This couldn’t-be-simpler French recipe feeds gazillions and is great for parties in autumn and winter. If you feel like making one big, substantial, eye-catching dish as the centre of a meal or buffet, then this is really easy to do and will feed a horde of guests.
When you put the great, bronzed, stuffed pumpkin on the table everyone tends to go ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ because it’s unusual to have your meal served in a pumpkin.
You buy (or grow!) a huge courge – 10 or 12 kilos or more depending how many people you want to feed. The last time I made stuffed pumpkin I used one that weighed around 12 and it fed 18 people with no trouble. The side dishes were mushrooms (girolles we picked locally) and chicken, papardalle pasta and salmon and a simple Provencale bean stew.
Cut the top off the courge and keep it to one side. When you’ve stuffed the pumpkin you put the top back on as a lid to keep moisture in during cooking. Cut the top out by cutting down and into the pumpkin at an angle rather than trying to cut straight down vertically. It’s harder to cut straight down and also the top won’t sit well on the pumpkin – when it gets soft during cooking it’ll fall into the stuffing.
Once the top is removed, dig out the pips and the ‘strings’ inside. Then scoop out the pumpkin flesh. I found an ice-cream scoop worked well. Don’t scoop out so much of the flesh that the skin gets thin. You don’t want the pumpkin to sag or burst during cooking so leave the outside reasonably sturdy.
Then chop the pumpkin flesh finely and mix in whatever you want to use as stuffing. You can use mince, onion and garlic. Or add other meats if you prefer. You can use a cereal like quinoa, or lentils. I decided on mince, onion, garlic and local cep mushrooms. The mushrooms were checked by a friend who’s a mycology expert as we didn’t want anyone to get so much as a hint of food poisoning. Ceps are very good in this stuffing but so are grisés and pieds-de-mouton (sorry, don’t know their English names.) Then just add fresh herbs and a bit of seasoning.
Pack the stuffing mixture in the pumpkin, put ‘the lid’ back on and cook the pumpkin in a medium hot oven for two hours. Some people pre-cook the stuffing a bit – others don’t. I didn’t and it still worked very well.
Check the pumpkin once or twice before serving. You can leave it in the oven for two-and-a-half to three hours if you need to – if guests are late or people aren’t ready to eat. Just make sure it’s not getting so soft that it bursts open. Kind of spoils the effect!
Then place it on a large platter and carry it, feast-like, to the table. It will be nicely bronzed by the heat and wonderfully aromatic depending on the fresh herbs you’ve used.
You whip the top off and your guests dig in.
Serve grated cheese and or chopped nuts alongside the pumpkin if they seem right with the stuffing you’ve used.
Stuffed pumpkin could hardly be easier, looks spectacular, is a great traditional dish for autumn or winter and everyone seems to love it.