This hot, sweet baked pumpkin was part of the last meal I cooked for myself in the old apartment. At the farmers market, I’d found a large banana squash the color of orange sherbet, and it sat on the top of a bookshelf in my bedroom for over three weeks before I finally carved it open, baked it with butter, and glazed it in a sweet, spicy sauce with red chiles, ginger, fish sauce, and lots of fresh lime. Paired with spicy sweet marinated chicken thighs, a bowl of hearty brown rice, and a glass of fizzy ginger beer, it was the perfect antidote for cold nights and raw nerves.
Splurging on Nigel Slater’s newest book, Notes From The Larder, is the smartest investment I’ve made in the kitchen in a long while. His earlier books, Tender and Ripe, are equally magnificent, but I could never make up my mind on which one to buy and would just take them out of the library instead. Notes is a compilation of recipes and narratives throughout a calendar year, and leafing through the recipes and saturated photographs, page by page, is a quiet, mindful meditation on the passing of the seasons.
This recipe is from that book. Preparing it was easy, and eating it was revelatory. I’d prepared squash with curry and coconut before, but never thought to prepare it quite this way.
You could easily make this vegetarian by omitting the fish sauce, but definitely add it if you can for the depth of flavor. And if you’re looking for an unconventional addition to the Thanksgiving table, this recipe would be a good pick.
spicy sweet pumpkin
adapted from Notes From The Larder
3 lb. pumpkin or winter squash
3 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup water
ginger – a thumb-sized piece
1 medium, hot chile (or 2 dried)
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
small bunch cilantro, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 400. Peel the pumpkin, slice in half and scoop out the innards, and chop it into 1-inch cubes. Put it in a big roasting pan or casserole dish with the butter and roast, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour or until the pumpkin is easily pierced with a knife.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar and water in a shallow pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the syrup has reduced by half. Peel the ginger and mince until fine. Chop the chile/s. Zest and juice the limes. Using a mortar and pestle if you have one, or a bowl and spoon if you don’t, combine the ginger, chile, zest, and juice until well-combined. Add to the syrup and continue to simmer for a minute. Add the fish sauce and cilantro and remove from the heat.
Toss the baked pumpkin with the spiced syrup until well-coated. Enjoy with brown rice and chicken or fish.