumpkins have always been things that you scooped out at Hallowe'en and carved funny and scary faces into. Oh, I knew you could eat them, but why go through the bother of cutting one up (they are hard!), baking the pieces and then pureeing them when you can buy a can of pureed pumpkin in the grocery store that works just as well.

But since I moved to Bermuda I've actually cooked with fresh pumpkin, and now I know why you would go through the bother. There's something in the flavour of fresh that seems to get lost when it sits in a can for who knows how long. And really, pumpkins are just a kind of squash and I've never balked at cooking fresh squash!

Bermuda grows delicious pumpkins, and when a friend of mine served me this spiced pumpkin rice I knew I had to try it myself. It is similar to a risotto, but you don't have to stand at the stove and stir, stir, stir for a half hour while making it because you bake it in the oven. (Those of you who have a weakness for creamy risotto will know what I mean.) The coconut milk makes it rich and creamy, and the spices give it an exotic flavour that compliments the pumpkin.

And the recipe is versatile. If you don't want to bother with the pumpkin, you can always use butternut squash instead.

Have you ever cooked with fresh pumpkin?

Spiced Pumpkin Rice
2 C. fresh pumpkin, chopped into ½ inch pieces
1 14 ounce can coconut milk
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 stalks celery,chopped
1 inch piece ginger, grated
2 T olive oil
1 1/2 C. uncooked rice
1 T. butter
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. tumeric
1 bay leaf
celery salt, salt and pepper to taste

Cut the pumpkin into very small pieces (1/2 inch cubes). Pour the coconut milk into a large measuring cup. Add enough water to measure 3 cups. Add the bouillon cube, pour into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and keep warm.

Saute the pumpkin, onion, celery, garlic and ginger in olive oil in a heavy saucepan until the onion is tender about 8 minutes. Add the rice, butter and spices. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring to coat the rice well.

Add the heated coconut milk mixture. Cook for 5 minutes. Spoon into a baking dish and bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until the rice is tender. Stir and discard the bay leaf.

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