This year I grew a Cinderella Pumpkin. You know, the kind that was turned into a carriage and whisked her away, drawn by four white horses to the ball.
I mean, look at it? So Pretty!
So I knew I wanted to make sure that when I cooked it, the dish was really special. Princess special, the sort of thing you might find at a lavish banquet.
Beautiful to look at, with a delicious filling inside.
(I’m rubbish at taking photos on the fly, so ‘scuse the blurry shots of our wonderful feast!)
Which made me start to think. What is it about the dishes that we find special at this time of year?
In the US Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and in the UK, we’re getting ready for Christmas, which in our case is quite a small event on the actual day, however means that in the lead up to it we host Sunday Lunches (always on a Saturday) for various groups of friends.
In all cases, the food traditionally served means some kind of meat, with lots of side dishes. All of which are meant to be shared around, much like you would at a Medieval feast. This is not the time of year for individual mimsy portions, but instead a time to pass dishes up and down the table, and usually, have one big centre piece that everyone ‘ooooh’s ‘ at when it is brought to the table.
You also want food that is happy sitting around for a bit. Potatoes that are roasted, beans that are casserolled or leeks that are slowly braised. Not food that matters if it sits around for another 10 minutes, or even 1/2 an hour or more whilst people are seated, toasts are made and the inevitable last minute guest arrives.
You want something slow cooked, that can feed a crowd, and that tastes equally good the next day, and the next.
Because there will be left overs.
As a vegan serving a crowd with all kinds of people, with a variety of allergies and sensitivities, as well as the ever present committed omnis who I always want to impress, this lush combo of bean chilli, served in a slow roasted pumpkin provides a pretty centre piece with that wow factor. It also happens to be a seriously comforting and deeply savoury chilli, which everyone always loves. Not only that, the chilli provides a gravy for all the delicious potatoes and sides you could ever want.
Whether you’re serving up a feast for friends pre-Christmas (like in the ridiculously blurry photos I managed to take of the original ‘Cinderalla’ pumpkin being served up), having family over for Thanksgiving, or sharing Christmas with loved ones- this delicious alternative to the the meaty centrepiece will have them all coming back for more.
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A festive way to serve a delicious chilli. Perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or to serve friends and family
- 500 g dried weight of 2 types of beans. Try butter beans and & black beans as their different size and texture work well together
- OR 1200 g (3 tins/cans of pre-cooked beans)
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves -minced
- glug olive oil
- 2 tins tomatoes or 800g fresh whole tomatoes, finely chopped
- 2-3 Tbs of tomato paste concentrate
- 1/3 cup red wine
- 1 small fresh chilli or one small dried chilli finely chopped/minced- or more if you like it hot.
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme chopped or 1 tsp dried
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon this gives a deep scented background, strange, but it really works!
- 5 drops liquid smoke
- 4 squares very good dark chocolate
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbs vegan stock powder- I use Marigold vegan boullion dissolved in 1 cup warm water
- Salt & Pepper
If you’re using dried beans- soak them over night in plenty of water. At least 12 hours- or longer if possible. then rinse the beans & drain well then cook for around 45 mins until soft.
OR Rinse the tins of beans ready to add to the recipe.
In a large saucepan, gently fry the onions & garlic until translucent
Add in all the spices & the tomato paste & fry for a minute until fragrant
Add in the beans, tins of tomatoes ( I swish each tin out with a bit of water to get all the tomatoey goodness in), the glug of wine, bay leaves, chocolate squares and the stock.
Put the lid on the saucepan & bring everything to the boil for 5 mins.
Then take down the temperature and leave on a gentle simmer for around 10- 20mins, stirring occasionally. Add extra water if you need to.
Add the liquid smoke and stir.
Test for spice balance at this stage too- add in more herbs or chilli if necessary. A splash of cholula sauce or other chilli sauce can be added if you think you need more of a spicy kick
Keep simmering the chilli for another 10 mins.
Heat the oven to Gas Mark 5, 190 C
Once you have the chilli on to cook, cut the top off the pumpkin so it is like a lid!, I find it easiest to cut into the pumpkin a bit at a time, carefully stabbing the knife into the flesh, joining up the stab marks around the top in a circle, until it all can be gently lifted off.
Scoop the seeds out of the pumpkin
Rub the inside of the pumpkin with a little olive oil & sprinkle a pinch of salt and the smoked paprika .
Put the pumpkin and its top on a heavy baking dish and put into the oven
Roast for around 30 mins until the flesh of the pumpkin is tender and cooked through but not collapsed
Put the chilli into the pumpkin cavity. Put the lid of the pumpkin on, and put it all into the oven for around 10 minutes, until the chilli is heated through.
Remove carefully from the oven and put onto a pretty dish, ready to serve as a triumphant main course!