Pumpkin Biryani

“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.

Most of you have probably carved your pumpkins in readiness for a fun night of trick or treating. Another year and another round of pumpkin soup until you are sick of the mere thought of it!

Why not jazz it up and make this awesome Pumpkin Biryani!

I’m not going to lie, this isn’t a 5 minute recipe but once you have prepped it all, it’s only a matter of putting it in the oven to slow cook, whilst you go trick or treating, or fabulous for that looming BONFIRE night too!


Pumpkin approx. 820g (mine was  medium sized, if large double the recipe, if small, half the recipe)

For the rice:-

  • 130 g basmati rice soaked in boiling water for 20 mins, washed, until the water runs clear
  • Salt

For the pumpkin flesh filling:-

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 shallots or 1 medium onion finely diced
  • 2 fresh green chillies
  • 3 cloves of garlic crushed
  • ½ inch of grated garlic
  • 3 cloves
  • a 3 cm piece of Cassia bark (cinnamon will do instead)
  • 1 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp of  tandoori spice blend
  • OR 1 tbsp piri piri blend
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Juice of half fresh lemon
  • Chopped fresh coriander
  • Handful of toasted nuts (optional)

For peppers:-

  • 5 mini pepper (assorted colours)
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • Salt and pepper


    • 150 g chopped tomatoes
    • 200 g of diced chicken (preferably thigh) OR
    • 150 g prawns


  1. Preheat oven to 180 C fan assisted
  2. Cook the soaked rice as per the manufacturers instructions and set aside with the lid on.
  3. Slice the head of the pumpkin off carefully
  4. Scoop out the seeds and flesh, separating both and set aside.
  5. Chop up the flesh of the pumpkin
  6. In a bowl, add the vegetable oil, tandoori spice, salt and pepper and a squeeze of half a lemon.
  7. Rub this mixture into the inside of the pumpkin and the underside of the head.
  8. Place the pumpkin with the head back on, cover with foil and place entire pumpkin on a baking tray.
  9. In oven at 160 C for 40-45 mins, until flesh on the inside is soft but the outside still holds its shape.
  10. Cut the peppers length-ways into fat strips, larger in width than you would use for a stir fry.
  11. In a bowl, add oil, ground cumin and coriander and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk or mix with a spoon.
  12. Coat the peppers with the oil and dry spice mixture.
  13. The peppers go on a baking tray (lined with foil to reduce the washing up!)
  14. Place tray in the oven for 20 mins, turning occasionally.
  15. Take both the peppers and the pumpkin out of the oven and allow to cool a little.
  16. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a medium pan on a medium/high heat.
  17. Add cloves, cumin, cassia bark and let sizzle.
  18. 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.
  19. Add ginger, garlic and green chillies. Cook for 2-3 mins
  20. OPTIONAL: At this stage add the tomatoes.
  21. Add 1 tbsp of Tandoori spice or Piri piri spice and salt to taste, cook for 2-3 mins, with the lid on.
  22. Add the flesh of the pumpkin, completely coat the flesh with the onion mixture and allow to cook for 5-7 mins..
  23. 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.
  24. Add water if you need to but the mixture should not have a gravy but a consistency of shepherd’s pie.
  25. Add half a squeeze of fresh lemon. Taste and add salt or pepper if required and freshly chopped coriander.
  26. The flavours at this stage need to be strong, so don’t worry if it’s a little too hot or salty.
  27. You should have all the parts now, ready to assemble:
    • Rice
    • Pumpkin
    • Peppers
    • Spiced pumpkin (with or without chicken/prawns)
  28. 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.
  29. Place the pumpkin lid back on and cover the whole pumpkin in foil, including the lid.
  30. You can at this stage place in the fridge and cook later on in the week if preferred.
  31. Place back in the oven, on a baking tray at 140 C for at least 30 mins. Lower the temp to 120 C for up to 1 ½ hours.
  32. Just before serving finish off with chopped coriander and a sprinkle of roasted nuts

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