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helping to solve the dinner dilemma

warm salad of roast pumpkin & chickpeas

We’ve all been there. That horrible feeling that creeps up on you. Just as you power down your computer and begin to face the commute home, your thoughts turn to the eternal question – ‘What should we have for dinner?’ And inspiration just doesn’t strike. I hate when that happens.

As someone who thinks about food a lot, it’s not that often that I’m stuck for inspiration. There’s usually a mental backlog or recipes I’m just dying to try. Something I read in my latest cookbook acquisition or ripped out of the Sunday paper. I know I’m a bit of a freak in that respect. But every now and then I find myself coming up with a total blank. When nothing even remotely interesting, let alone edible enters my head.

Recently I was visiting Molly over at Orangette. She was talking about how she deals with the dinner dilemma and I knew I just had to share it. You see Molly has a list. When she’s feeling a little inspired she adds to the list and then she keeps it in a handy place. When she finds herself in a pickle about what to cook, she turns to her list and there it is. Dinner dilemma solved. I love it.

There are some real treasures on Molly’s list. I highly recommend the chickpea salad and the tomato sauce with butter and onion although probably not together. And I’ve had a peek at the fake baked beans and am pretty keen to try them out. I also can’t believe I haven’t discovered her roast broccoli. But thanks to Molly’s list it now has a firm place in my cooking future.

With that in mind, I had a good hard think about what’s been inspiring me at the moment. You have to be in the right mood for this but it really is fun. Thinking about all the things that make you hungry. Knowing that next time you find yourself stuck with the dinner dilemma, that it’s not the end of the world. All you have to do it check out your list and the panic and lack of inspiration will be gone. Go the list.

So now you know the secret to solving at least one of life’s little problems. It’s up to you really to have a go and get inspired with a list of your own. I see mine as a working document – something that is going to be always evolving and changing. I hope yours does too. I’ve love to hear about what you would put on your list – might be just the thing to save me next time I’m stuck in the market trying to figure out what to buy.

the stonesoup dinner inspiration list
warm salad of roast pumpkin & chickpeas
sauteed Brussels sprouts

spaghetti with basil & chilli oil
BBQ steak with salad
warm salad of lentils, cavalo nero & roast baby onions
spiced roast chicken and bread salad
juicy bangers & mash with onion gravy
zucchini confit with mint & almonds

warm salad of roast pumpkin (squash) & chickpeas
serves 4

Inspired by Sam & Sam Clarke in their beautiful book Casa Moro The Second Cookbook.

For a while there I gave up pumpkin in favour of the more reliably flavour packed sweet potato but I’ve really been getting back into it this Autumn. If you’re not ready to risk it with pumpkin by all means substitute in sweet potato.

This salad really capatilises on the nutty sweetness of good roast pumpkin, highlighted with a few spices. It really is the business and it’s vegan too.

I leave my skins on my pumpkin when I’m roasting, mostly because I’m lazy and peeling pumpkin is hard work, but also because they taste seriously good when they’re all roasted and soft. Almost like a little flavour explosion.

If you can’t get your hands on tahini, a little natural yoghurt well seasoned with salt and pepper and given a kick with the garlic would make a lovely substitute.

1kg jap or butternut pumpkin or sweet potato, cut into wedges
4T olive oil
1t cumin seeds
1t coriander seeds
pinch chilli flakes, optional
2 x 400g (14oz) cans chickpeas, drained
½ small red onion, finely chopped
small handful almonds, roasted, optional
few sprigs coriander, leaves picked
for the dressing:
1 clove garlic, finely pounded
4T lemon juice
4T tahini
3T water
2T extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 200C (400F).

Drizzle half the oil over a large baking tray and place pumpkin on the tray in a single layer. Drizzle with remaining oil then scatter over spices and chilli and season well with s&p. Roast pumpkin, turning every now and then for about an hour or until the pumpkin is soft and slightly golden.

Meanwhile, combine all the dressing ingredients and season well. Taste and adjust to suit your preference. Adding additional lemon if you want to freshen things up or more oil if it’s a little too feisty.

Place chickpeas in a strainer and boil some water in a kettle or saucepan. Pour boiling water over chickpeas to get rid of the canned flavour and drain well. When the pumpkin is cooked scatter over the chickpeas and onion and allow everything to mingle for a few minutes.

Place pumpkin mixture on a serving platter and scatter over almonds and coriander leaves. Drizzle with the sauce and serve warm as is or with some pita bread.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • kathryn 26 May, 2009, 8:58 am

    Oh my gosh Jules – what a recipe that is. All those wonderful bits and pieces and flavours, all wrapped up with a tahini sauce. Just my kinda thing.

    I also keep a list of recipes, that I want to try in the future. Mine is logged at delicious.com – so I can then search on ingredients I might *feel* like. And it rarely fails me.

  • Daniel 26 May, 2009, 9:02 am


    What I like most about this idea is when you look back on your list of recipes you also re-remember all the inspired feelings you had when you wrote them down in the first place. All of a sudden dinner doesn’t seem like such a chore any more. Thanks for sharing!

    Casual Kitchen

  • Kellie 26 May, 2009, 9:08 am

    I’ve been coming back to pumpkin quite a bit lately, usually in the form of a pumpkin/beet/baby spinach/haloumi salad. Although secretly I think it’s just an excuse for me to get my salty milky haloumi fix…

  • jules 26 May, 2009, 11:34 am

    hey kathryn
    yeah it is seriously good. I haven’t got into delicious yet but sounds like something I should. thanks for the tip

    hey dan
    yeah the beauty of it is using past experiences. so much fun

    Loving the idea of haloumi and pumpkin. I have a think for sweet & salty. Thinkins some fried haloumi would work well with my salad instead of the tahini. great work

  • Lindie 27 May, 2009, 9:52 am

    you called it butternut pumpkin. Is that what we call buternut squash in the States? We have pumpkin and then we have butternut squash. Neither of these has a green skin. Pumpkin is definitely orange and buternut squash is a lighter yellow orange.

  • jules 27 May, 2009, 1:45 pm

    Hi Lindie
    Yes we call it butternut pumpkin and you guys call it butternut squash.

    The pumpkin I used in the picture is what we call a ‘Jap’ pumpkin which has a green skin and really lovely orange sweet flesh. Not sure what your equivalent would be.

  • 'NEEN 28 May, 2009, 6:29 am

    It is reading recipes like these that make me long for the woody favour of jap pumpkins from home…no amount of northern hemisphere pumpkin will compensate!

    Beautiful sounding dish by the way.

    Neen @ 9beanrow.com

  • Em 29 May, 2009, 12:40 am

    its recipes like this that made me wish I liked pumpkin…Clance you are a genius, but excuse me while I vomit a little bit into my mouth. xxx Love your work, and now I’m going to flick back to the bangers and mash to remind me just how good you really are!

  • Patricia Scarpin 30 May, 2009, 6:29 am

    That sounds like a wonderful idea for tonight’s dinner – tks for the great inspiration, Jules!

  • Hollowlegs 1 June, 2009, 9:25 pm

    Try it! Try it! What? The roasted broccoli link – this recipe has become an instant favourite, passed on to friends and family since it was tested in our kitchen on Wednesday night. Even the toddler liked it.

  • jules 2 June, 2009, 7:08 pm

    I know how it feels being in the wrong hemisphere. hope you get a chance to visit soon for a jap pumpkin fix

    what am I going to do with you! it’s ok if you don’t like pumpkin.. the chickpeas and tahini would be lovely on their own.

    hope you enjoy it patricia

    brilliant hollow legs.
    now that roasted broccoli is definitely a must try. thanks for taking the time to let me know

  • paula 8 June, 2009, 9:59 pm

    This looks lovely. I tend to go for roasted pumpkin or butternut squash with a little feta crumbled over the top but the tahini and chickpea route sounds excellent.

  • Chelsea 23 July, 2009, 11:48 am

    I’ve been making this since Molly first posted it. I love it! I usually serve it with some farro or barley mixed in. The end of Summer isn’t so bad when I have this to look forward to;)

    btw, you have a lovely site!

    • jules 27 July, 2009, 5:36 pm

      hi chelsea
      thanks for dropping by – nice to hear from a fellow orangette fan. love the idea of adding in some farro or barley. yum

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