I love this time of the year. I love the colours of autumn leaves and I love the moodiness of the sky against the backdrop of autumn colours.
Driving up to Mum’s shop on Saturday, the colours of these pumpkins stood out against the grey morning and no sooner had we turned the sign to ‘Open’ on the front door, I was outside taking photos of the pumpkin crop. There were hundreds of every shape and size. Squashes that look like turbans or pixie hats as well as fat, round pumpkins that encapsulate all things Halloween!
As pumpkins are at the very height of their season, I have been looking through old recipe books to see how I could use them best. We’ve all spent hours scraping out the inside of the pumpkins to carve faces in them for Halloween but it seems such a waste to throw away the flesh. I always used to find myself disappointed by the flavour of pumpkin when compared with its more exciting cousin, the butternut squash, but with a kick of spice or the benefit of good recipes, it’s a great warming carbohydrate.
British pumpkin season starts in October and ends at the end of December, although once harvested they can keep for months if properly stored.Choose a pumpkin that is a strong orange colour, with no cuts to the flesh (these allow bacteria in). It should be firm and sound hollow when tapped. Don’t necessarily go for the biggest pumpkins – they tend to be watery with very little flavour. If you want to really enjoy your pumpkin, smaller tends to be better.
Pumpkins are a member of the squash family, along with butternut squash and gem squash. When growing, pumpkins are dark green, and they only turn orange when they ripen. Pumpkins are sweet with a delicate, earthy flavour. They are a good source of beta-carotene (hence their orange colour), which the body converts to Vitamin A. The seeds are also edible and are an excellent source of Omega oils. Factoid: Pumpkin carving at Halloween is an ancient Celtic ritual. But they used to carve turnips. It was only in the 1800s that pumpkins became more widely available in the UK and took their place.
An enormous pumpkin: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/9302927
Pumpkin and Peanut Curry
1. Stir the peanut butter into a jug containing 200ml hot water, until it dissolves. Stir in the purée, lime zest and juice, soy or fish sauce and sugar. Ignore how ropey this looks! Set aside.
2. Remove the leaves from the coriander and set aside. Chop the stalks and roots as finely as you can, along with the chilli, garlic and ginger.
3. Heat the oil in a wok or good-sized pan and fry the onions quite briskly for a few minutes, so that they catch slightly. As soon as this starts to happen, add the pumpkin and stir-fry for a few minutes. Stir in the chilli mixture for 1 minute, then add the coconut milk. Stir, then add the peanut butter mix. Cook at a brisk simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened slightly and the pumpkin is tender. Season to taste or add more soy or fish sauce, as you like. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with cooked rice.
- 250g shortcrust pastry
- 1 egg white, beaten
- For the filling
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 500g pumpkin, peeled and cubed
- 100g dark brown sugar
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Pinch of ground cloves
- 350ml double cream
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6. Brush a baking sheet with the oil. Add the pumpkin and roast for 30 minutes, or until very soft. Leave the oven on. Put the pumpkin in a sieve and mash, pushing out as much liquid as possible. Leave in the sieve to drain and cool.
2. Butter a 25cm pie dish. Roll the pastry into a 30cm circle. Press it gently into the pie dish, folding the edges under. Brush with egg white. Bake for 10-15 minutes but do not let it brown.
3. Push the pumpkin through the sieve. When the pastry shell is cool, mix the pumpkin purée with the other filling ingredients and pour in. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Cover with foil if the edges become too dark. When the filling is slightly wobbly in the middle, remove to a cooling rack. Serve warm with whipped cream
Sticky Toffee Pumpkin Cakes
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4. Line the holes of a 12-hole muffin tin with paper muffin cases.
2. Put the pumpkin into a heatproof bowl with 1 tablespoon of water. Cover with cling film and pierce a few times. Microwave on high for 10 minutes (based on an 800w oven) until the pumpkin is tender. Cool for 2-3 minutes before lifting off the cling film, or the steam could scald you. Transfer to a food processor and put the lid on. Whizz for 30 seconds until smooth, or use a hand blender. (If you aren’t using a microwave, put the pumpkin into a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water and simmer, covered, over a medium heat for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain off any excess liquid, then whizz as above.)
3. Put the oil, sugar and eggs in a large bowl. Using an electric hand whisk, mix together for 3 minutes until thick and pale. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice. Take a large metal spoon and mix gently yet thoroughly until you can no longer see any dry ingredients. Add the pumpkin purée and stir lightly to combine.
4. Divide the mixture between the muffin cases, so they’re all three-quarters full. Bake for 20 minutes, until risen and cooked through. Insert a skewer into the centre of a muffin – if it comes out clean, it’s ready. Cool the cakes in the tin for 10 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.
5. Put a tablespoonful of Dulce de Leche on top of each cake, then spread evenly across the top of each cake. Top each one with a dried apricot