I’m a big fan of sweet and sour flavours and I don’t just mean the Asian kind. Granted sweet and sour pork is a big family favourite and couldn’t be simpler to make, however, I am talking of the Italian variety. Mario Batali, a fantastic NY chef who lives and breathes Italian cuisine first introduced me to pumpkin agrodolce a few years ago in his book Babbo (A restaurant I am hankering to get to one of these days!!). I cannot remember exactly what his recipe state but I plucked around in my memory and worked with what I had.
My good friend Sue gave me a bag of whole dried chillies from her mother-in-laws chilli bush the other day and I was really wanting to try them out (they are delicious BTW Sue!) So I decided to make a chilli pumpkin side dish to go with the roast beef I was making for dinner. The boys swear and declare they HATE pumpkin and the only way they will eat it is in soup form and then it is declared their favourite soup, go figure!? I decided I wouldn’t waste the pumpkin on them, however, when I came to preparing dinner in my pretend kitchen I discovered I didn’t actually have enough pots and pans for my dinner proposal and needed to re-think the whole meal. In the end I came up with an agrodolce sauce that is dead simple, tastes absolutely delicious on the night, cold the next day on crunchy toast or as part of an antipasti platter so really everyone should know how to make this very easy, yet tasty sauce.
You can use any type of bean for this dish, I just happen to have these lovely big flat beans hanging around in the fridge which I top and tailed and cut in half, I then cut the skin off the pumpkin and cut it into chunky pieces because they need to hold their shape for about 30 minutes of cooking time.
So to start, chop up an onion and about three small cloves of garlic, nice and thin. Heat up a medium saucepan on LOW-MED temp with a good glug of olive oil- the olive oil is going to help make the sauce thick and tasty so if you only put a drizzle in your saucepan then it won’t carry the flavour around as well, plus it’s not like your eating it all yourself so do not feel guilty!
When the oil is warm add onion only and saute for about 5 min on low heat, then add garlic and saute for another minute. Add a tin of whole tomatoes and chop with your spoon to break the tomatoes up then add about a teaspoon of salt and bring to the boil. Add cut-up pumpkin and whole chillies, stirring to combine. When the pumpkin is coated add about a tablespoon of honey and 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, stir to combine then bring to a boil (if not already).
Add your beans, coat with sauce then place a lid on top and gently simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice so it doesn’t stick to the pot. You may want to adjust your vinegar and honey depending on how you like it.
The beautiful thing about using whole dried chillies is they only flavour the dish with a hint of warmth, yet when you serve yourself the chilli for dinner you get the heat burst- perfect for a family meal!
The sweet and sour flavours meld beautifully with a traditional roast meal and I know it also works well with snapper (fish) salmon and pork. You can also use the same cooking method and add ginger with the garlic to turn it up a notch and this is especially yummy with white fish.
The best part about this sauce is it so yummy the kids can’t resist it. Of course they rolled their eye when they saw the pumpkin but lo and behold every bit of pumpkin and bean was devoured so I think it must be a winner.