A new look at this healthy autumn vegetable

Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air

Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Uttered by the three witches in Macbeths’ opening scene, transports me straight back to school. It reminds me how Halloween has changed so much since I was a little girl.

Carving your pumpkins in readiness for a night of trick or treating is a part of the fun of Halloween. Until you wonder what to do with all that pumpkin – another year and another round of pumpkin soup until you are sick of the mere thought of it!

But this year, why not jazz it up and make this awesome Pumpkin Biryani! It’ll change the way you think about pumpkins for ever! It’s a great way to get this healthy vegetable into your family diet.

Pumpkin Biryani
Pumpkin Biryani

Now don’t be scared when I tell you this isn’t a quick recipe. Pumpkin Biryani takes some preparation. But once prepped, it’s only a matter of putting it in the oven to slow cook, whilst you go trick or treating. It’s a fabulous dish for that looming BONFIRE night too!

Pumpkin Biryani

A fabulous pumpkin recipe presented in style! Our pumpkin biryani is a must during Halloween, but just as good at another time of year!
This recipe does require some preparation & patience, but I promise you it will be worth it!
There are four components to this recipe, the rice, the pumpkin, the peppers and the pumpkin filling. Once these are ready, there's some assembly required. Follow the instructions below step by step.
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 5 servings


  • 1 medium pumpkin
  • 130 g white rice
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 shallots or 1 medium onion finely diced
  • 2 tbsp Tandoori Spice Blend
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 5 mini peppers assorted colours
  • 3 cm cassia bark a cinnamon stick will do instead
  • 3 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1/2 inch ginger grated
  • 2 fresh green chillies

Optional Ingredients

  • 150 g chopped tomatoes
  • 200 g diced chicken thigh OR
  • 150 g prawns
  • Chopped fresh corriander
  • Handful of roasted nuts


  • Preheat the oven to 160 degrees

The Rice

  • Soak the rice for 10 minutes, then cook as per manufacturers instructions. Set aside with the lid kept on.

The Pumpkin

  • Carefully slice the head off the pumpkin.
  • Scoop out the seeds and flesh. Separate them both and set aside.
  • In a bowl, add 2 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 tbsp tandoori spice, a pinch of salt and pepper and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon.
  • Rub this mixture into the inside of the pumpkin and the underside of the head.
  • Put the head back on the pumpkin, cover with foil and place entire pumpkin on a baking tray.
  • Place the pumpkin in the oven at 160 C for 40-45 mins, until flesh on the inside is soft but the outside still holds its shape. While this is cooking, make a start on the peppers.

The Peppers

  • Cut the peppers length-ways into fat strips, larger in width than you would use for a stir fry.
  • In a bowl, add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil, the ground cumin, the ground coriander and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk or mix with a spoon.
  • Coat the peppers with the oil and dry spice mixture.
  • Place the peppers go on a baking tray (lined with foil to reduce the washing up!)
  • Place the tray in the oven for 20 mins, turning occasionally.
  • Take both the peppers and the pumpkin out of the oven and allow to cool a little.

The Spiced Pumpkin Mix

  • Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a medium pan on a medium/high heat.
  • Add the cloves, cumin seeds, cassia bark and let it sizzle.
  • Add shallots and turn down the heat to medium and let cook for 5-10 mins stirring occasionally. Let the shallots turn golden brown but do not let them go crispy.
  • Add ginger, garlic and green chillies. Cook for 2-3 mins.
  • OPTIONAL: At this stage add the tomatoes.
  • Add 1 tbsp of Tandoori spice or Piri Piri spice and salt to taste, cook for 2-3 mins, with the lid on.
  • Add the flesh of the pumpkin, completely coat the flesh with the onion mixture and allow to cook for 5-7 mins..
  • OPTIONAL: Add the chicken or prawns to the onion and flesh mixture and cook for 5-10 mins for chicken or 5-7 mins for prawns.
  • Add water if you need to but the mixture should not have a gravy consistency – it should have a consistency of shepherd’s pie.
  • Add half a squeeze of fresh lemon. Taste and add salt or pepper if required and freshly chopped coriander. The flavours at this stage need to be strong, so don’t worry if it’s a little too hot or salty.

Assemble and Cook

  • You should have all the parts now, ready to assemble: Rice, Pumpkin, Peppers, Spiced pumpkin (with or without chicken/prawns).
  • Layer the rice in the bottom of the pumpkin, then layer with spiced pumpkin, followed by rice, followed by some of the roasted peppers and repeat till you reach the top of the pumpkin.
  • Place the pumpkin lid back on and cover the whole pumpkin in foil, including the lid.
  • You can at this stage place in the fridge (once all cooled) and cook later on in the week if preferred.
  • Place back in the oven, on a baking tray at 140 C for at least 30 mins.
  • Now lower the temperature to 120 C for up to 1 ½ hours.
  • Just before serving finish off with chopped coriander and optionally a sprinkle of roasted nuts.

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