My love affair with pumpkin started many years ago when I dined at the Chateau in Tongariro National Park. The chef served pumpkin soup with orange. He had cooked the pumpkin in a concentrated mix of water, orange juice and finely grated orange rind. I can still remember the unique taste.

The grey-skinned, crown-shaped pumpkin is a member of the squash family which also includes the rich green round buttercup, the curious spaghetti squash, the elongated cream-skinned butternut and the vivid orange-fleshed butterkin — a new breed of butternut with a smooth texture and sweet, buttery flavour. All have an orange-hued flesh. (White-fleshed cucumbers, courgettes and marrows are also members of the squash family.)
The pumpkin and its orange siblings can all be used in similar recipes unless of course a particular shape is required. Both the round buttercup and elongated butternut make great receptacles for holding other foods. Trim the top off the buttercup, scoop out the seeds, fill with savoury vegetables and bake in the oven. Or make the popular Thai dessert Sankaya Fak Thong (see recipe janbilton.co.nz).
For those watching their waistline, there is little need for concern if the pumpkin served is boiled or baked. An average serve has the same calorie count as an average apple. However, roasted pumpkin adds an extra 100 calories or 420 kilojoules.


Ground sumac is prepared from the sour, purple berries of the sumac tree and is available in most supermarket or delis.

2 large (500g) skinned and boned chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
500g buttercup or pumpkin, peeled and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil  
1/2 teaspoon ground sumac
1 tablespoon small thyme sprigs
Sauce: 2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon each: ground sumac, honey
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 200°C. 

Place the chicken in a shallow roasting pan. Sprinkle evenly with the salt, pepper and lemon rind.

Cut the buttercup into 1.2cm thick wedges. Tuck around the chicken. Drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the sumac and thyme sprigs. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and the buttercup is tender.

Meanwhile, combine the sauce ingredient in a small saucepan and heat. 

When the chicken and buttercup is cooked, remove the chicken and slice. Arrange on a serving platter with the buttercup. Pour the pan juices into the saucepan and heat through. Serve with the chicken. Serves 4.


The butternut should be halved lengthwise.

1/2 butternut, about 800g
2 tablespoons coconut oil
flaky sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Filling: 1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 large red capsicum, seeded and diced
1/2 teaspoon each: ground cinnamon, smoked paprika
1/2 cup cooked rice or couscous
60g baby spinach leaves, chopped
100g feta cheese, sliced

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Scoop the seeds out of the butternut. Brush the cut side of the butternut with the coconut oil. Sprinkle with salt and brown sugar. Place, cut-side down, in a roasting pan. Roast for 20 minutes, then turn over and continue to roast for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan. Sauté the onion until softened. Add the garlic and capsicum and cook for 2 minutes. Add the spices, rice and spinach leaves and cook until the spinach has wilted.

Pile the filling into the butternut spreading any extra over the flesh. Bake for 10 minutes. Top with the feta and bake until slightly melted. Serves 4-5 as a side dish or 3-4 as a light meal.


Five hundred grams of raw pumpkin will provide one cup of mashed pumpkin. The pumpkin should be very smooth. Mix in a food processor if necessary

400g can coconut cream
1 cup well mashed pumpkin
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/8 teaspoon each: salt, ground ginger, ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Chill the can of coconut cream for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Line a 22cm x 12cm loaf pan with waxed paper or cling film.

In a large mixing bowl combine the pumpkin, maple syrup, vanilla, salt and spices. Mix well.

In a separate large bowl whip the coconut cream until light and fluffy. Gently fold 1/3 into the pumpkin until well combined. Repeat twice.

Pour into the prepared loaf pan and freeze. 

Stand for 15 minutes before serving. Great served topped with toasted walnuts. Serves 6-8.


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