I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen how much I miss dark beer. I don’t mean pastry stouts or blisteringly hoppy porters – I mean brown ales and doppelbocks, dubbels and schwarzbiers.
As much as I still adore pilsners, IPAs and saisons, I miss walking into a beer bar and having the full spectrum of the Lovibond scale represented. I miss malt. Maybe that’s why Klosterbrauerei Ettaler’s Curator Dunkler Doppelbock tasted like such a revelation when I had it recently.
Rich, soft, creamy and toasty, this is beer that makes a showstopper of malt. Brewed by Benedictine monks in the Ettal Abbey in Bavaria, this beer marks a welcome return to tradition. At 7% ABV, it’s warming, but also won’t quite knock you on your head – an advantage, given its moreishness.
Alongside malt, I also miss the holiday festivity, now that we’ve entered the long, slow period of winter doldrums. My Christmas tree is still up and I refuse to give into the gloom, so I decided to make roast pumpkin with buttermilk caramel and brown butter dressing, a recipe that, spiritually, is probably much more at home in October or November than January.
The indulgence isn’t mine alone: the recipe comes from Chef Tom Anglesea at The Laughing Heart, a jewel box of a wine bar and restaurant in Hackney. I ordered it there recently and marvelled at this dish: pumpkin had never felt so decadent. And how did they get the skin so impossibly tender? And what exactly went into those sultanas?
I was so smitten I asked the manager about it and he told me the chef had, serendipitously, shared the recipe online just a couple of months prior. And so here we are. On the one hand, this is still a vegetable-centric dish you can eat if you’ve given up meat in January (though you could also serve it as a side dish with roast chicken, say). On the other end, it contains enough butter to make a French patissier blush. Either way, it represents the way I wish to do January this year: moving unabashedly towards comfort and declining to give into the seasonal gloom.
Slow-Roasted Delica Pumpkin with Buttermilk Caramel and Brown Butter Dressing
Adapted from Tom Anglesea
Serves 2-3 as a main or 4-5 as a side
For the pumpkin:
1 medium-sized delica pumpkin
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
5 sprigs of rosemary
10 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves 250g unsalted butter, diced
1 ½-2 teaspoons fine sea salt
For the buttermilk caramel:
250g salted butter
2-3 tablespoons honey (optional)
For the brown butter dressing:
50g sultanas (golden raisins)
250ml boiling water
1 Earl Grey teabag (optional)
150g unsalted butter, diced
50g pine nuts
10 sage leaves, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Fine sea salt, to taste
1. Preheat your oven to 160° Celsius (320° Fahrenheit). Using a serrated knife, slice off the top of your pumpkin and set aside. Scoop out the seeds and pulp and discard. To the hollowed-out pumpkin, add the garlic, herbs, butter, honey and salt. Return the lid to the pumpkin and wrap the whole thing in several layers of foil. Place on an inch-deep baking tray (it may release liquid) and roast for 1 ½ hours.
2. Meanwhile, make the buttermilk caramel. Add the buttermilk to a saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Cook until boiling: the buttermilk should curdle and the milk solids will separate from the golden whey. Remove from the heat and strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve. Reserve the whey and discard the milk solids; clean and dry the pot.
3. Return the whey to the pot and place over high heat. Cook for approximately 15-20 minutes, whisking frequently, or until the mixture is thickened and reduced. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, as the whey begins to caramelise: it will bubble up into a voluminous froth before thickening and darkening. Watch it attentively, as it will change colour in a matter of seconds. As soon as it is a rich, tawny brown, turn the heat to its lowest setting. Add one cube of butter at a time, whisking to incorporate, until all the butter has been added. Taste – being sure not to burn yourself – and whisk in the honey if you desire additional sweetness. Remove from the heat and set aside.
4. Next, make the brown butter dressing. Add the sultanas (golden raisins) to a small bowl and pour over the boiling water, and add the Earl Grey teabag, if using. Leave to soften and cool. Meanwhile, add the butter to a saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until it has turned golden-brown and smells nutty and toasty. Remove from the heat and add the pine nuts, sage leaves and lemon juice. Drain the sultanas (discarding the teabag) and add to the dressing. Season to taste.
5. When the pumpkin is done roasting, remove from the oven and leave to cool for several minutes before unwrapping. Remove and discard the lid and the pumpkin’s contents (being careful not to burn yourself on the hot butter) before slicing it into wedges. The skin is edible, so don’t worry about peeling.
6. To serve, place the pumpkin wedges on a platter. Drizzle over the caramel (reheat quickly on the stove if it has solidified) and spoon over the dressing mixture. Crumble over the feta and serve.
Claire M Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our award-winning first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.