Friday, October 21, 2011

The Problem with Irish Pumpkins

It is finally pumpkin season here in Ireland and to be sure of getting good produce I stopped by the market over the weekend and made sure to ask if these pumpkins were good for eating and not just carving. Of course, I couldn't entirely trust the man selling the vegetables seeing as in my experience Irish people have no idea how to cook pumpkin, eat pumpkin nor what pumpkin should taste like. Is it like this everywhere on this side of the world? Is this why pumpkin goes into pie and muffins but is not roasted and eaten on its own?
This pumpkin that I got was rather large but not too huge and had plenty of flesh, but it was definately paler than what we get back home, which are not orange pumpkins but greenish-grey pumpkins, with darker orange flesh inside. So the other night I took my large pumpkin, chopped it up and roasted some of it (the rest is pureed and frozen in expectation of yummy baking). What I did notice as it was cooking, both the roasted and pureed stuff, was that this pumpkin seems to have a lot of water in it. For my puree I ended up straining it before freezing it because I want my baking to be like it used to be in NZ. The roast pumpkin was a huge failure! It barely tasted of pumpkin at all, was watery and the texture was all wrong. How can the Irish ever be convinced to eat pumpkin if you can't get good pumpkins over here? For the record, pumpkin should be amazingly delicous, with a thicker texture when roasted and a slightly sweet taste. I always thought it similar to sweet potato, only at the same time completely different. Where I am from we consider butternut to be a slightly sweeter version of pumpkin so maybe that should give you a hint of what pumpkin should taste of? So the hunt for a good pumpkin is still on, and if I can't find one I hope they are still selling them in New Zealand over Christmas! See my sad Irish pumpkin below - it looks good but was terribly disappointing. I hope my pie and muffins will still taste good.

To get on to more positive food talk, pumpkin wasn't the entire point of the evening the other night and there are good food stories too. First of all, in an effort to get a wider audience I have been strolling blog-land and found these other blogs that have 'link-parties' where everybody puts up a recipe on a certain day. Then there is this other one that has a 'crazy cooking challenge' and every month you have to find an interesting recipe from another blog and use it, then post it, linking to both your blog and the original author's blog. This month's challenge is mashed potato so I have begun experimenting already, but was not amazed by this week's results so will not be saving it for the challenge. It was yummy, but too mundane. So what I made this week was mashed potato with carrot, along with chicken cooked the way my dad used to do it, with honey and soy sauce.

Honey Soy Chicken

Chicken pieces (thighs or drumsticks)
Honey (the creamed sort is better but liquid would do)
Soy Sauce

So as you can see by the ingredients this is incredibly simple. My dad always used to use frozen pieces and throw them straight in the oven, letting them defrost and cook all at the same time. Perhaps this is not a good thing to do but it always worked for us so I don't see the problem with it.

But to get to the point, begin by heating the oven to about 180 degrees celsius. Gett out a roasting dish and maybe put some oil in the bottom to keep things from sticking. Then throw your chicken in and place a good dollop of honey on top of each piece. Drizzle soy sauce over and place the dish in the hot oven.

As the chicken cooks you may want to give the dish a bit of a shake to keep the chicken from sticking to the bottom and maybe turn the pieces so that they are covered evenly (the honey and sauce will pool on the bottom of the pan).

The chicken should take about half an hour but that would depend on how much you are cooking and if they were frozen or not. You know your chicken is cooked because if you pierce a piece with a knife or fork the juices will run clear and not at all pink. If you are unsure take a piece out and cut it open to have a look.

Mashed Potato with Carrot

Equal amount potatoes and carrots (depending on how many you are feeding of course!)
Black pepper

Chop the carrots and potatoes roughly into evenly sized pieces, then place them in a large saucepan. You could peel them if you like but I never do, I like the skins and they will add a bit more nutrition. Of course, all of the nutrients are not actually in the skin, there are plenty all the way through, but in the case of potatoes there are different levels of vitamins and minerals in the skin and flesh so you get more all round cover if you eat both parts. Cover with water and sprinkle some salt in, then place on the stove and bring to the boil.

Turn the water down and simmer until the vegetables are cooked. When everything is soft and tender drain the water away (you could reserve all vegetable water for making soups with if you have enough freezer space but I am much too lazy!). Place a good chunk of butter in (you could use margerine, olive oil, sour cream, lots of different things really if you want low fat or a different taste or lactose free), then let the saucepan sit a few minutes while the butter melts and the vegetables dry.

When you are ready, begin mashing and keep going till they are too your liking - I like mine completely smooth but a lot of people like lumps. Add salt and pepper as needed, and it's as easy as that!


  1. Hi Jaimie, Try adding a bit of garlic to your honey soy chicken,add at same time as the honey and soy. Sure we should have REAL pumpkins for you here in NZ at Christmas

  2. Yay, a comment! So excited to have a reader! Garlic is good with this, so is ginger, but it's also good without and that's how we had it as kids. It's nice to put simple stuff up sometimes so that non-cooks can see how easy food can be. Can't wait to be home for all the good NZ food!!


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