They say that good things come in small packages and I guess this says to me that a small amount of something great can often be enough - or rather should be enough. Modern life is filled with adverts that urge us to consume more than we need - never mind the quality because more is better, yes? Cars must feel roomier and go faster - even though the speed limit remains the same. Chocolate bars come in kingsize portions - or even yardages! Can I supersize that for you?
Pumpkins are a great reminder that bigger is not always better because the larger they grow, the blander and more watery they become. A pub near us holds a competition each year in which participants vie to outdo each other on the size of their grotesque pumpkins. No points are given for flavour, texture or even appearance - size is all. The pumpkins sit patiently whilst folk marvel at their enormity, waiting for the ritual weighing, a bloated celebration of excess. When I asked what would become of these lovingly tended sumo pumpkins, the answer - given with a shrug, was that they were no good for anything and would be tossed on the compost. Ok, not tossed - heaved.
When Heather of Life Gluten Free chose Pumpkin Treats as her October theme I thought about all the lovely sweet treats that pumpkin and squash can lend their natural sweetness and velvety texture to - a classic pumpkin pie for instance. But when I saw some tiny pumpkins at the grocers and learnt they were called, 'munchkin' I was compelled to buy them and work out what to do with them later.
I have baked creamy soup in a medium sized pumpkin and served it with a carefully scooped portion of orange flesh in each bowl, but these tiny squash were too small even for that. They demanded to be stuffed with something tasty that complemented the sweet starchy interior, so I chose minced lamb shoulder, spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg that are also natural partners for squash. You could easily adapt the recipe to fill one medium sized squash and slice it into moon shaped portions if you aren't lucky enough to find some tiny pumpkins. Just don't be tempted to supersize this dish....
If you have any stuffing left over it's delicious in a pitta bread with some salad, fresh coriander, toasted pinenuts and a spoonful of thick yogurt.
To see the round up of this month's entries for Go Ahead Honey it's Gluten Free, pop over to Life Gluten Free at the end of the month. If you would like to take part there's still time - the theme is explained here, with instructions and inspiration.
Tiny Stuffed Pumpkins (makes 4)
4 munchkin or little gem pumpkins
300g diced lamb shoulder (or lean lamb mince)
1 stick celery
1 medium red onion
3 green cardamom pods (black seeds only, crushed slightly in a pestle and mortar)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
pinch ground cloves
good grating of nutmeg
pinch sea salt
Chop the onion and celery finely and sweat in a little vegetable oil with the pinch of salt until sweet, translucent and starting to turn golden.
While the onion cooks, take any fatty bits out of the lamb and mince it to a paste in a food processor - or chop very finely by hand for a coarser texture. Alternatively, use mince for a simpler, but fattier mixture. Add it to the pan and turn up the heat to medium, stirring every 30 seconds to cook evenly.
When there are no raw bits left, add all the spices and stir to coat the meat, turn the heat up to high and allow the meat to brown a little, but be careful not to let the onions burn. Do this for 2-3 minutes and then take off the heat.
Cut the top off each pumpkin to form a lid. Scoop out the seeds and pith carefully and fill the cavity with meat mixture, pressing it down and smoothing so that the lid can fit on top.
When you are ready to bake the pumpkins, Heat the oven to 180C and bake for about an hour with the lids on, on a baking sheet until they feel soft when pressed. If they start to colour too much, cover with tin foil.
Serve with lots of greens or an autumn salad with fresh coriander leaf in it, and a large dollop of thick yogurt or some home made mayonnaise.
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