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Christmas in July is a thing here in Australia. At first it seems weird AF considering it’s hot and sunny elsewhere in the world but down under it’s the middle of winter so bodies are in need of some heart warming dishes. My sumac roasted pumpkin with garlic labneh, toasted hazelnuts and pomegranate does just that!
The colours alone just scream Christmas. But for me, the smell of roasted pumpkin & toasted nuts makes me think of what Christmas is like back in Ireland actually at Christmas time!
What is Sumac?
I hadn’t heard of sumac until I watched some fancy cooking show recently. Not something you see on too many menus back home in Ireland so when I moved to Oz and saw it was readily available in stores I figured it can’t hurt to try it. Boy, I was wrong. Not because it’s bad. Quite the opposite – its DELISH and now I want to sprinkle it on everything.
Sumac is a middle eastern bush which produces deep red berries. Typically you will see it in powder form in stores but in some places – mainly throughout the middle east and mediterranean you might come across it in berry form. It’s tangy taste is a great way to add some citrus flavour to your dish at a lower level than a squeeze of lemon. What’s better is it’s low on aroma so it doesn’t overpower or compete with other aromas.
Essential in middle eastern cooking sumac is actually one of the main ingredients used in making Zaatar. Zaatar is typically used to flavour meat before cooking and often used as a dip with bread. Sometimes drizzled over bread in paste form or just sprinkled on to finish. Sumac works fabulously with vegetables (like my roasted pumpkin dish), with chicken instead of citrus. Imagine a sumac rubbed chicken slow roasted to perfection on your bbq. Que Homer Simpson drool……. The fact it is a spice also means it will keep fresh for WAY longer than citrus. My advice is to hit your local market and try pick up some right away.
Yoghurt Cheese or Labneh
Now this couldn’t be any easier. I used to make ricotta a lot at home and thought I was a genius – I still am in case you are wondering. But making Labneh is honestly so damn simple. It literally is just yoghurt and salt. Obviously you can sexy it up and put some spices, herbs or aromatics in as the taste is quite neutral. In this recipe I added garlic and lemon juice to a) add flavour and b) back up that sumac taste too.
So, grab yourself a tub of yoghurt, mix in some salt and place it in some cheesecloth to hang overnight in the fridge and all of a sudden you are a self proclaimed cheesemonger.
Now here is a GREAT tip that will transform the way you eat nuts – shhhhhh don’t tell your partner!! Have you ever eaten a hazelnut straight up? They aren’t bad but the texture is a little cloying in my opinion. Not the best but not bad. Well, stop the lights because all you need to do is pop them in the oven on a medium/high heat (160c will do) for about 8 – 10 minutes and let them toast away. You are left with this glorious blackish coloured exterior and this delicious crispy toasty nut to devour.
Pro tip – once toasted wrap them in a towel, massage those nuts for a minute and you will remove the outer crust revealing a beautiful, shiney and delicious toasted hazelnut. PS – get your mind out of the gutter!
In season now down under. I LOVE it. So versatile in its uses. Think roasted in the oven, used for soup, pureed with a rack of lamb or inside of some pasta with ricotta. It screams Autumn and Winter time and when you roast it whole or in large wedges it allows you to extract maximum flavour too. People can be a little apprehensive of eating the skin. Roasting these kent pumpkins or kabocha squash as they are also known as with the skin makes it perfectly edible and in my opinion adds a far more rustic look and feel to the dish. If you are looking for pumpkin or squash inspiration other than this delicious sumac roasted pumpkin then check out these recipes below!
- Smoked Pumpkin Hummus
- Pumpkin & Pork Risotto
- Whole Roasted Squash & Herb Oil
- Pumpkin and Quinoa Salad by “A Baking Journey”
- Pumpkin, Ricotta & Sage Pasta by “It’s Not Complicated”
- Warm Lamb Salad by “Chef Not Required”
- Hasselback Pumpkin w/ Brown Butter & Sage by “Belly Rumbles”
If this isn’t inspiration for you then I dunno what is!
Happy Cooking and Happy Eating Friends!!
- 500 g pumpkin cut in 2 large wedges
- 2 tbsp sumac
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 500 g whole milk yoghurt
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 50 g hazelnuts
- 1 handful parsley chopped
- 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds
- Mix all the ingredients together. Place in muslin cloth or towel and hang over a bowl in the fridge for 24hrs
- Roast hazelnuts in oven @ 180c for 10 minutes. Wrap in a cloth and massage to remove skin. Chop roughly.
- Oil the pumpkin and then rub seasoning and sumac in. Bake in oven for 20 minutes @ 180c. After 20 minutes drizzle in honey and roast for a further 10 minutes.
- Place labneh on center of plate and swirl to make a "pool"of labneh. Place pumpkin on top and then scatter chopped hazelnuts, pomegranate and parsley over. I like to use maldon salt to finish too but it's not "essential"
- mixing bowl
- mixing spoon
- muslin cloth
- baking sheet x 2
- chopping board
- chef knives
- you can cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces to cook quicker but I like the large format and the simplicity of big wedges
- labneh can be hung for anywhere from a couple hours to 48hrs. I find 24hrs is my sweet spot for a thick creamy yoghurt cheese
- if sumac isn't available to you then you can rub the pumpkin in oil & chili flakes and finish with a squeeze of lime for something different
- keep an eye on the hazelnuts as they will burn easily. I set my alarm for 8 minutes and assess at that point. Don't wanna burn your nuts........