Peter Pumpkin-Head Stew
Nothing screams fall like trees beautifully painted in red, orange, and yellow, leaves crunching underfoot, and that distinct crisp clean air.
For me, fall is reminiscent of heading back to school, of crisp morning dog walks, and of fog rolling through the mountains. It also marks the transition from light summer dishes and high water-content fruits to more warming and substantial meals.
This includes warm apple pies fresh from the oven drenched in cinnamon and spices that tantalize the senses. And one-pot soups and stews that simmer all day long, welcoming everyone who passes by with their savoury mouth-watering aromas.
Yes, fall is a great time year. A time for giving thanks, for cuddling up in front of the fireplace, and a time for pumpkins.
This brings me to this week’s blog post - a recipe for “Peter Pumpkin-Head Stew.”
Those of you who were around in the 90’s will appreciate the song reference here.
Though, this recipe has nothing to do with the actual song or the Crash Test Dummies, what it does do (other than offer up a little nostalgia) is create a delicious, fun, fall-warming stew.
As the days get shorter and the weather continues to cool off, nothing warms the bones like a good hearty stew.
And what’s more fun for fall than cooking in a pumpkin?
Speaking of pumpkin, I used a sugar pumpkin for this recipe. These are the ones sold for use in cooking and baking that tend to have a thicker, tastier flesh. And unlike ornamental pumpkins used for carving, they are found in the produce section of your grocery store. Try to pick one that’s large enough to hold all the stew ingredients.
Unfortunately for me, I did not. Well actually I can’t say for sure if the size of my pumpkin was too small or the volume of my veggies too large. Regardless, not everything ended up fitting inside my pumpkin. So I left what I could inside the pumpkin and cooked the rest covered in the pot I used to brown the meat.
As this was my first attempt at this recipe, I did make a few observations for future reference. Most notably, the veggies I left in the pot cooked much faster than those in the pumpkin - probably due to the weaker seal on the pumpkin lid compared to that of my heavy enamel pot.
Should your pumpkin be too small for everything, I suggest leaving the meat to cook in the pumpkin and the veg in your other pot. You will have to add more broth (or water) to the veggies so they don’t burn or stick to the bottom.
And if you’re lucky enough to have everything fit inside your pumpkin, you may need to add a little extra cooking time for the veg, even if the meat is cooked through and tender. Once everything has been cooked to perfection, you can remove it from the oven and start the gravy.
I’d also like to point out here, that this recipe includes what I used to make this dish. If you have other favourites in terms of herbs or veggies, please feel free to make amendments. Onion and/or garlic would have been good in this, too.
Finally, before I get to the recipe, I’d like to mention that though there are several steps involved in this recipe, I believe it’s worth it. The presentation and fun-factor alone are worth the effort. And besides, when else have you even cooked stew in a pumpkin?
Ready for a fall-filled adventure?
Check out the recipe for my Peter Pumpkin-Head Stew here!
As always, I welcome your feedback. Let me know if you tried this unique recipe and how it turned out for you.
Peter Pumpkin-Head Stew
Makes 4 Servings | 40 Min. Prep | 3~4 Hours Cooking
A large heavy-bottomed pot (to brown meat)
A baking dish (or other pan to roast pumpkin in)
Large mixing spoon
Cutting board & knife
Small saucepan for gravy
1 3-4 lb Cooking Pumpkin
2 lb Stewing Beef (grass-fed), cut in chunks
1 cup Porcini Mushrooms
2-3 Small Potatoes
3-4 Medium Carrots
1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
2 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Dried Thyme
1/2 tsp Ground Sage
1 tsp Dried Rosemary
3 Tbsp Tapioca Starch (or a gluten-free flour)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
2-3 cups Beef Broth
Start by prepping the veg. Clean potatoes and cut into 1 inch cubes. Peel carrots and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Clean mushrooms and quarter.
Prepare the pumpkin. Carefully cut off the top of the pumpkin using a large knife. Make several deep cuts at a 45 degree angle around the top of the pumpkin, 2-3 inches away from the stem. Cut all the way around until the “lid” lifts off. Next, use a metal spoon to scoop out all seeds and “stringy bits” of the pumpkin. This will probably be the most labour-intensive part of the meal, but when you are done, you should have a nice clean pumpkin cavity stewing “bowl.”
Next, pre-heat oven to 350 F.
Place a large heavy-bottomed pot on the stove top. Add olive oil and heat to medium.
Sprinkle tapioca starch (or whichever flour you are using) over meat chunks and toss to lightly coat.
Once oil is hot, add a single layer of floured meat to bottom of pan. Brown for 2-3 minutes, flip, then brown the other side. When meat is browned, transfer to another dish or plate while you brown the rest of the beef. You may have to do this in 2 or 3 batches until all meat is browned.
When the last of the meat has been removed from the pot, add in carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, about 2 cups of broth, salt, pepper, thyme, sage, and rosemary. Stir to combine. Keep the heat on medium and scrape off any browned bits stuck to the bottom. Let the veggies start to cook and soften for about 5 minutes, then add the meat back in. Stir well.
Arrange empty pumpkin in a baking dish lined with parchment paper.
Carefully transfer the stew into the pumpkin cavity. Add more broth if needed to fill the pumpkin without it overflowing.
When everything is inside the pumpkin, place the pumpkin lid back on, as tightly as possible.
Bake for 2 1/2 to 4 hours, until meat and veg are tender.
Remove from oven and carefully remove pumpkin top. Transfer meat and veg into a pot. Ladle out the liquid into a separate small saucepan over medium heat to thicken.
Mix 1 tablespoon tapioca starch with1 tablespoon cold water in a small bowl. Add it to the liquid stirring constantly, until desired thickness has been reached. Pour gravy over the rest of stew ingredients and stir well.
To plate, cut a slice out of the cooked pumpkin and arrange on a plate. Top with stew and enjoy!