Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
We have a lot to thank the Americans for over here on the our little Island. They have given us many great gifts - Santa, cheese in a tube, The Muppets, denim and "Weird Al" Yankovic. But the greatest of all must be the pumpkin, without which we would still be hacking away at a hard unyielding turnip with a blunt spoon to fashion our jack'o lantern for this most Irish of seasons, Hallowe'en. As far as carving goes, pumpkins are a definite improvement.
It has taken us a while to embrace the pumpkin as a food, however. We may look askance at the 'squash, peanut butter and cinnamon-in-everything' food culture of the Americas as they often do at this turnip, marmite and sandwich-spread eating corner of europe. There are some foods that are just not that appealing to anyone who didn't grow up on them.
Embrace it we will though - we owe them. They have taken our drunken St Patricks day ritual to heart, they send tourists over here in droves, and without them there would be nothing on the telly. God bless America.
1 pumpkin, about 20cm diameter
1 onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 litre hot chicken stock
3 tablespoons cream
about 100g emmenthal or other melting cheese
some chives to garnish
Heat the oven to 190ºC (170ºC fan oven) gas mark 5. Slice off the top of the pumpkin to make a lid and set aside. Scrape out the fibrous strands and seeds. Put the pumpkin in a lightly oiled, deep roasting dish.
Cut away the flesh inside, leaving walls thick enough to hold soup. (an ice-cream scoop works well for this task) Chop the flesh.
Heat the butter in a pan and gently fry the onion for 10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the nutmeg, sage and reserved pumpkin flesh.
Put the mixture in the shell and pour in the stock. Season and cover with the lid. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour till the pumpkin is tender but still holds its shape. Stir in the cream; garnish with chives and extra cheese.
Carefully remove from the oven and bring the pumpkin to the table. Ladle the soup into bowls to serve.