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A Cook's Guide to Grains
by Jenni Muir
There was an old Spitting Image series of sketches in which the grey puppet version of former British prime minister John Major would say "Nice peas, Norma" to his wife at dinner every evening in a pathetic attempt to start conversation. In Australia we do a similar thing, observing after a long period of silence: "That's a nice, dry bit of pumpkin." Strongly flavoured dry pumpkin is what we like and is the best choice for this recipe. Butternut squash is just not as good. This recipe is based on one from Italian writer Emanuela Stucchi.
Serves 4-6

• 100g/1/2 cup butter, plus extra for greasing
• 300g/11oz firm pumpkin flesh, peeled and deseeded
• 75g/1/3 cup rolled oats
• 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
• 120g/3/4 cup plain wheat-type flour
• 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 2 tbsp milk
• salt and pepper

Heat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Grease an ovenproof baking dish. Using a food processor, grate the pumpkin into fine shreds.

In a large frying pan or saucepan, melt the butter and add the grated pumpkin, rolled oats and sage. Cook over a moderate heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool.

Combine the flour, baking powder and some salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs and milk. Beat lightly gradually incorporating the flour to make a batter.

Stir in the cooked pumpkin and oats, then transfer the mixture to the greased oven dish and bake for 30 minutes or until firm. Serve hot.

Cook's Notes
• Root vegetables, including carrot, swede and parsnip, can be used in place of pumpkin. Vary the herbs according to your personal tastes but choose robust varieties such as parsley, thyme, oregano, marjoram and rosemary.
• This pudding can be served as a side dish with chicken in various forms. A classy presentation is to use it as a base for roast chicken and a sauce of intense reduced stock or demi-glace.
• Vegetarians will enjoy it as part of a main meal, served, for example, with some cheese and a salad of broad beans and asparagus, or a saute of peas, onion and lettuce.
• It also makes a nice savoury teatime treat or snack, and is a welcome addition to a cooked breakfast with eggs and fish or ham.
• Replacing the rolled oats with flakes of other grains is an option but not quite as successful because oats have a special creamy flavour and texture. Wheat flakes are the best second choice. Barley and rye are okay but very dry. You could, of course, combine any of the above for a mixed grain version.


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