Kürbiskernaufstrich (Pumpkin Oil Spead)

Now that is a tongue twister! But more than that, it is something very simple and very delicious from Austria.

We all know Vienna is famous for its cakes and pastries served in the grand cafés, but the region of Steiermark (Styria), in the south of Austria, is known for producing excellent white wines, wonderful fruit and…pumpkin oil. If you’re there during the summer months, you’ll see fields and fields of pumpkins. I got to know this stuff when I was staying with my friend Sigrid in her village near Graz, and she introduced a group of us to Kürbiskernöl (pumpkin oil). It is made form the pumpkin seeds, and has a rich, deep green colour with an intensely nutty aroma and flavour. It’s different to nut oils, having more of a velvety texture.

We were in Syria for a holiday, and spent a lot of time visiting local vineyards to try their wines, and lots of places had a little terrace that served eighth-glasses of their wines as well as a little selection of local specialties. One-eighth glasses might seem small, but they’re perfect if you want to try lots of different types of wine.

Obviously pumpkin oil featured in many of these dishes – drizzled on salads, as a dressing on vegetables, in as a sauce for a local bean dish, and in Kürbiskernaufstrich – pumpkin seed spread. Siggi assured us this was the traditional way to eat the stuff, but that they did things differently in Vienna.

This is probably one of the easiest things that I’ve posted for a while – I’ve tweaked this recipe according to what you can buy easily, but just take a little cream cheese, a spoonful of sour cream, pumpkin oil, salt and pepper to taste and little garlic. Mix together until smooth, and you get a thick spread with a fresh, bright green colour and delicious flavour. You can omit the garlic of you want to taste the “pure” oil, but I find the garlic gives it a welcome little kick. It’s great eaten simply on bread or toast, with a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds and, if you’re really keen, an extra drizzle of the oil.

Once we left the rural idyll of Styria and arrived back in Vienna, as promised, pumpkin oil was indeed to be found in all the fancy shops, and at a very handsome mark-up. We were rather happy to have about a litre of the stuff direct from the farm of one of Siggi’s neighbours. In one terribly chic café, they were suggesting vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of pumpkin oil on top. I had loved it on bread and salads, but I wasn’t too sure. I chickened out and went for a piece of Sachertorte instead, but I later told Siggi about this. Ah, that’s Vienna. They are different there.

I do love pumpkin oil, and if you see it, I urge you to buy it. It’s quite different from other oils, and very versatile. It makes a simple green salad into something delicious, adds colour and depth to dressings and dips, and can even be used in risotto. Sadly, I’ve been without any of the stuff for quite a while, so was delighted that I found a new source at Austrian café Kipferl, a mere hop, skip and a jump from where I live. I think I’ll be nipping in there a little more often now.

Finally, one thing did bother me during my trip to Siggi’s place. What happened to all those pumpkins? Is Austria also famous for pumpkin pie? I remembered seeing a pumpkin strudel and I asked Siggi. She just shrugged her shoulders. Why would we eat them? I guess you could, but we really only grow them for the pumpkin seeds. So now I know!

To make Kürbiskernaufstrich:

• 250g cream cheese
• 1 tablespoon sour cream
• 3 tablespoons pumpkin oil
• 1 handful pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted in the oven
• 1 very small clove garlic, minced
• salt and pepper, to taste

Put the cheese, sour cream, pumpkin oil and garlic into a bowl. Mix well – it will turn thick, smooth and the colour of avocado. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, either chop the pumpkin seeds and mix into the spread, or put it into a bowl and sprinkle them whole on top.

Worht making? This is a delicious spread to have with lunch, or as a dip with vegetables. Definitely worth having a go at if you can get hold of pumpkin oil.

7 Comments

Filed under Recipe, Savoury

7 responses to “Kürbiskernaufstrich (Pumpkin Oil Spead)

  1. To answer your question about the pumpkins, once the seeds are removed they are just left to rot in the fields as they help to fertilise the soil. You really should try it on vanilla ice cream – most people are sceptical at first, but rarely disappointed!

    Without wanting to spam your blog (feel free to remove if you think it is), we grow Styrian pumpkin oil (but over the border in Slovenia) and sell it here in the UK online and via various stockists.

  2. I remember eating something similar to this at a family friend’s house in Graz, though they used not cream cheese but the local soft cheese whose name I have completely forgotten in German (I think it might be what is sometimes called Quark in English?) spread on rye bread, with the pumpkin oil drizzled on top.

    Your version with the garlic sounds lovely, I look forward to trying it (especially since I can find cream cheese here, but not Quark). I had forgotten all about the pumpkin oil till now, so thanks for reminding me!

    • I wonder if you’re thinking of Topfen (the local version of Quark)? That would be the real deal, but I figured that as I’d managed to get hold of the pumpkin oil, I would make it with other ingredients that are easy to get. But just the rye bread, cheese and oil…lovely combination. I see myself using this quite a lot this summer!

  3. Jacqueline @How to be a Gourmand

    Never tried pumpkin oil before so thanks for highlighting it in your post.
    Love the first picture. Beautiful vibrant colours!

    • Hi Jacqueline – yes, unusual stuff, but worth getting hold of it you can see it. The colour is quite something – a vibrant green. It really did make that spread into that vivid green colour!

  4. Tina

    that was soooooooooo good to eat!
    can i copy this recipes and teach my friends to cook???
    thank you so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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