How sweet to make it savoury

WE are sometimes guilty of typecasting pumpkin as sweet and forget that it has a savoury side, too.

Happily, Sephardic cuisine abounds with savoury pumpkin dishes to remind us of this autumn vegetableís versatility.

My favourite of these is chershi karaa, a tangy, spicy pumpkin spread created by Libyan Jews and now a favourite among Israelis.

Chershi (sometimes spelled chirshi or tershi) are spicy, highly flavoured condiments or dips that are typically served as part of mezze.

I first learned about pumpkin chershi at the Israeli Consulate in Chicago, which featured Gil Hovav making some traditional Sephardic dishes from his childhood.

As is often the case in Jewish cuisine, there are many ways to make pumpkin chershi.

In his dish, for example, Hovav mixes pumpkin with carrot and potato. Others use only pumpkin. But everyone seems to agree that chershi karaa should be spicy and tangy, with lots of garlic and lemon juice.

One of the best things about pumpkin chershi is how easy it is to make. Using canned pumpkin puree, this recipe comes together in a few minutes.

My goal with this pumpkin chershi recipe was to create a nice balance of sweetness, heat and acid. I guarantee that it will change how you think about pumpkin.

Chershi makes a fantastic dip alongside some warm pita with a dollop of cool yoghurt on top.

But donít stop there. Chershi also works as a sandwich spread, and it has traditionally been eaten as a garnish for couscous.

* Emily Paster writes the blog West of the Loop

Pumpkin Chershi


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 7 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Ĺ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)
  • 3 tablespoons harissa
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Juice of one lemon


Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, cumin, paprika and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and stir to combine. Cook just until garlic begins to turn golden.

Add pumpkin, harissa and honey; stir to combine. Cook gently, just until pumpkin is warmed through.

Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning. Dip should be tangy and spicy. Serve with Greek yogurt and warmed pita, or as a garnish for couscous. Serves six to eight. It will keep in the fridge for a week.

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