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.

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.

Pumpkin Biryani

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

A dish of layered spicy pumpkin & rice

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.