Party season is almost upon us and I’ve been busy trialling recipes for the Christmas crowds. My first party is this weekend but, I think fortunately, I’m not playing host just yet. It’s going to be one of those wonderfully out of character parties where you get to see a totally new side of your friends. On Saturday I’m going to feast on dustbin lid-sized pizza, garlic bread and chocolate fudge cake with my running group which mainly consists of a bunch of fairly health-conscious ladies. I think we’re going to give the restaurant a run for their money in terms of how much we can eat!
Something I always like to prepare for buffet or a relaxed, sharing starter is some kind of dip, maybe two or three types and a range of tasty nibbles to dunk. I’ll usually buy some humus along with a selection of olives at my local deli to get a head start and then whip up something quick at home. My pumpkin dip is a cinch to make but does require a little advance planning so the pumpkin has time to chill after being roasted to caramelly sweet bites. Once that’s done all you need to do (since you’re already busy smartening yourself up for the party) is bung the pumpkin, cream cheese, a handful of herbs and some seasoning in the food processor and whizz it into a luxurious, festive orange cream speckled with green.
You can up the calorie-burden by using mascarpone or be positively angelic with low-fat cream cheese, add some chilli for a kick or mix up the herbs – try adding some sage, thyme or coriander. As with all rich, smooth dips I prefer to serve this with something crisp and crunchy – crackers (recipe for hazelnut and thyme stars coming soon!), carrot and celery sticks, individual leaves of chicory (which make a great scoop) or garlic toasts.
Roasted pumpkin and cream cheese dip
Serves a small crowd, easily doubled
- 750g pumpkin or winter squash
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 150g cream cheese
- a handful of fresh herbs (I used chives and parsley)
- fresh lemon juice
- salt and pepper
In advance, preheat the oven to 220°C.
Peel the pumpkin, remove the seeds (bake them for pepitas) and chop into 2cm dice.
Toss the pumpkin with the oil and roast for about 20-30 minutes until golden brown and soft.
Allow to cool and then chill until needed.
Put the cooked pumpkin into a food processor and blend until quite smooth. Add the cream cheese and herb and blend again until combined.
Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste then spoon into bowls to serve.