Saturday, 4 May 2013

Pumpkin Cannelloni

Ok, so there aren't many photos for this recipe, frankly because it's hard to make this dish look as good as its flavor and aroma.

But here's the thing: you know when a meal doesn't look that great, and then you taste it and you think "oh my god, this is sooo good, I can't believe I just judged it for its appearance"? Well, this is one of those dishes. An ultimate comfort food.

So here's how it starts:
The pumpkin's electric orange flesh is sticky, and this combined with its smell takes you to a tropical island bountiful in mangoes, pawpaws and white sand beaches. Seriously, it's hard to believe that this is a winter vegetable. Forty minutes later, its comes out of the oven, soft and golden, its color offset by its indigo-fleshed neighbors.

The assembly for this dish was probably the most challenging part, but in saying that, manageable. I found that not putting too much pumpkin mixture into the middle of the lasagna sheets, only about 2 heaped tablespoons, made the cannelloni a lot easier to transfer from workspace to baking dish.

Once the cannelloni comes out of the oven, your house will already be awash with a cheesy, delectable aroma to make your stomach growl with anticipation. as you cut a bite out of one of the little packages, the soft pasta gives way to a creamy orange ooze, and this with a scoop of béchamel sauce balanced on your fork will be the source of much delight.

Pumpkin Cannelloni

From Feed Me Now! by Bill Granger
I omitted the chilli flakes and tomato sauce to suit our taste, and it was still fantastic. As this was my first time making béchamel sauce, I was grateful to have Mum at home to give me advice when I found the mixture to be too runny, as the recipe's instructions weren't detailed enough. I have added some additional instructions in italics.
Serves 4 (or 6 for lunch)

6 fresh lasagne sheets, halved
35g parmesan, freshly grated
1.25 kg peeled, deseeded pumpkin
1 large red onion, cut into thin wedges
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp thyme leaves
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Cheese Sauce:
40 g butter
3 Tbsp plain flour
750 ml milk
1 bay leaf
240 g ricotta
To Serve:
simple tomato sauce (recipe below)

Simple Tomato sauce

makes about 800ml

2 x 400 g tins chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar
freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed

Tip the tomatoes into a saucepan and cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced and thickened. Add the remaining ingredients, cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat.
This sauce is freezable.


Preheat oven to 200ºC. For the filling, cut the pumpkin into 3 cm cubes and scatter on al large baking tray with the onion. Drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle with the thyme, chilli, salt and pepper. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown, giving an occasional stir. Remove and set aside to cool slightly. Place in a large bowl and mash with a fork, retaining some texture.

To make the cheese sauce, heat the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until bubbling. Gradually whisk in the milk, then add the bay leaf and cook stirring, until the sauce is thickened and smooth. The sauce is the correct consistency when it coats the back of a spoon, or about as thick as hot custard. If the sauce is not thick enough after about ten minutes of heating, add additional flour, 1 Tbsp at a time, whisking until the sauce is as smooth as possible. Avoid boiling the mixture. Remove from heat, add the ricotta and whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly butter a baking dish or foil dish that will hold 12 cannelloni snugly. Spoon 3 tablespoons of the pumpkin filling down the middle of each halved lasagne sheet and fold to enclose the filling. Spread a third of the cheese sauce in the prepared dish and place the cannelloni on top in a single layer. Pour the remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with grated parmesan.

Cover and freeze at this stage. Or, if serving straight away, bake in a preheated oven at 180ºC for 35-40 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve with tomato sauce.

To cook from frozen, place in a preheated oven at 160ºC for about 45 minutes until golden and heated through. Serve with tomato sauce.

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