Oliver Robinson rounds up the pick of the pumpkin platters
If there’s one thing more fun than carving frightening faces into pumpkins, it’s eating pumpkin. After all, there aren’t many fruits that can be seamlessly utilised as a starter, main and dessert (tasting great whatever form they take), while also providing a supreme source of vitamin A, potassium and fibre.
This winter fruit is in season come late October-early November, and was incorporated into the tradition of Halloween by Irish immigrants to the United States during the time of the Potato Famine (circa 1854). The Irish used to carve lanterns from beets or turnips come Halloween to represent the deceased, but began to use pumpkins simply because they were more readily available in the US.
It’s thought that pumpkins originated in Central America more than 7,000 years ago and were first harvested by Native Americans. Pumpkins are now one of America’s most harvested crops, with more than 680 million kilos of the fruit being produced every year.
Needless to say, dry Dubai isn’t the most conducive environment in which to grow pumpkins, and so the majority of the pumpkin that ends up on your plate here will have likely been imported from nearby India, one of the world’s top pumpkin producers alongside the States, Mexico and China. Luckily for us, the taste of this majestic fruit is not different to that of the pumpkins Stateside or in Europe.
The beauty of pumpkins, according to Irish Chef Paul Ryan of Go West, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, is its variety. ‘It is such a diverse fruit that you can use in both sweet and savoury dishes – roast it, use it as a dessert or a sauce or use its seeds and oil.’
Pumpkin has a wonderful standalone flavour, but can also be matched with many other ingredients – Chef Paul recommends nutmeg, ginger and chillis. To help you try it for yourself, here we provide two delectable pumpkin recipes (one courtesy of chef Paul), as well as round-up six dishes to try, ensuring that this Halloween will be as flavourful for you as it is frightening.
Some scarily good pumpkin platters
Assorted pumpkin treats at Jones the Grocer This high-end gourmet store serves a deliciously fresh pumpkin and feta salad (Dhs40), hearty pumpkin soup brought to life with a dash of saffron (Dhs31), as well as roasted pumpkin antipasto (Dhs30). Al Manara, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 346 6886)
Butternut pumpkin risotto at At.mosphere This creamy pumpkin risotto is comprised of chopped shallots bathed in olive oil, butter, and garlic, as well as verjus and pumpkin juice, which make for a flavorful emulsion. To finish, it is topped with grated parmeggiano and feta cheese, and then garnished with sage, caramelised pumpkin cubes, toasted pine nuts and sliced red chilli. Dhs240. Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3828) Pumpkin soup at Go West Hearty, warming fare from the Jumeirah Beach Hotel – the perfect precursor to any meal, let alone a Halloween celebration. Jumeirah Beach Hotel (04 406 8999)
Pumpkin starters at Café Chic This swish restaurant at Le Méridien, serves up two delectable pumpkin starters. The first is pumpkin and black truffle brûlée, gratinated with truffle salt and topped with escargot and black garlic foam (Dhs75). Chef Etienne Truter also serves up a mean pumpkin and truffle tortellini with sharp-tasting mackerel foam and micro herb salad (Dhs75). Le Méridien Dubai, Garhoud (04 217 0000)
Spinach salad with oven-roasted pumpkin More’s spinach salad features roasted pumpkin, which is offset by feta cheese – a real crowd pleaser. Not only is it tasty, it’s really rather healthy: the salad is low in fat, low-cholesterol and has a low glycemic index. Dhs52. More Café, Dubai Mall (04 339 8934). For several other locations, see www.morecafe.biz