Like okra, pumpkin is one of those things I’m only just starting to really appreciate. Pumpkin is heavily used throughout the Caribbean to add extra body to stews and soups, in desserts like cassava pone and how could one forget the classic pumpkin rice. However ever since my mom made pumpkin with shrimp a few years back for me, it’s got to be tops on my list. This pumpkin talkari (word for side dish) recipe is a clone of her’s, but like so many things this woman prepares… I could never match her skills.
4 cups pumpkin (peeled and cubed – 1 inch pieces)
1 medium onion
1/2 scotch bonnet pepper
3 cloves garlic chopped fine or crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil (extra virgin works best for me as it gives it a nutty flavour)
1/2 teaspoon salt (check at the end of cooking to add more if needed)
3/4 teaspoon golden brown sugar
3/4 cup shrimp
1 teaspoon green seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Notes: I was able to track down the same type of pumpkin we use in the Caribbean (Common Name: “calabaza”, “Caribbean pumpkin”, Cuban squash, West Indian pumpkin) at a local West Indian grocery, so I was quite happy. Click Caribbean Green Seasoning if you’d like to see a video showing how to make this versatile green seasoning we use in most of our meat and fish dishes in the Caribbean.
Before we get to the prep work and actual cooking, lets briefly marinate the shrimp for a few minutes. You should have cleaned and deveined shrimp (wash with a little lemon or lime juice and cool water), then add the black pepper and green seasoning paste and give it a good stir. Let that marinate as we get ready to cook (no need to marinate too long or the green seasoning will start cooking the shrimp).
Peel, cube and wash your pumpkin.. the skin may be a bit tough as it’s thick and waxy. Use a sharp pairing knife or potato peeler. Chop the onion and scotch bonnet pepper and do remember to wear gloves when handling such potent peppers and don’t include any of the seeds. The seeds and white membrane surrounding the seeds is where most of the explosive heat will be, so discard. Crush or chop the garlic in thin slices.
It’s now time to start cooking (if you prepped the pumpkin in advanced, be sure to keep it in a bowl with cool water to prevent it going discolored) , heat the olive oil (you can also use veg oil) on a medium heat, then add the seasoned shrimp. Stir quickly as we want to cook the shrimp half the way through and create a flavor base at the same time. After 2 minutes, remove the shrimp and place it back in the same bowl it was marinated in.
Now add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook for 3 minutes on low heat. Again we’re building the layers of flavor, so the finished pumpkin with shrimp is finger licking.
Add the slices of scotch bonnet pepper and give everything a good stir. Now add the cubed pumpkin (be sure to drain first), top with the salt and give it a good stir. Place the lid on the pot and after 2-3 minutes you’ll start to hear a sort of sizzle. That’s the pumpkin starting to boil as it will release it’s own natural juices. Give the pot a stir, turn down the heat to low and let it simmer for about 25 minutes. Be sure to stir every 4-5 minutes.
After 25 minutes the pumpkin should start to melt away and you’ll notice there will be a lot of liquid in the pot. Remove the lid and turn up the heat to start burning off the liquid as an ideal pumpkin with shrimp will have a sort of dry finish. After most of the liquid is gone (about 4-5 minutes), add back the semi cooked shrimp to the pot, as well as the brown sugar. Continue cooking to burn off any remaining liquid. It took about 4 minutes for it to go to the consistency I wanted.
Taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Depending on the texture you like, you can use the back of your cooking spoon to crush any remaining chunks of pumpkin, so you have a relatively smooth finish. But if you like it a bit chunky, do nothing.
Personally I like this pumpkin with shrimp with roti, but I learned that is just as delicious with brown rice since I was too lazy to make roti. You can do this fully vegetarian by following the vegetarian version of cooking pumpkin at pumpkin talkari recipe.