Rachel Roddy's recipe for pumpkin, beans, vegetables and cheese

Pumpkin slices are drizzled with olive oil and salt, roasted and added to a starchy bean broth topped with melted Parmesan

It's impressive, I think, when someone can pick out a melon or a squash by sniffing or shaking. This ability also usually involves courage: the confidence to pick up something and inspect it from all sides, and a skin thick enough to be ignored by stall owners, supermarket managers, or "Do not touch" signs. I don't have all of the above, so I'm often disappointed with melons and pumpkins. I told my friend Alice recently and she revealed her technique while we were shopping at the Monteverde market. He often asks stall owners to cut melons, pumpkins, or pumpkins open, promising that he'll buy even if they're hairy or unflavored, but knowledge is useless. And, of course, the cutter is in the corner.

It also requires nerves and skin as thick as the greyish-green pumpkin I was holding in the store the other day. Shaking it didn't tell me much and I didn't ask, of course. Fortunately, it's not useless. Nor is it particularly brilliant; although the zucca marina di Chioggia, which is usually a reliable thing, with dense orange flesh is first and foremost savory, with a sweet aftertaste. If only I was braver, or went to another shop. Another pumpkin variety to look out for is the squat, a dark green kabocha, which has a dry, starchy flesh with flavors of butter and chestnut and a hint of sweetness; the pale green-blue crown prince, who looked like someone had sat on him, and had dense flesh reminiscent of sweden and sweet potatoes; the red, green and white striped turban pumpkin, which does look like a pumpkin wearing a turban, and has soft flesh like a butternut squash.

Roasting makes good squash, average squash does better, and it might save you a dud if you top it with enough olive oil or butter and salt. So that's what I do, using beans and vegetables cooked in the same zeal as the cassoulet — that is, slowly and with seasonings, until tender and deliciously flavored and surrounded by a starchy bean stock.

Like a classic cassoulet, the beauty of this dish is the creamy, almost fudge-like beans with a slight crust on top. If you're serving it right after making it and the dish is still very hot, then a few minutes under the grill will suffice. When the time has elapsed and it has cooled, return the dish to the oven at 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4 for 15-20 minutes, or until hot and the parmesan is bubbly. Contrast is good, so serve with a green salad, more cheese, and perfectly ripe pears, if you have the ability and courage to pick them.

  • Pumpkin, beans, greens and cheese
  • Soak 8 hours +
  • Preparation 15 min
  • Cook 75 min
  • Serving 4
  • 300g white beans, soaked in cold water for 8 hours, then drained
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 sprig of sage, plus a few extra leaves for serving
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 300g kale or greens, cut into coarse ribbons
  • 1 small squash or butternut squash (approx 400g)
  • 4 tbsp grated parmesan

Place the soaked beans in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 5 cm. Add the garlic, sage sprigs, a pinch of salt and two tablespoons of olive oil. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 75 minutes, or until the beans are tender. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the vegetables.

Meanwhile, cut the squash or chayote into 2cm slices, removing the seeds and skin, if desired. Rub with olives and salt and bake at 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 for 20 minutes, or until tender and golden.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the beans onto a large platter, adding enough liquid to make a soft, stewed consistency. Arrange the pumpkin slices and some more sage leaves between the nuts, drizzling all with the olive oil and Parmesan.

If the dish is still very hot, a few minutes under the grill should be enough to give it a slight crust. When the time has elapsed and they are cold, reheat in the oven at 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4 for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.

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