Pumpkins for Africa

This morning was absolutely gorgeous in the Dargle – cold and crisp and clear – a perfect market day.  The stall holders unpacked, chattering away, while entries arrived for the Inaugural Dargle Local Pumpkin Competition.  Katie Robinson was enthusiastic Pumpkin Registrar, diplaying all 23 entries in the middle of the Dargle Dealer. There were tiny yellow ones, plump Ijale, fabulous smooth white ones,. lots of orange ones and crinkly green ones, as well as striped marrows, butternuts and a patty pan!  Autumn Abundance indeed.

Phillippa Gordon, editor of the Meander Chronicle newspaper was the judge, with the help of her two children. They had fun admiring the pumpkins and asking questions about the different varieties and how they were grown.  Everyone swopped pumpkin recipes, too. Phillppa commented “I really love my job, who else gets to be a pumpkin judge?” Besides the obvious prize for the Biggest King Pumpkin, they invented a number of other categories.  Robin and Tinks Fowler won the Best Dressed Pumpkin Couple for arriving decked out in orange.

The Orangest Pumpkin Award went to Sam Rose and Shine Murphy

The Knobbliest Award went to John Mackenzie for his green hubbard squash

The Best Ijale – Zulu Pumpkin went to Nobuhle Sokhela

The Most Elegant Award with to Mike Weedon

The Whackiest Award was won by Gillly Robartes for her decorated butternut

The Best ‘Pumpini’ went to Bhekinkosi Sokhela for his big orange orb

Sharon Barnsley’s blue pumpkin won the Prize for Most Symmetrical.

Bernard Janisch won a Prize for Effort when he raced up the steps at the final moment to enter his striking pair of curved green marrow and cream pumpkin.

Desiree Beresford, edged out strong competition from Tim (Tilletudlem) to have her weighty white crowned King Pumpkin! “but I want to be Queen!” she said.

Generous Prizes were donated by Barend Booysen of Crab Apple Cottages, Sergio Guerrera of il Postino Resturant, Nicky Mann of Tanglewood Country House, Colleen van Heerden of Midlands House of Healing,  Odette Handley of Riverlea Soap, Trevor Gower of Meander Fine Wines and Wayne Muller of TWK – Howick. The Pumpkin King will also receive a year’s subscription to The Good News – Meander Chronicle newspaper. Everyone also received some the Dargle Local  Currency to spend a the market next month, compliments of the Dargle Conservancy and a bag of homemade compost.

What a lot of fun we had! See you next year.


Perfect Pumpkin Recipes (if you have a favourite recipe to share, please post it as a comment)

Pumpkin soup

For the best tasting soup, roast pumpkins before blitzing into soup. No need to add much besides some chopped parsley, marjoram and garlic. Thin with veg stock or water.

Basic butternut soup

Chop and fry one potato, one butternut and one clove of garlic. Then add water or stock to cover and cook until soft.

Either add dhania/jeera powder while frying and fresh coriander at the end.

Or add fresh or dried chopped marjoram, rosemary, parsley to cook and extra marjoram at the end.

Pumpkin soup with Spinach

Bring to the boil: 8 cups of pumpkin, a chopped onion, a carrot, garlic and some stock if you like. After 20 minutes or so, blend until smooth. Return to the pan, add 50ml of olive oil, salt and pepper and throw in a couple of cups of baby spinach leaves. Stir for a minute, serve and add a spoon of yoghurt to each bowl.

Pumpkin Risotto

Roast chunks of pumpkin with oregano, salt and pepper (about 30-40 minutes).

Make risotto as usual – fry in oil- celery, onion, cinnamon, chilli then add the rice. Slowly add hot stock and when risotto is al dente, stir in the pumpkin pieces. Drizzle with olive oil.

Pumpkin Gnocchi

Bake 1kg pumpkin pieces for about 40 minutes.

Boil 750g potatoes.

Sieve/crush potatoes and pumpkin together and leave to cool.

Add 3 organic eggs and then stir in 100g semolina flour. Fold gently together, season, grate in some fresh nutmeg and form a stiffish dough.

Divide the dough into four – roll out each piece into a 2cm thick sausage and cut at 3cm lengths. Form the gnocchi by rolling each piece over the back of a fork.

Cook in batches in a pan of simmering water (about 2-3 minutes) and when they come to the surface leave for a further 2 minutes.

Serve with sage leaves fried in butter or olive oil.  Oooh, mouth watering.


Steam chunks of pumpkin (or use left overs) and mash into warm, wet polenta (or mielie meal) at a ratio of 2 parts pumpkin to 1 part of mielie meal. Drizzle with olive oil or stir in some butter.

The yummiest thing to serve this with is steamed pumpkin leaves (imifino yentanga). Pick the new smallish ones and the tendrils at the end of the vine, steam and drizzle with olive oil.  You could pick some courgette flowers too and fry them as an accompaniment (or just tear them up ans enjoy raw.). Harvest food at it’s best.

Ravioli stuffed with pumpkin

Instead of your usual ravioli filling, use leftover roasted pumpkin mixed with ricotta cheese. Serve with Sage Butter

Pumpkin loaf

Roast 600g of pumpkin for about 40 minutes.

Bring 400ml milk to the boil and reduce by about half, then cool until lukewarm.

Dissolve 20g yeast in 50ml water and mix into the milk.

Then add 200g wholemeal flour and 600g white flour, 60g pumpkin seeds and a teaspoon of salt. Knead for 5 minutes until the dough is soft, but not sticky. Add extra flour if you need to.

Leave to rise until double. Knock back and divide in two.

Roll each lump into a sausage and place on a baking tray. Leave to rise again (double in size).

Brush with milk or water and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and bake for 20 minutes in a hot oven. It should sound hollow when done. If not, leave for a bit longer.

Pumpkin and Potato Coconut Curry

Fry onion, garlic, chilli, dhania&jeera powder, potato and butternut for a few minutes.

Then add a bashed stalk of lemongrass, lime or lemon leaves, flat parsley, lots of coriander leaves and stalks, some lemon peel and a squeeze of lemon juice. Pour in a can of coconut milk and cook gently until tender.

Serve with basmati rice or egg noodles and more coriander leaves.

Pumpkin stew

Roast crescents of pumpkin or butternut (sliced lengthways) in the oven until browned – sprinkle with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, brown sugar and cinnamon before putting in the oven.

Fry small peeled onions in a pan until golden, add whole peeled garlic cloves and pitted prunes and just enough water to cover.  Simmer until water is absorbed and add a little more as needed. The onions become soft and caramelised all the way through and the prunes start to disintegrate into the sauce. Should take about 20 minutes. At the end add a handful of blanched almonds.

Pour the sauce over the pumpkin pieces with lots of fresh chopped parsley and serve with couscous.


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