Let’s play trifecta. Soup — Pie — Carving. For me, those three words can lead only to my favourite hibernal squash: pumpkin. I love the smoothness of pumpkins when pureed into a sauce. I very often enjoy them roasted simply with olive oil and a drizzle of honey. And when cooked with spices, the gourd becomes an ambassador for the flavours of autumn and every end-of-year celebration that follows. Still the versatility of pumpkins helps to explain why they appear on menus throughout the calendar here in Doha.
Idam – Museum of Islamic Art
One would be hard pressed to find them in a prettier form. As the cooler months approach, pumpkins become a star ingredient in the Alain Ducasse Cookpot – a hallmark dish linking the global restaurants of this Michelin master. Wafer-thin slices of seven different vegetables are overlapped in a fish scale pattern, cooked in a porcelain chamber, and served in the implement. What you taste is the essence of each vegetable, lightly perfumed with fennel, in a delicate balance of flavours that changes with the season’s bounty.
Pumpkin Soup with Seafood and Citrus
Porcini – The Ritz-Carlton
There’s pumpkin soup, and then there’s the Porcini pumpkin soup. It’s silky smooth and light, yet full of body. While most versions turn to heavy cream as a crutch, this soup relies on ripe, unadulterated pumpkins with a slight hint of citrus. Then add to this stock succulent chunks of lobster meat and a heaping dollop of fish roe, which pop in the mouth with every spoonful to provide a welcome shot of saltiness. A bowl of this blissful soup accompanied by some hearty bread is my idea of a perfect early supper.
Free Range Qatari Duck Breast with Butternut Squash
The Grill – Grand Hyatt Doha
The taste, texture and cooking properties of a butternut squash, also called a butternut pumpkin in the Antipodes, are so similar to that of pumpkin that they are often used interchangeably. Here, the plant complements seared duck breast in three thrilling ways. Squash is cut into cubes then tossed with butter and brown sugar; it’s also cooked down into a velvety, vibrant puree; and its sweetness is underscored in a sugary brittle that’s sprinkled all over. The plate is so artistically composed it really is a masterpiece.
Roasted Duck Pumpkin Puff
Hakkasan – The St. Regis Doha
While many see Hakkasan as a nocturnal destination for the super chic, I think of it as my local dim sum house for irresistible dumplings. And of the lot, it’s the roasted duck pumpkin puff that gets my heart aflutter. Deep-fried dough is perfectly shaped into a mini pumpkin, ridges and all, with a cilantro stalk and pea shoots completing the look. Inside, a filling of duck, mushrooms, and pumpkin awaits. The puff usually comes in a platter with other fried specialties, but can be enjoyed solo during Friday lunch service.
Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake with a Gingersnap Crust
The product of an intimate encounter between a pumpkin pie and a baked cheesecake, this individually sized treat has me dreaming of autumn leaves and knitted sweaters. A towering layer of spiced pumpkin cheesecake filling sits on a disproportionately thin biscuit crust and is topped with crème Chantilly. Together, they taste rich and nutty. Small pieces of pecans are the only thing you need to chew — the rest simply melts on the tip of your tongue. The cake may be sweet on sweet on sweet, but I can’t get enough.
Pumpkin & Feta Salad
Jones the Grocer
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is the ultimate salad, which tickles every taste bud. Four primary ingredients counter each other… sweet roasted pumpkins, tart sundried tomatoes and briny chunks of feta cheese to accompany a pile of bitter arugula. On its own, the salad is a vegetarian delight. But there are also add-on options of grilled lamb, roast chicken, pan-fried prawns or salmon for a heartier meal. A bonus point – the salad holds up well over time and tastes equally good when ordered for take-out.
Layali – Lagoona Mall
You can’t go wrong with deep fried burghul patties. In this inspired vegetarian version of the Levantine classic, pumpkin is mixed into the cracked wheat, resulting in a moist inner capsule for the stuffing of spinach, lemon juice and chickpeas. Shaped like a fat torpedo and packed with unusual yet tantalizing flavours, these kibbehs are a fine example of Layali’s innovative Lebanese dishes. They should be mandatory as part of your mezze table and are also the ideal portion for a mid-shopping, mid-day snack.
Pumpkin Coconut Ball
Ipanema – Marriott Marquis City Center Doha
Sometimes, all it takes is the very simplest of preparations to produce the most wonderful of treats. Case in point is the coconut pumpkin ball at Ipanema. It actually can’t be ordered a la carte because there is no menu; but the dessert luckily makes a regular appearance on the churrascaria’s buffet spread. Pumpkin flesh is cooked with cinnamon then mashed up with a touch of sugar. The mixture is then rolled into bite-sized orbs and coated with desiccated coconut. Very easy to pick up, wolf down, and repeat.
** A version of this article appeared in the magazine Time Out Doha **