Pumpkins are everywhere – decoratively, or stacked up in supermarkets waiting to be carved into ghoulish faces, have a candle put inside, then used to decorate homes inside and outside for these weeks around All Hallows Eve.
But the pumpkin flesh is so delicious that, sculpting them aside, it’s worth buying pumpkins to eat.
First, their seeds are a precious source of nutrients.
Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds, which are attached to the flesh by strands of orange fibre.
The seeds can be a bit fiddly to extract from these strands, but I find the easiest way is to put the seeds into a sieve under running cold water, and pull away the strands.
Pat excess water from the seeds, spread them on to a baking tray and leave to dry, then store them in an airtight glass jar. Use the pumpkin seeds in salads, or as a garnish, or in muesli.
Then the pumpkin flesh. Scoop it from the thick skin, cutting it into even-sized small chunks – roughly 2cm in size.
I use pumpkin in two ways, the first, as a soup. Here is my recipe – it’s easy and tastes very good.
I’ve also provided my recipe for pumpkin pie.
This is the best-known dish involving pumpkin. Yet it can be so disappointing, and a waste of calorie consumption.
Decades ago when I first experimented with a pumpkin pie recipe, it was almost disgusting a result.
Why? The recipe told me to cook the pumpkin flesh in water. So I simply substituted milk for water and a transformation took place!
I also added a number of spices to the pumpkin as it cooked, and a pumpkin pie can and should be a delicious treat – and worth every one of the calories!
- 2 onions, each skinned, halved and chopped quite finely
- 1 stick of celery, trimmed at either end then chopped
- 3 tbsp rapeseed oil or olive oil
- Pumpkin flesh cut from one small-to-medium sized pumpkin, the flesh cut into
- small chunks as described
- A good grating of nutmeg
- 1.2 litres good chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt, about 15 grinds of black pepper
- In a large saucepan heat the oil and, over moderate heat, cook the chopped onions and celery, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes.
- The onions should be transparent and soft.
- Then add the chopped pumpkin, grate in the nutmeg, add the salt and black pepper and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes before adding the stock.
- Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer, cover the pan, and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes.
- Take the pan off the heat, let it
cool a bit, then blend, using a hand-held blender, to a smooth velvet texture.
- Add the lemon juice, taste, and add more salt and pepper if you think it is needed.
- If you like, as a garnish, just before serving stir a heaped tablespoon of finely chopped parsley through the soup.
For the pastry:
- 100g butter, hard from the fridge and cut into small bits
- 25g icing sugar
- 150g plain flour
- A few drops of vanilla essence
For the filling:
- 500g pumpkin flesh, cut into dice about 1-2cm
- 800ml whole milk
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 level tsp ground ginger
- 75g soft brown sugar, light or dark
- 50g butter
- 2 large eggs beaten with 1 large egg yolk
To make the pastry:
- Put the above ingredients into a food processor and whizz to the texture of fine crumbs.
- Firmly press these pastry crumbs over the base and up the sides of a flan dish measuring 20-22cm diagonally.
- Put this into the fridge for an hour before baking in a moderate heat, 160C fan/180C/350F/gas mark 4.
- After 20 minutes, take it from the oven. The sides will have slightly slipped down towards the base.
- With a metal spoon scrape them back into place. Leave to cool.
To make the filling:
- Put the pumpkin flesh into a saucepan with the cinnamon stick and milk.
- Cover the pan with a lid, and, over moderate heat, bring the milk to simmer gently.
- Cook the pumpkin in this way until very soft, about 30 minutes.
- Drain off the milk. Remove the cinnamon stick.
- Put the cooked, soft pumpkin into a food processor.
- Add the soft brown sugar, butter, ginger and nutmeg. Whizz until smooth, adding the beaten eggs and yolk. Pour and scrape this into the cooled pastry base.
- Bake in a moderate heat, same as for the cooking of the pastry, till the centre is just firm to the touch, 25-30 mins.
- If the centre still feels a bit runny, bake for a few more minutes. The centre of the pie filling is the last part to set.
- Cool the pumpkin pie until it is just warm, before serving, and it is very good with either creme fraiche, or with vanilla ice cream.