It was time - I didn’t think the colour could become any more saturated, and I wanted soup. So I cut off the oldest, highest-up pumpkin, the one that was nesting in a hanging basket. It looked amazing, deep orange, waxy skin, and gratifyingly heavy.
A quick rinse and it was ready to go - the beauty of hokkaido being that you can eat the skin, no faffing around and losing loads of flesh. It seemed to have too much green on the inside for my liking, although the colour contrast made for optical drama. And the inside was pretty hard, with an effort needed to scoop out the seeds.
But it made a really nice soup - and a few days later I accidentally cut down a second one (I was trying to get rid of the big vines, with their leaves taking up too much light and cut the wrong bit), I happily added it to risotto which I ate with a friend.
For the soup I fried up a couple of onions, added a toe of smoked garlic, some ginger and a chilli and then the pieces of pumpkin, putting water in once the onions were transparent. Little sloshes of water and a couple of fresh bay leaves followed until I got tired of looking at it and added about a pint of water and went off to do something else for a while. Once the pumpkin was soft I pulled out the bay leaves and liquidised the rest, and voila, soup for lunch and one for the freezer too.
The risotto was even better - I used whole grain risotto rice for the first time, which although lovely once cooked, did seem to take an age to get there. Onions and garlic fried in a mix of olive oil and some herby butter which was lurking in the fridge.
Once they were going, I chucked in three handfuls of rice and fried it all together in the bottom of the big pan for about five minutes. Then in with some stock (from a packet, although friend did prod me to promise self to make my own and freeze it) and boiling water, and a handful of fresh herbs. Was going to add a bit of wine but forgot.
I’d chopped the pumpkin into little chunks about half the size of my thumb, and fried them really gently for about 20 minutes in a smear of olive oil. They were striped with the bright orange and green and were utterly delicious just like that.
At least one glass of wine, some water top-ups and a good conversation later, the rice was approaching ready so I threw in some chopped kale and broccoli leaves to serve as spinach, and added the cruicial cheesy element - a mix of peccorino and cheddar. A load of black pepper too. And the pumpkin pieces. We ate it with a green salad of my lettuce and cucumber - and generous servings of wine.
The seeds of both went straight back into the compost for next time around. But the risotto was so good that not only the one remaining pumpkin already has risotto written on it, I may save the seeds to grow one deliberately next year.