I first made this dish years ago as a vegetarian main course for eight of us – a mixed group of veggies and carnivores. The meat-eaters had their own dish to tuck into but they mostly ignored it in favour of the pumpkin fondue. In those days I also had the book which this recipe comes from, called Fresh In Autumn, by Alastair Hendy. The book disappeared in a house move and I’ve been making this from memory ever since. If anyone has a copy they could perhaps let me know how far I’ve strayed from the original.
This is a substantial dish and I save my Berrettina and Marina di Chioggia pumpkins for fondues, partly because they are the right size and shape, but mainly because these varieties have that deep, nutty, sweet potato flavour and dense texture. You don’t want a watery pumpkin or this will leech into the cheese sauce.
The pleasure, apart from scooping up globules of rich cheese with the bread, is that after the cheese sauce is mostly finished you can spoon out large chunks of cheesy pumpkin.
(from Fresh For Autumn, Alastair Hendy)
1 medium pumpkin
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
125ml white wine
600g Emmental or Gruyere cheese, or any suitably melty vegetarian cheese
4 sprigs fresh sage, finely chopped
125ml soured cream
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Slice the top off the pumpkin and scoop out all the stringy bits and seeds. Rub the surface of the flesh inside with the butter. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Place the 'lid' back on the pumpkin and bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until soft.
Meanwhile, melt the rest of the butter in a large pan and add the onion and garlic. Saute until soft and translucent. Add the wine and bring to a simmer, then add the cheese and sage and stir regularly until the cheese is melted.
Check seasoning for salt and add if necessary. Then spoon the cheese sauce into the pumpkin, stir in the soured cream and continue to bake for another 20 minutes.
Slice the French bread into bite-sized pieces.
Diners should spear the French bread with a fork or fondue stick and swirl it around in the cheese sauce to eat. Once the cheese sauce has been eaten, the pumpkin flesh can be scooped out and eaten as well.