Pumpkins and squashes are a fairly new vegetable to Scotland, having been introduced over the last 20 years or so. Turnips were always the vegetable of choice at Halloween to make into lanterns to scare away the witches.

I remember as a child, my Dad taking me out to a field of turnips (grown for sheep to eat over the winter), finding the biggest one possible, taking it back to carve & put a candle in.

After bending several spoons & really not making any impression, Dad got out his drill & the biggest drill bit he had and drilled out the turnip, so that I could cut out a face and put a candle into the hollowed out turnip shell.

I can’t remember what happened to the insides of the turnip, but we probably ate a lot of mashed turnip over the next few days.

Thank goodness pumpkins started appearing in the shops – it made Halloween lantern making a whole lot quicker and easier.

The big carving pumpkins are no good for eating, they are too watery & flavourless. Look for the culinary ones, often different shapes, colours and sizes with drier, more flavoursome flesh.

What’s the difference between a pumpkin, squash or gourd?

Gourds are inedible & are used as decoration or to be made into things such as water carriers, bird houses, bowls…

Pumpkins & squashes are the edible cultivars and come in all sorts of shapes & sizes.

How to cook your pumpkins

There are basically 2 ways to use a pumpkin or squash –

Either peel off the skin & roast or steam the flesh before using. This works well with butternut squash and any smooth, thin skinned squash.


Roast the pumpkin & scrape the flesh from the skin once cooked. You can either cut the pumpkin into slices to do this or just scoop out the seeds and roast the whole thing.

A dish of layered spicy pumpkin & rice

Pumpkin Biryani

Serves 3 as a main course or 4 as a side.

This is a dish I made using the pumpkin shell as a cooking pot. The pumpkin used was a blue/grey skinned one and the flesh turned out to be quite dry. If I was to make it again I would add yogurt or creme fraiche to add some moisture, but if you find that your pumpkin’s flesh is quite wet, just follow the recipe as it is.

1 pumpkin – 1 to 1.5K in weight

2 small onions – sliced

2 cloves garlic – chopped

Thumb sized piece of root ginger – grated

1 red chilli (optional) – finely sliced

1/2 mug uncooked rice

1 tsp each ground coriander & cumin

1/2 tsp each ground cinnamon, nutmeg & turmeric

small handful each currants, flaked almonds & pistachio nuts

  1. Set the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
  2. Cut the top off the pumpkin & scrape out the seeds.
  3. Put the pumpkin into a roasting tray and roast for an hour, then remove from the oven, allow to cool a little & scrape out the flesh with a spoon. If the flesh is in big chunks, chop it up a bit.
  4. Cook the rice.
  5. Toast the almonds & pistachio nuts in a dry frying pan until golden.
  6. Fry the sliced onion until starting to soften, add the ginger, garlic & chilli (if using). Add the ground spices, fry for a moment or two, then add the pumpkin flesh, season with salt & pepper.
  7. Layer the rice, nuts, currants & spicy pumpkin back into the pumpkin shell, place the lid of the pumpkin back on. Reduce the oven heat to 180C/350F/Gas4, pour about 2cm boiling water into the roasting tin with the pumpkin and cook for 45min before serving.

Sausage, Apple & Pumpkin Pie

This is another way to use a whole Pumpkin and is a variation on a well loved family favourite recipe.

Serves 4

1 pumpkin 1 to 1.5K in weight

2 small Cox apples

8 pork sausages

10 sage leaves

1 tsp ground nutmeg

Salt & pepper

  1. Set the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6
  2. Cut the top off the pumpkin & remove the seeds & pith.
  3. Put the lid back onto the pumpkin, place into a roasting tin & roast for about an hour, or until the flesh is tender & can be scooped out.
  4. Peel, core & finely slice the apples.
  5. Finely chop the sage leaves
  6. Remove the skins from the sausages & break into small pieces.
  7. Once the pumpkin in cooked, remove from the oven, tip away any excess juice, then scrape out the flesh with a spoon, keeping about a 5mm depth so that the pumpkin doesn’t collapse.
  8. Chop the scooped-out flesh & mix with salt, pepper & nutmeg.
  9. Layer the sausage pieces, apple slices, sage & pumpkin flesh back into the pumpkin shell, place the pumpkin lid on the top & return to the oven for another hour at 190C/375F/Gas5.
  10. To serve, remove the lid and spoon out the contents of the pumpkin on to plates.
Cubes of roasted squash tossed with salad leaves and savoury toasted seeds

Roast Squash Salad

Serves 2

200g Squash – peeled

¼ tsp vegetable bouillon

¼ tsp curry powder

1 tsp each pumpkin, sunflower & pinenuts

Handful mixed leaves

4 cherry tomatoes (30g)

½ tsp soy sauce

Drizzle oil

Squeeze of lemon juice

Salt & pepper

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas5.
  2. Cut the squash into approx. 1cm cubes.
  3. Toss with the oil, veg bouillon, curry powder, salt & pepper. Place on a roasting tin & roast for 20 – 30 min or until soft & browned around the edges.
  4. Toast the seeds in a dry pan. When golden, remove from the heat and add the soy sauce to the hot pan, shaking the pan until the liquid has evaporated and the seeds are coated with a soy crust. Set aside.
  5. Half the cherry tomatoes and toss with the leaves, when the squash is ready toss it into the leaves straight from the oven, sprinkle over the seeds and serve with a squeeze of lemon juice.
  6. If serving cold, allow the squash to cool before adding to the salad.
Roasted and stuffed squash

Stuffed Butternut Squash

Serves 2

A delicious way to eat squash – this dish can be made in advance and re-heated. Use as a vegetarian main dish or accompaniment

1 butternut squash (800g)

40g feta cheese

¼ tsp dried mixed herbs

Pinch of chilli flakes

1/8th teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ preserved lemon (10g)

4 – 5 sundried tomato pieces in oil (40g)

½ tsp ground coriander

1 clove garlic – thinly sliced

Black pepper

  1. Heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas5.
  2. Cut the bulbous end off the squash and scoop out the seeds. Cut another slice about 5mm thick to use as a lid. Reserve the remainder of the squash for another dish.
  3. Chop the sundried tomatoes & preserved lemon, crumble the feta cheese.
  4. Mix everything together, pack into the squash cavity and top with the reserved slice. Rub the outside of the squash with a little of the sundried tomato oil and sprinkle with pepper.
  5. Roast for 45min, allow to cool for 10 min before serving.
A bowl of Roast Squash Soup

Roast Squash Soup

Serves 2

500g butternut squash – remove any seeds

1 tbsp oil

¼ tsp chilli flakes

1 tsp thyme leaves

½ tsp cumin seed

1 tsp coriander seed

1 onion – roughly chopped

1 small clove garlic

Chicken or vegetable stock

  1. Pre heat the oven to 200C/Gas6
  2. Cut the squash into chunks, put into a roasting tin with the onion and garlic, drizzle with oil, mix well and roast for about ½ an hour or until the vegetables are a good brown colour around the edges.
  3. Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry frying pan, then crush in a mortar and pestel.
  4. Remove the squash from the oven, tip into a large saucepan, add the thyme, spices and chilli flakes. Add enough stock to the pan to just cover the vegetables.
  5. Bring to the boil, simmer for 5 min, then blitz with a hand blender.
  6. Adjust seasoning and serve.