Wednesday 31 October 2012

Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Orzo for Halloween 2012

My pumpkin carving skills are evolving. From my first pumpkin in 2009, there have been definite improvements. 2010. 2011. But this year is definitely my best pumpkin yet. Partly because I bought a big enough pumpkin! Which also meant that the scooped-out insides gave me enough flesh to cook with.

I started from this template, for a nice, detailed cat face, but then made some subtle modifications to it to make it more Maine Coon-esque (and re-sized it to fit my pumpkin).
The model

Urchin provided valuable assistance as a model. The nose had to be cuter, the ear-tufts more exaggerated and the cheeks fuller and fluffier. So I ended up with with this.
The template
I'm terribly impressed with my £1 pumpkin carving tool-kit. It just keeps on going, even when I am sure the blades are about to snap.
The pumpkin

After my pumpkin-carving efforts, I was left with a lot of pumpkin pulp and seeds. I washed the seeds thoroughly, tossed them in a mixture of chipotle, soy and maple syrup and toasted them in the oven until they were brown and crunchy.

I simmered the pumpkin flesh in a little vegetable stock until it was tender then mashed it with a fork to a fairly runny puree. I added a couple of slices of goats cheese and a couple of tablespoons of creme fraiche, then stirred in some crisp little cubes of panceta (not a spelling mistake, it's the Spanish version of pancetta), some cooked orzo pasta (500g raw weight) and a bag of baby spinach leaves. I tipped the whole thing into a pyrex lasagne dish and dotted the top with more slices of goats cheese.

I baked it until the cheese looked like toasted marshmallows and the edges of the orzo were starting to crisp. Before serving, I sprinkled the top with the toasted pumpkin seeds.
Not marshmallows - goat cheese slices
PPN288I'm going to send this delicious, comforting bowlful to Simona for Presto Pasta Nights, the long-running (soon ending) weekly pasta round-up started by Ruth at Once Upon A Feast. It must be the longest-running food blogging event around, surely?

It was a very successful bowl of pasta. I do love orzo - I don't care how many people say that all pasta tastes the same, they are wrong, orzo tastes different. The sweet pumpkin, salty-creamy cheese, salty-crunchy panceta and clean, minerally spinach worked very well together, with the salty, spicy pumpkin seeds adding another layer of texture. And it is just such a satisfying thing to base a meal around leftovers!
All the colours of the Irish flag - not usually associated with pasta
 So. The pumpkin. She looks like she is planning world domination, but it is a distinctly Maine Coon face.
Ended up menacing rather than cute


Ruth Daniels said...

Fantastic pumpkin carving! And even more fantastic pasta bake! Thanks so much for sharing with Presto Pasta Night Roundup this week. I can't wait to try it.

And since there are only two more roundups before I call it a day, I do hope you plan on sharing more spectacular treats with us.

leaf (the indolent cook) said...

Looks excellent! And I agree that different types of pasta taste different. Even with the same ingredients, shapes play a huge role, in the same way that a hunk of meat takes on a different character if you mince it.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Ruth - yes, I've got at least one more lined up for Presto Pasta!

Leafy - exactly!

Angie's Recipes said...

How cool! That looks a bit like fox ;-))
Love your orzo! Very seasonal and has my favourite ingredient: goat cheese!

cornercottage said...

Your orzo looks so delicious and comforting! Beautiful pumpkin and fabulous model :D

mscrankypants said...

Awesome pumpkin with the cutest of fluffy subjects. I had orzo for the first time in a Qantas dinner meal recently and it was amazing (and I've never said amazing about airline food in my life, well, except in some instances saying it was amazing I survived).

Alicia Foodycat said...

Angie - I know not everyone likes goat cheese but I am with you, I love it!

Hannah - thank you!

Barbara said...

I am impressed with your pumpkin carving! I tried that several years ago and botched it. You did such a great job. Fun!

The Squishy Monster said...

First off, this orzo looks amazing and secondly, you are amazingly talented...I don't know if I could do that to a pumpkin if my life depended on it! lol

GingerSnap said...

Whoa! That is one awesome pumpkin! It does look a little menacing, but that just makes it more Halloweeny. And the model is quite adorable btw :)

Simona Carini said...

What a beautiful pumpkin you carved, Alicia! I let my husband do the work for both. And your orzo is a wonderful way of using the pumpkin parts left over from the carving session. Very nice combination of flavors. Thank you so much for contributing to Presto Pasta Nights!

Caroline said...

So impressed by your pumpkin carving skills - just as amazing as all the ones in the gallery on the Guardian website. Stunning.

Love the sound of that orzo, and you're right, orzo does taste different to other pasta shapes.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Barbara - it really is down to the carving set! So effective.

Squichy Monster - thank you!

Gingersnap - she is a pretty cat, isn't she?

Simona - thank you for hosting!

Caroline - thanks! I know goats cheese is divisive, but I love it!

grace said...

i'm absolutely impressed by your carving prowess. plus, your use of the seeds is inventive and tasty!

Lisa said...

Dang, that is one impressive pumpkin.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Grace - thanks! Using the seeds was a revelation.

Lisa - thanks! It's a pity they go squashy after a couple of days.


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