Western Mains – Roasted Pumpkin and Meatballs

Western Mains - 001 Roasted Pumpkin n Meatballs edited re-sized

My family’s love for the creamy, caramelised taste of roasted pumpkin and my husband’s love for meat inspired me to create this rather substantial dish. It was pleasing when a gathering of friends from different nationalities gave it their thumbs up.

I tend to remind my readers to use as many of their existing ingredients as possible. Here, I complied with my own advice. The basil plant in my garden also needed pruning and it was such a boon to this dish. An added dimension to the Italian inspired ingredients.

Some comments about Ingredients

  • Dried herbs. These are much more economical and convenient for me than fresh herbs. I have tried growing thyme and Italian parsley here but success was limited.
  • Minced Pork. This mince is best with a little fat. If you must, minced chicken can be used as a substitute.
  • Fresh Italian Basil. They can be grown quite easily here from seeds. Those little pots of fresh basil in the supermarket can continue to grow in a sunny spot in your apartment.
  • Pasta. The photo shows a packet of elbow pasta. Cook according to the instructions on the packet and dress it with some fried garlic and oil (Aglio olio).

COOKING is best done in Stages

A. Seasoning and forming the Pork Meatballs

STEP 1. Place in a large mixing bowl, the minced pork, breadcrumbs, dried herbs, parmesan cheese, milk, salt, ground pepper and beaten egg. Use a large serving spoon to ensure that all the ingredients are well distributed and mixed. Knead the seasoned mixture for a minute or so.

Hint: if you have a disposable glove, use your gloved hand to mix and knead all the ingredients.

STEP 2.  Cut a large plastic bag on both sides to open it lengthwise. Then line a baking pan with one end of the opened plastic bag with the other end hanging outside the baking pan so that it can be folded over the meatballs to add the next layer.

STEP 3.  Scoop a tablespoon of the seasoned minced meat and roll it into balls of the same size. Place them in layer/s in the lined baking pan. Cover and refrigerate till you are ready to cook them. (These meatballs can prepared ahead and kept covered in chiller section of your fridge for up to 3 days).

Hint: there is no need for the meatballs to be perfectly round as they flatten when they are pan fried. The aim is to ensure they are the same size for even cooking.

B. Roasting the Pumpkin

STEP 1. Pre-heat the oven at 190C.

STEP 2. Whilst oven is heating up, wash the whole pumpkin. Using a heavy, sharp knife carefully half the pumpkin and then slice each half into wedges. Once that is done, peel away the firm skin. Click “Cooking 101 – Cutting a Pumpkin”

STEP 3. Grease a roasting pan with a thin layer of olive oil. Spread pumpkin wedges in a single layer in the pan and drizzle the seasoning all over. With a large spoon, toss and mix the wedges and seasoning well.

STEP 4. Place the filled roasting pan on the rack which is a notch higher than the middle. Roast the pumpkin for about 20 to 30 mins. Half way through the cycle, give the pumpkin wedges a stir to ensure even roasting. Pumpkin is done when a fork can pierce through without resistance. However, do not over-roast these wedges or they will be mush when mixed with other ingredients and dressing later on.

C. Toasting the Pepitas

This can be done in an un-oiled heated fry pan  over the fire or in the toaster oven or in the oven either before or after roasting the  pumpkin wedges.

I find it most convenient to toss them into the un-oiled fry pan and stir them over medium heat. This method also gives me the most control over how golden the pepitas should be.

D. Cooking the Meatballs and Beans

STEP 1. In a lightly greased and heated fry pan, place enough meatballs in one layer so they do not overcrowd. It is likely that you will have to fry them in 2 batches.

Heat should be medium high to start with but it might have to be lowered as meatballs cook. Cover fry pan at a slant. Turn meatballs when they are lightly golden brown and continue cooking, covered.  Do this till all meatballs are cooked.

Hint. Unlike beef meatballs, pork meatballs should not be pink but cooked through. However, take care not to over cook them.

STEP 2. Even as as the meatballs brown and cook, you may find that some meatballs take a little longer. Whilst that is going on, add a bit more oil and the prepared sectioned beans and cook the beans. Remove meatballs as they cook. Beans should take about 10 mins or so to  cook.

ASSEMBLING the DISH.

In a large serving dish, place the roasted pumpkin, cooked meatballs and beans. Drizzle dressing and mix all ingredients well. Garnish with sprigs of fresh basil and toasted pepitas. Serve warm with bread or pasta and if you wish, a simple vinaigrette tossed green salad will be a delicious addition.

RECIPE

Serves: 6 to 8 persons

Ingredients

  • 1 whole Pumpkin weighing about 1.5 to 1.7 kg, peel and cut into thick wedges
  • 150 gm fine green beans, washed and top and tail; then cut into 2 or 3 sections
  • 500 gm mince pork, roughly minced

Seasoning for Pumpkin

  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • a few grinds of black pepper

Seasoning for meatballs

  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp each of dried sage and parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • a few grinds of black pepper

Dressing for the Dish

  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste and a few grinds of black pepper

Garnish

  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian basil
  • 1/2 cup pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds), toasted

METHOD

A. Seasoning and forming the Pork Meatballs

1. Place in a large mixing bowl, the minced pork, breadcrumbs, dried herbs, parmesan cheese, milk, salt, ground pepper and beaten egg. Use either your hand sheathed in a disposable glove or a large serving spoon to ensure that all the ingredients are well distributed and mixed. Knead the seasoned mixture for a minute or so.

2.  Cut a large plastic bag on both sides to open it lengthwise. Then, line a baking pan with one end of the opened plastic bag with the other end hanging outside the baking pan so that it can be folded over the meatballs to add the next layer.

3.  Scoop a tablespoon of the seasoned minced meat and roll it into balls of the same size. Place them in layer/s in the lined baking pan. Cover and refrigerate till you are ready to cook them. (These meatballs can prepared ahead and kept covered in chiller in your fridge for up to 3 days).

B. Roasting the Pumpkin

1. Pre-heat the oven at 190C.

2. Whilst oven is heating up, wash the whole pumpkin. Using a heavy, sharp knife carefully half the pumpkin and then slice each half into wedges. Once that is done, peel away the firm skin. Click “Cooking 101 – Cutting a Pumpkin”

3. Grease a roasting pan with a thin layer of olive oil. Spread the prepared pumpkin in a layer in the pan and drizzle the seasoning all over. Use a large spoon to toss and mix the wedges and seasoning well.

4. Place the roasting pan on the rack which is a notch higher than the middle. Roast the pumpkin for about 20 to 30 mins. Half way through the cycle, give the pumpkin wedges a stir to ensure even roasting. Pumpkin is done when a fork can pierce through without resistance. However, do not over roast these wedges or they will be mush when mixed with dressing later on.

C. Toasting Pepitas

This can be done in an un-oiled heated fry pan over the fire or in the toaster oven or in the oven either before or after roasting the  pumpkin wedges.

D. Cooking the Meatballs and Beans

1. In a lightly greased and heated fry pan, place enough meatballs in one layer so they do not overcrowd. It is likely that you will have to fry then in 2 batches.

Heat should be medium high to start with but it might have to be lowered as meatballs cook. Cover fry pan at a slant. Turn meatballs when they are lightly golden brown and continue cooking, covered.  Do this till all meatballs are cooked.

2. Even as as the meatballs brown and cook, you may find that some meatballs take a little longer. Whilst that is going on, add a bit more oil and the prepared sectioned beans and cook the beans. Remove meatballs as they cook. Beans should take about 10 mins or so to  cook.

ASSEMBLING the DISH.

In a large serving dish, place the roasted pumpkin, cooked meatballs and beans. Drizzle dressing and mix all ingredients well. Garnish with sprigs of fresh basil and toasted pepitas. Serve warm with bread or pasta and if you wish, a simple vinaigrette tossed green salad will be a delicious addition.

Suggestions for Dessert

What a substantial dish you would have cooked! All the food groups are found in this one dish. If you had time to prepare ahead, these desserts are a very appealing finish to your meal. The cherry on the cake?

  1. Ginger Poached Pears. Click here.
  2. Caramel Custard. Click here.
  3. Sweet Crepes. Click here.
  4. Tropical Bread Pudding. Click here.

These desserts are also suitable, even though some of them are Asian. Those who have lived in Asia would find they bring back lovely memories.

  1. Almond Jelly + Longans Click here.
  2. Coconut Jelly with Can Lychees. Click here.
  3. Sago Pudding. Click here.

 

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