Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

travel, interiors, photography, home, crafts, personal style

30 Sep 2017

Pumpkin Perfection

When I visited my local pumpkin farm today I let out a little squeal of delight at the sight of them all. I have no idea why they make me so happy, but I just love them. As a consequence I end up with quite a lot of them in my house as decorations (and I don't mean just for halloween either), but I do really need to start eating them more too.

I'm not much of a cook but I am trying to eat more healthily and prepare more things from scratch so this month I've been experimenting a bit with raw ingredients, pumpkins and squash being one of them.  So what is the difference between a pumpkin and a squash? well nothing really, the pumpkin is a type of squash, but they are all from the same family, so I thought I'd try and identify the different varieties but honestly, it's impossible, there are just so many.

With names like Aladdin, Cinderella, Cotton Candy, Halloween In Paris, Fairytale, Jack-be-little, Charisma and Full Moon, I have seen more than fifty types of pumpkin listed and that's separate from squash, which itself has so many types, there are Turban, Acorn, Blue Ballet, Orange Dawn, Pink Banana and so on. 

My first stop, recipe wise, is always soup, just in time for the colder days, the pumpkin is such a good base for a thick and nourishing soup, and I'm also partial to the colour, it's so appealing. Sometimes I mix it with other vegetables that I may have around, but generally I stick to just frying up an onion, chopping the squash (I wish the skin wasn't so hard to get through, the arguments we have had here over whether it's worth the hard work!), and then adding them to a bit pot with water and stock cube.  I like it really thick so I watch how much water I add. As I recently commented on instagram, I think I need to get one of those wand blender stick things to smooth it out a bit perhaps. Finish off with a big dollop of creme fraiche and a large slice of artisan bread.

This pumpkin farm is very close to where I live in Buckinghamshire, they are called, "Farmer Paul's Pumpkins" just outside of Aylesbury and they open in late September ready for the Halloween season. Paul's wife told me that a great recipe is to use the pumpkin as a cooking pot, take the top off, remove the seeds and fill it with cooked lamb mince and onions. Bake in the oven and then when you serve the orange flesh can be scooped out at the same time as the meat, having been infused with the meat juices and flavours, it will come away from the skin nice and soft.

If like me, you struggle with the chopping and peeling then perhaps you should try roasting it first, cut in half, remove seeds and drizzle with oil. 

Last year I had a bash at making pumpkin pie. You hear so much about it from American tv and film, but you don't see it so much here in the UK. I cheated and bought tinned puree, which only seems to be on the shelves here for a few weeks, so I've looked up how to make the puree filling from scratch.

You may want to google up how to do this, as I'm sure there are many different ways, and I wonder if we can get the same ingredients in the UK. I saw a recipe that says to get a 'sugar pumpkin' and I'm not sure we have those so commonly, cut in half, remove seeds and rub the skin with oil (recipe suggests canola oil which in the UK we call Rapeseed oil). 

So roast it the same as for most other recipes, then put the flesh in a blender, make it nice and smooth and mix with ;

Condensed milk, sugar, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves. Some recipes suggest molasses, lemon zest and cornstarch but I thinks it's probably good to experiment, I've also seen one that adds stem ginger.

Put the mixture into a pastry case and bake slowly until it is set, it could take one hour. 

I'm a fan of sweet and savoury mixtures so this appeals to me and I think I will follow a recipe that uses less sugar or molasses than the others. I've also seen one that suggests to steam the pumpkin instead of roasting it and this way it also comes away from the skin, (cut it into sections first).

Aside from soup, or as a roast vegetable accompaniment, this sweet to savoury ingredient is also great in rissotto, tagine, curry, cake, and on a savoury tart.

Do you have a favourite recipe for pumpkin then do let me know over on instagram. I've turned off comments on this blog due to high levels of spam but I'm sure you can find me on facebook or twitter too.

Wishing you and your pumpkins a happy autumn. 

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