Pumpkins offer the perfect nutty taste for autumn

Pumpkin velout� with cheese fondue baked potatoes
Pumpkin velout� with cheese fondue baked potatoes

Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween. If you haven’t savoured the flavour of these colourful gourds, then Tony Staples, executive head chef at the Arora Hotel in Crawley, says it’s time to start.

Pumpkins are so underused in the kitchen, which is a shame as they have a delicious nutty flavour that brings autumn colour and taste to any dish.

Tony Staples

Tony Staples

We use a variety called Muscat de Provence, which has a more intense aromatic flavour than the large orange Halloween lantern variety.

It is one of those vegetables that chefs use as part of their ‘painter’s palette’ to create eye catching dishes. Turn the pumpkin into a puree and you can decorate a plate with its zingy orange colour. Add extra stock to transform it into a heart-warming soup. Or use as a sauce to complement most meats, adding an earthy yet creamy note that will make you want to lick the plate.

We puddle pumpkin velouté around a starter of chicken wings, crispy pancetta and baby jacket potatoes stuffed with cheese. Leave out the meat and serve the stuffed jacket potatoes drizzled with the pumpkin sauce and you have created vegetarian soul food.

Chicken Tulip with Soft Cheese Fondue Potatoes and Pumpkin Velouté is a new starter on The Grill menu, Arora’s AA-Rosette restaurant. To book, phone 01293 530000.

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Visit the hotel’s website here.

Pumpkin velouté with cheese fondue baked potatoes

To serve four people, plus enough to freeze for another day.

One pumpkin

250g pack of butter

Salt and pepper

8 baby jacket potatoes

2 tabs olive oil

Sprig of thyme

Pinch of sea salt

One clove of garlic, crushed

40g soft cheese or goat’s cheese (choose cheese made with vegetarian rennet for a vegetarian dish).

Method

To make the pumpkin velouté, peel and dice the pumpkin into 3cm cubes (see chef’s tip).

Melt the pack of butter in a large saucepan and toss in the pumpkin.

Fry for a few minutes to release the juices, then cover the pumpkin with a piece of greaseproof paper.

Put a lid on the saucepan and allow the pumpkin to gently sweat for about 15 minutes until soft. Cooking pumpkin this way allows all the flavours to go back into the vegetable rather than escaping in the steam.

Remove the pumpkin with a slotted spoon and blitz in a blender, adding the liquid from the pan to form the consistency you desire – less for a puree, or all of it for a creamy velouté. Season with salt and pepper.

Cool and freeze in batches, reserving 100ml for the dish.

To make the stuffed potatoes, slice the base of each so they stand upright. Then use a melon baller to scoop out a hollow in the top of the potato.

Heat the oven to 200C, gas 6. Tip the potatoes into a large roasting tin, drizzle over the olive oil and toss with the thyme, pinch of sea salt and crushed garlic. Roast for 20-25 minutes until cooked through and golden.

Fill the hollows with cheese and return to the oven for two to three minutes.

To serve as a starter or light lunch, put two potatoes into each of four bowls and drizzle over the warm pumpkin velouté.

Chef’s tip

Use a serrated knife to start cutting the pumpkin as it will have more grip on the skin.

Once you have chopped it into wedges, you can then use a peeler to remove the skin and a sharp knife to cut it into cubes.

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