If, like me, you don’t seem to be able to find your place on Earth, you’ll be familiar with the following scenario. You are happy and settled but suddenly you get an itch to turn your life upside down again. You sit on it for a while, eventually it’s now or never.
You make the decision (with a fair amount of emotional toing and froing). You start packing all your possessions into boxes. You grossly underestimate how much s**t (sorry, but that’s what it is in the big scheme of things) you actually own. You get annoyed at every single excess item: ‘what was I thinking?’ You sell some stuff, give some away. You manage to pack everything and load it onto a truck. As soon as the truck drives off into the distance, you feel a sense of relief and freedom. Sod it, you think, why do I need to all this ‘stuff’ anyway!?
You live out of a small suitcase for over a month. Initially, it’s fun, but eventually you get tired of wearing the same five t-shirts and two jumpers on repeat. You are now anxiously waiting for your stuff to arrive. You manage to find a new home yet it has none of the things you need to get even simple things done…Like cook a meal, for example.
You still remember way too clearly what it felt like to have too much stuff and your things are supposed to turn up any minute now so you resist the temptation to buy things you already own. It’s time to play the “let’s pretend we are camping” game…
This miso pumpkin pasta is designed for moments like this. If MacGyver (yes, I’m an 80’s child) was a foodie, he would appreciate the simplicity of this meal. You don’t need a blender or a speed peeler or even a decent kitchen knife to make the sauce. You do need an oven, an oven tray, a pot to cook pasta in and a wok (that’s the only pan-resembling thing I have at the moment) or a large pan. You cut your pumpkin without peeling it first, you mush it with a fork, mix in seasonings and simple condiments to create a creamy killer sauce.
You know how I said it was simple, well, it is, although I (of course) would not be myself if I didn’t feel compelled to add a touch of green (stir-fried kale) and a crunchy element of pan-toasted almonds, but you can totally do without these two things! If you like the base flavours, I guarantee you will enjoy this ‘camping’ concoction… If you want to take my camping game more literally, you could probably make it with canned pumpkin, although I’m no expert as it’s not something the UK is big on. I might have to have a few more of these in the next week and as the shipping company has stopped returning my calls. I am beginning to get worried…
- 300 g / 10 oz pasta (GF if needed)
- 500 g / 2 cups mashed cooked pumpkin (I used ½ medium butternut pumpkin)
- 2 tbsp / 30 ml olive oil
- 3 tbsp white / shiro miso paste
- ½-1 tsp sambal oelek or other chilli paste or chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp smooth almond butter*
- black pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp almond flakes, optional
- 1 tbsp high smoke oil (I used rice bran oil), optional
- 100 g / 3.5 oz kale, optional
- 3-4 garlic cloves, diced finely
- Cook your pasta (I used bucatini) just short of al dente so that you are able to warm it up in the sauce without it overcooking. Reserve 60 ml / ¼ cup pasta cooking water when ready to drain.
- Preheat the oven to 220° C / 425° F (or 200° C / 390° F fan forced) and line a large baking tray with a piece of baking paper.
- Cut your pumpkin into similar size pieces as much as possible, leaving the skin on. Brush the pieces roughly with a bit of olive oil using a pastry brush, the back of a spoon or even your hands. Bake for about 30 minutes, flipping to the other side half way through, until the flesh is very soft and lightly charred in places.
- Once your pumpkin cools off a bit, prise the skin off with your fingers (it should come off easily). Mash the flesh with a fork.
- In a mixing bowl, combine mashed pumpkin, miso paste, chilli paste, rice vinegar, almond butter and pasta cooking water. Mix well using a fork or a wire whisk to obtain a creamy sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if required.
- Heat up a frying pan (or a wok) over a low-medium heat. Dry roast almond flakes, stirring very frequently, until fragrant and golden. Transfer out of the pan and set aside.
- If making kale, heat up a tablespoon of high smoke oil in the same pan (or wok) and stir-fry, on medium-high heat, for a few minutes – until vibrant green and charred in places. Season with salt. Remove from the pan / wok and set aside.
- Warm up the same pan / wok again. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and swivel it around the pan. Once the oil heats up and starts to shimmer lightly, add the diced garlic and fry gently (on low-medium heat) until fragrant (about 2-3 minutes).
- Add pumpkin sauce to the garlic oil. If the sauce is too stiff, add a splash of water. Add pre-cooked pasta to warm it up and toss well in the pumpkin sauce. Plate pasta sprinkled with toasted almond flakes and with stir-fried kale on the side.