I’m not a fan of pumpkin, unless it’s added to callaloo or in those hearty soups we’re so famous for in the Caribbean, but this dish turned out amazing. I recall as a young fella on the islands, our mom would say “eat the pumpkin, it good for you”.. good for me? That expression was enough (even if it tasted good) for me and my siblings to not want to eat it. It was like code for “food to avoid”… little did she know.
On our recent trip to Jamaica I had the opportunity to have pumpkin rice for the first time and though it was at a fast food joint in the mall (Island Grill), it was amazing. I can only imagine how much better it would taste if it was homemade. So I’m starting to have a little more appreciation for the food that is “good for me”.
Disclaimer. I’ve posted this in the vegetarian section as well, since I do know some people who are vegetarians and eat fish. For those of you who don’t… save the hate mail please.
2 lbs pumpkin (cubed)
salt – see note below
1 medium onion sliced
2 cloves garlic sliced
1/4 hot pepper (I used habanero)
1/4 cup shredded dry salted fish (like cod or haddock etc)
1/2 teaspoon golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil (use vegetable or your fav)
fresh cracked black pepper
Note: Since we’re using salted cod in the recipe, you may not need to add salt. However, this is something you can “taste” for near the end of cooking, as everyone tolerance for salt is different. Additionally, I like using olive oil in this recipe as I find it adds a nice nutty flavor. But you’re free to use vegetable or any sort of oil you like cooking with.
Peel and cube the pumpkin in 1/2 inch pieces (try to be uniform as possible) then rinse under cool water and drain.
For some reason the salted fish (cod usually) we get in the Caribbean is very salty and require boiling first before using. However the one I get here in Canada, is a bit less salty, not as dry and is boneless. So my prep is a bit different. All I do is take a chunk and place it in a deep bowl, to which I add boiling water and allow to soak for about 30 minutes. I then drain, shred and rinse again under cool water. This not only rehydrate the shredded salted cod, but it removes all the excess salt from it.
Set your stove on medium heat and heat the oil in a fairly deep saucepan. Then add half of the sliced onion and allow to cook for a couple minutes. Now add the pieces of salted fish and on low heat, allow to cook for about 4-5 minutes.
Now that the oil is infused with all the wonderful flavor from the shredded fish, it’s time to add the cubed pumpkin. Then top with the slices of garlic, the rest of the sliced onion, habanero pepper, sugar and some fresh black pepper. Give it a good stir, make sure the heat is on low and cover the pot. This will need to cook for about 25-30 minutes. But it’s important that you stir it often.
After about 25 minutes of cooking you’ll notice that it’s all gone a mushy. That’s what we’re looking for, but it may have a bit of liquid still in the pan. If this is the case turn up the heat and with the lid removed, burn off any liquid you see. Now using the back of your spoon, press down on an chunky pieces of pumpkin that may still be there, to form a sort of smooth and creamy texture. At this point you can also check to see if there’s enough salt to your liking and add accordingly. In my case I didn;t have to add any.
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