Updated: Jan 31, 2020
by Nigella Lawson from Nigella Christmas (Chatto Windus)
Obviously all pumpkins come in different sizes, and if yours is radically smaller (unlikely, I’d think, to be much bigger and still edible), here is an easy way to work out how much rice you need to stuff it: once you’ve sliced a “lid” off the top of your pumpkin and taken all the seeds out, put a freezer bag in the hollowed-out cavity. Now fill it with enough rice to come halfway up the cavity. Tip the rice into a measuring jug to see how much you’ve got, and simply use double the amount of stock to rice. If you’re boosting rice quantities, augment the other ingredients accordingly.
You are slightly taking pot luck with pumpkin – it’s very difficult to tell before you eat one whether the flesh is succulent & sweet or tasteless & grainy – but you should certainly avoid all Hallowe’en pumpkins & try to buy from a trustworthy greengrocer who takes pride in his or her produce.
This is perfect as a vegetarian Christmas main course.
Photography & Styling Caroline Marson
Prep time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 2hrs 15 mins
1 x 3-3.5kg preferably French pumpkin, unprepared weight (Nige used a British Crown Prince. Queensland Blue & Red Kuri also good)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 x 15ml tbsp vegetable or olive oil
3 cloves garlic, 2 minced plus 1 left whole
150g dried cranberries
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
good pinch of saffron strands
zest of 1 clementine/satsuma
approx. 400g basmati rice (see intro.)
approx. 1L hot vegetable stock
salt & pepper to taste
For the Gingery Tomato Sauce
1 onion (peeled & halved)
2 cloves garlic (peeled)
1 tsp ground ginger
1 x 3cm piece of fresh root ginger (peeled)
1 tbsp olive oil
700g/700ml tomato passata
1 tsp caster sugar
salt & pepper (to taste)
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6/390ºF.
2. Slice a lid off the top of the pumpkin & remove the seeds & fibrous flesh from the inside, keeping the top to put back on later.
3. In a large saucepan (with lid), fry the onion gently in the oil until softened, then add the 2 minced garlic cloves, the cranberries, spices & clementine/satsuma zest. Stir in the rice, turning till it becomes glossy in the pan.
4. Pour in the stock & let the pan come to the boil, then clamp on the lid & turn the heat down to the lowest it will possibly go. Cook for 15 mins.
5. Cut the remaining clove of garlic in half & rub the inside of the pumpkin with the cut side of each half, then using your fingers, smear some salt over the flesh inside as well.
6. The rice stuffing will be quite damp & not very fluffy at this stage, but check it for seasoning – adding more spice, salt or pepper if wanted - & then spoon it into the garlic-&-salt-rubbed pumpkin cavity & tamp down well. Press the pumpkin lid back on top & squeeze it down as firmly as you can (it will sit up a bit proud of the top!)
7. Stand the pumpkin on a double layer of foil, wrapping the foil 4cm up around the sides & scrunching it there, to keep the pumpkin out of direct contact with the water later.
8. Place the stuffed, partially wrapped pumpkin in a roasting tin & pour in freshly boiled water to a depth of 2cm. Cook the pumpkin for about 2hrs by which time it should be tender when pierced.
9. Meanwhile, get on with the Gingery Tomato Sauce.
10. Take the pumpkin out of the roasting tin and let it sit for about 10 mins before you slice it into segments like a cake.
For the sauce:
1. Put the onion, garlic, ground & fresh ginger into a processor & blitz to a pulp.
2. Heat the butter & oil in a deep, wide pan, then add the onion–garlic mixture. Cook over a low heat for about 10 mins, stirring occasionally so that it doesn’t burn.
3. Add the passata & water to the pan, & season with the sugar, salt & pepper.
4. Cook for 15 mins, at a gentle simmer, then taste for seasoning before decanting into a warmed jug or gravy boat & taking to the table, for people to pour over their slices of stuffed pumpkin.