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Penelope’s Pumpkin

click here to jump straight to the recipe for
Pumpkin Fritters with Cavolo Nero, Eggplant and Caulibroc

Penelope Curtin is a mate of mine. She’s a mad sort of a person, much like myself, who loves champagne and thinks still white wine should be poured down the sink in preference for a bottle of great South Australian Shiraz. Penelope is a very fine cook, one of those home cooks who really knows too much and are the challenge of the professional chef because they are so widely practiced and eruditely read. Penelope is also a gardener of some repute, noted for her knowledge about roses and so much more. Add to that she is an editor of the pernickety kind, the type of editor we all dream of, because they make our text just so much better. The other thing I like about ’P’ is it is impossible for me not to tease her because to my knowledge she is the only person in South Australia in possession of a black chicken, so prized in Chinese cuisine. One of her loved pets she will, of course, not allow us to kill and cook the chicken just to prove the colour of its skin. At heart a chef, the notion of feeding an animal never to kill it and eat it is a bit bizarre. Pets are different and only farmers have managed to separate the lamb that wanders in the house with the lamb that is slaughtered in spring to the delight of all who consume it.

It was P’s gift of a pumpkin that triggered this column. Often when my friends give me fruit and vegetables they have grown, they slyly mention, “You could paint them.” Right I think, in my spare time! And, yet it is flattering to think they love my art, but I know my friends love my cooking much, much more than my art! So I have been looking at Penelope’s perfect Japanese pumpkin for about a week and since there is definitely no time to paint it, my thoughts have been more focused on how to destroy it, commemorating its beauty it in a very different way. Soup…too easy, and way too boring and doesn’t appropriately reward the gorgeousness of the pumpkin itself. Pumpkin gnocchi…perhaps, but we had potato gnocchi just a week ago! Pumpkin pie, probably not because in four days I’ve woofed five crème caramels left over from a French dinner. Oh…yummy, piggy heaven it is my favourite dessert unrivalled by any other complication. Benchmark in Australia (apart from mine) Movida bar de tapas, Melbourne.

The first time I went to Europe I was astonished at the distain in which pumpkin was held. “Für der Schweinkin,” translated “for the pigs” and yet there was an exquisite potato and salted cucumber salad that was dressed with the darkest green inky pumpkin seed oil. The South Australian company Harding’s Fine Foods do quite a good pumpkin seed oil but it lacks the intensity of the Southern Austrian and Yugoslavian. This is not to be dismissive of their oil because their pumpkin seed oil is still excellent and their almond oil is amazing. We never use anything else when oiling moulds for sweet purposes.

If it were warmer weather it would be everyone’s favourite, the wonderful herb and pickled lemon driven pumpkin and mograbieh salad. True is it s a lot of work but rewards far more than the chopping and cutting with the delight it gives. Another favourite dish is ravioli filled with roasted pumpkin, fried shallot and garlic, loads of nutmeg, pepper and a little salt and served with nothing more than burnt sage butter. Absolutely no parmesan! It is one of the simplest and most exquisite raviolis. The first time I ate this marvelous dish the ravioli were cooked by an Australian, albeit married to an Italian, Anna Capoccia, at that time firmly ensconced in Amalfi Restaurant. Anna’s family continues their magic at NANO (no anchovies, no olives) where this family continues to serve great simple cheap Italian food and fantastic coffee.

Pumpkin Fritters with Cavolo Nero, Eggplant and Caulibroc
lunch for 6

for the fritters
½ a Japanese pumpkin (approx 1.3kg) – peeled and seeded weight 900g to 1kg
50g p/w shallot, finely chopped
25g ghee or EV olive oil
5g fennel seeds
15g sea salt
2g + black pepper freshly ground (depending on how much pepper you like
20g roasted garlic
1 nutmeg, grated
250g fresh white breadcrumbs (real bread!)
120g plain flour
2 free range eggs
½ bunch parsley, stalked and roughly chopped
½ bunch of fennel top, stalk and roughly chopped
EV olive oil for frying

1 medium eggplant (500g approximately), peeled and sliced 3mm thick lengthwise
sea salt
EV olive oil
black pepper, freshly ground
1 large lemon, strained juice approximately 75g
50g Dijon whole seed mustard
1 medium caulibroc, cut into flowerettes
1 bunch Cavolo Nero, stemmed
20g organic garlic, chopped every finely

for the fritters
Grate the pumpkin (Magixmix is fab) and squeeze the moisture out a bit. This will be less with butternut or Queensland Blue pumpkin. Fry the shallot with the fennel seeds and seasonings until it is lightly coloured and then stir through the roasted garlic, cook for a couple of minutes and then tip into the grated pumpkin. Add the other ingredients and mix well.
Oiled egg rings are great for shaping and you should get 10 from the mix. Shallow fry them on both sides until they are golden and cooked. Don’t worry if they are cooked all the way through unless you are cooking and serving. One of the great things about the fritters is that they can be made in advance and re-warm perfectly. In other words the whole combo of fritters and vegetables make for a perfect fuss-less lunch. Carefully remove them from the rings and sit them on a lipped baking sheet that has been covered with a silicone mat. Stand them on a rack and when they are cooled cover with plastic food wrap and refrigerate.
Reheat for 20 minutes in a pre heated 175°C oven.

other this can be done just before serving or in advance and reheated
Salt the eggplant sliced and let them sit for an hour. Rinse under cold running water and pat dry with paper towel. Fry in hot EV olive oil until golden and drain on paper towel. The oil can be kept for cooking the Cavolo Nero. Put a big splash of EV olive oil, the mustard and lemon juice and mix them together to make a vinaigrette.
Blanche (not cook) the broccolini in boiling salted water with a good, splash of EV olive oil and drain. Heat the oil again and add the Cavolo Nero and garlic and season well. Toss over the black cabbage until it is wilted and tender, then tip it into the vinaigrette. Add the caulibroc and eggplant and very gently combine. Hands in food service gloves are best.
Reheat by tossing oververy gently in a wok.

Want a non–vegetarian version
Add some anchovies that have been pounded to a paste in a mortar and pestle. Serve with a light curry chicken sauce. Skip the salad components and serve with bacon and crispy–fried eggs.

Serve with crusty ciabatta bread Jim Lahey’s is perfect.

the people behind Galaxy Guidesfood editor and publisher
Ann Oliver

champagne editor
Kaaren Palmer


Jan Bowman
Political comentator, briliant photographer…farmers’s market obsessed…Brisbane based.

Olivia Stratton Makris
Masters of Gastronomy, NYC, Spain and constant assistance and editorial suggestion…Adelaide based.

Michael Martin…Northern America 2016.Photographic assistance Kym Martin…Adelaide based.

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copyright © text, recipes and images Ann Oliver & Kaaren Palmer 2016.