I know, pumpkins are neither foraged nor wild. This one, in fact, was £1 from Asda and I rummaged in a big bin for it, alongside several small children (the competition was good for them).
This post is in response to a sad statistic that I heard today – that in the UK 18,000 tons of edible pumpkin is thrown away each year. That’s the weight of 1,500 double-decker buses, according to The Independent.
That’s wrong, on so many levels. For one thing, when people are hungry, we should never be throwing food in the bin. For another, much of this waste will end up in landfill, emitting gases we could do without. And most personally, it means lots of children aren’t growing up with the memories I have, not only of carving the pumpkin but eating it too. And making strange jewellery out of the seeds.
Mum would usually make pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie, both of which I loved. The pie wasn’t sickly sweet, just on the sweet side of savoury, and full of nutmeg and other spices. I’m using my mum’s recipe here for the filling, which she says she pretty much made up (but didn’t write down, so I’m guessing a bit with quantities). Many of the other recipes out there use molasses or a lot more sugar, and less spice. They can jog on; here’s how it should be done.
The cardamom pastry was just me getting fancy, after being reminded recently about what a lovely but underused spice cardamom is. It works, if you like that kind of thing, which I do.
225g plain flour
110g cold butter, cubed
30g icing sugar
zest of 1 orange
seeds of 10 cardamom pods, ground
Flesh of 1 medium pumpkin
100g caster sugar
150ml single cream
half a nutmeg, grated
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground ginger
- Put the flour and butter in a large bowl and rub with your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add the egg, icing sugar, zest and cardamom and ‘bring together’ with a knife. When I say bring together, we both know I mean get rid of the knife and crush it together with a fork, while swearing. You might need to add a tiny bit of cold water.
- Put the pastry in the fridge for half an hour.
- Put the pumpkin flesh in a saucepan with a little bit of water, and put the lid on. Simmer for 10 or 15 mins, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin is soft.
- Drain off the water, then blend the pumpkin until smooth. Stir in the sugar, and leave to cool.
- Pre-heat the oven to 160C and grease a 20cm pie tin.
- Roll out the pastry, and lay it gently in the pie tin. Obviously it will disintegrate into a thousand pieces, so patch it up as best you can. Don’t leave any holes for the filling to seep out of.
- Bake blind for 20 minutes. If you’re grown up, you’ll know that means to line it and use your neat little stash of baking beans. If you’re not, just cover it with some greaseproof paper and put something heavy on top – empty glass jars, a casserole dish, something like that. You’re looking to bake the pastry without letting it rise, so you just need something to hold it down.
- Bake open for a further 15 minutes (ie remove all the weighty-down stuff).
- Meanwhile, your pumpkin has cooled down a bit, so now you can add the cream and eggs and stir well. Add the spices too. I put in more than I owned up to above, if I’m honest.
- Pour the filling into the pastry case.
- Bake for 45 mins, or until the filling has set to a gentle wobble.
All done. Leave it to cool on a rack for 5 mins, then serve warm with fresh cream.
Fancy getting seedy?
Back in the day we used to do Arty Things with them, but that’s not quite the same when you’re 36 and home alone.
The nutritious bit is the green seed inside the white husk, but trust me, they taste like a health food shop smells. They’re much more fun if you spice up the husk with tasty things and eat that too.
Rinse the seeds and dry them, then spread out on a baking tray and add olive oil, fennel seeds, chili seeds and honey, and rub it all together. Put in the oven for 10-15 mins, jiggling around occasionally, until golden.
That’s it, they’re ready to eat.