Pumpkin rice is such a popular Jamaican, it has carved out its own identity  among the ‘seasoned rice’ set. To churn out a good batch of pumpkin rice is to end up with something akin to a nice risotto.  A good version of this rich creamy flavor filled rice dish requires only a ‘dry’ pumpkin and a few other staple ingredients. Pumpkin (aka calabaza squash) does not refer to the North American version. This pumpkin comes in many shapes and sizes. It is hard to give directions on picking the perfect pumpkin but you can substitute butternut squash for a good pumpkin.

pumpkin (Kabocha squash)
there are no definite rules for picking the perfect pumpkin. Though I have seen plenty of Jamaican housewives knock, shake and otherwise harass many a pumpkin trying to discern its quality.

As for a recipe. The main 2 ingredients in this delicious dish are pumpkin (calbaza squash) and white rice but, that’s where the similarities end. The dish is completed by adding a little butter or other oil. Other vegetables or herbs are optional. I like to add scallions or onion and thyme, a little salt and pepper is mandatory. Cured meats like salt fish  or corned beef make a tasty addition.

 

Pumpkin comes in many shapes, sizes and textures. The one I am most familiar with comes from the Kabocha family. A butternut squash yields a similar texture and flavor to a good pumpkin. I don’t like butternuts because the skin is very hard which makes it difficult to cut.

This particular recipe has been on my to do list for a while now. Mainly because the recipe was requested by a faithful soldier of mine months ago. Below is a versatile easy to follow recipe that you can reproduce in 45 minutes or less.

Serve pumpkin rice with any meat or combine with other side dishes for a complete meal. Or add the meat and make it a one pot meal.

making pumpkin rice

Saute the pumpkin with all the other ingredients , until the pumpkin is soft. Use a spoon or fork to crush some of the pumpkin (just mash it against the side of the pot) until you get a nice ‘stewlike’ texture. . Stir in the rice and add water.

making pumpkin rice

Pumpkin Rice Recipe

Course Rice
Cuisine Jamaican
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • ¼ pound pumpkin calbaza or butternut squash, diced small
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • ½ small onion diced small
  • 1 clove garlic chopped small
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 stalk scallion optional

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add pumpkin, onion, garlic and salt. Stir well and sauté for about 2 minutes to release flavors. Reduce heat to med-low and add 1 cup of water to the pot. Cover and let pumpkin simmer until it's soft. About 7 minutes. Use a fork to mash the pumpkin. Stir in the rice. Cover and let rice sauté for about 3 minutes. Add 1½ cups water cover and let rice simmer for 15 minutes. Check for doneness. If grains are soft and fluffy, turn off heat and serve. If grains are hard add ¼ cup water cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Once rice is cooked. fluff with fork. Stir in chopped escallion. Serve with your favorite meat dish.
pumpkin rice  with saltfish
Fluffly and soft but still shelly rice (al dente if we must) is what you’re aiming for.

 

 

 

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