Sicilian sweet and sour pumpkin with mint

Sicilian sweet and sour pumpkin with mint can be served as antipasto and is especially good in the warmer weather. If you like pumpkin and enjoy the sweet and sour taste, or ‘agrodolce’, you will love this. The only problem I can see is in cutting up the pumpkin. I just make a small batch and leave the skin on. Cook it a few hours ahead to allow time for the flavours to mingle. Serve it at room temperature with rustic Italian bread.

Sicilian sweet and sour pumpkin

You may find it helpful to lightly dust the pumpkin slices with flour before frying.

Serves 6

500g pumpkin, any type peeled or not
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tbsp sugar or to taste
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp red or white wine vinegar or to taste
a small bunch of mint
sea salt and chilli flakes or freshly ground black pepper

Cut the pumpkin into about 5mm thick slices. Press down on the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife to break them. There is no need to chop it, just remove the skin.

To fry the pumpkin, heat a wide pan over medium heat with half the olive oil. Add the garlic cloves and pumpkin slices in one layer. Remove and discard the garlic when it becomes golden. Fry the pumpkin slices on each side until golden and tender. Lift out of the pan and set aside while you cook the next batch. To speed this up you could have two pans on the go at the same time.

Arrange pumpkin slices in a shallow dish and scatter torn or shredded mint leaves between them. To make the dressing, stir the sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, salt and chilli flakes or black pepper into the frying pan or into a small saucepan and cook for about a minute. Taste and adjust to your liking. Pour the hot dressing over the pumpkin slices and leave to marinate for an hour or two. Serve at room temperature garnished with fresh mint sprigs and leaves.

Variations

The pumpkin slices can also be char-grilled though the end taste will be different.

To make a larger amount, cut the pumpkin into 1cm slices, toss with olive oil and roast in the oven. Heat the dressing ingredients and the garlic in a small saucepan and pour over the roasted pumpkin and mint.

In a recipe from an American Gourmet magazine from the 1970s the pumpkin slices (1cm) were dusted with flour and deep-fried. A teaspoon of minced thyme and rosemary were used instead of the mint. It was dressed as in the roasted variation above.

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