On our second love it or hate it series post, we decided to play with Pumpkin / Squashes. In this piece, we want to 'demystify' these sweet delicious fruits - yes - they are fruits - not vegetables. Hopefully a lot of you will leave the 'hater camp' and start loving this versatile ingredient!
Actually including ourselves, we used to hate pumpkins, but that is down to being haunted by insanely sweet store-bought pumpkin pies flavoured with industrial mixed spices and added sugar, which often include excessive amount of all spices, cinnamon, nutmeg...Don't get us wrong, we love all of those spices, but only if used in correct doses. Pumpkins and squashes are naturally sweet, and therefore you won't have to add a lot of sugar to it (if at all). And in fact, pumpkins also work really well in savoury dishes, think spinach salad with roasted pumpkin and goat's cheese, in a roasted and then added to bulgar wheat salad, in a risotto... the variations (check out Nigel Slater's wonderful ideas here) are endless!
So we want to show to you several ways of using pumpkins, from starter to main course and bread!
1. Savoury pumpkin beer bread scented with rosemary
The name really does not do justice to this moist, delicious, wholesome bread. Not only does pumpkin give this bread a great colour (see attached picture), it also adds density and sweetness to this savoury bread. The bread tastes great straight out of the oven, but even better if left for a day at room temperature so that the flavour and texture settle properly - perfect for bonfire night if you want to prepare ahead! Great served with cheeses.
I often use cinnamon sugar in this recipe to add a hint of spiciness to the bread, but if you are not a fan, use white sugar. I make my cinnamon sugar by adding a few whole cinnamon sticks into a bag of sugar and leave it for at least 3- 4 weeks before using. The reason I prefer using cinnamon sugar instead of cinnamon powder is that the flavour of the cinnamon from the cinnamon sugar is really mild and therefore will not be overpowering - you want to taste that pumpkin and everything else. So I would not recommend using cinnamon powder as a substitute.
200g flour (we used wholewheat flour with mixed seeds, but you can also use plain flour, if desire)
150g self raising flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1 - 2 Tbsp cinnamon sugar or white sugar (see note above)
375g pumpkin puree, preferably homemade (see step 1) but you can also use store-bought unflavoured 100% pure pumpkin puree
A few sprigs of rosemary, leaves only plus 1 sprig of rosemary - leaves on for decoration
75g walnuts, roughly chopped
1. (Skip this step if you are using store-bought pumpkin puree.) Pre-heat oven to 200C. I used a 1 kg pumpkin to make approximately 600 - 700g pumpkin puree. Cut the pumpkin into two halves, then remove the seeds and stringy fibers using a tablespoon. Place the two pumpkin halves on a baking tray and roast in preheated oven for 40 - 50 minutes, or until flesh is tender and soft ( you should be able to insert and remove a knife from the pumpkin easily). Let cool. Once cool enough (but not cold) to handle, scoop out the pumpkin flesh and process in blender or with a potato masher.
2. Once the puree has completely cooled down, add your choice of flour, self raising flour, baking powder, salt and brown sugar. Give it a stir to mix up the ingredients a little. Add beer and stir until well mixed. Then finally add walnut and leaves of a few sprigs of rosemary (but reserving 1 whole sprig of rosemary, leaves on for decoration). Combine well.
3. Pour the dough mixture into a loaf tin. Place the reserved sprig of rosemary in the middle for decoration.
4. Bake in pre-heated oven for 1 hour and 30 - 45 minutes, or until knife inserted into the bread comes out clean.
5. If you are leaving it at room temperature for a day before serving, leave it in the loaf tin to cool, then cover with cling film or kitchen foil.
2. Pumpkin puff-balls
These chewy and beautifully orange pumpkin puff-balls are inspired by Brazilian Pão de Queijo. The sweetness of the pumpkin is prefect match to the sharp cheddar used in this recipe. These are great party finger food/ starter/ side dish on Bonfire night and will go quickly! Very easy and quick to make and easily scalable. Great way to use up leftover roasted pumpkin (you can also use butternut squash). I love using glutinous rice flour to add extra chewiness to this recipe, but you can also use rice flour or tapioca flour - all available at Asian supermarkets.
Note on baking powder: If you are like me who wants a 100% guarantee on the puffing and rising of these, add 1/2 teaspoon baking powder to the dough in step 2 together with the glutinous flour. But otherwise baking powder is not necessary in this recipe to puff these up - especially for more experienced cooks!
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup butter or vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1 cup glutinous rice flour (or rice flour or tapioca flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder (optional - see note above on baking powder)
1 cup pumpkin puree, preferably homemade but you can also use store-bought unflavoured 100% pure pumpkin puree (you can also use butternut squash)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup mature cheddar, grated (approximately 100g)
1. (Skip this step if you are using store-bought pumpkin puree.) Pre-heat oven to 200C. I used a 1 kg pumpkin to make approximately 600 - 700g pumpkin puree. Cut the pumpkin into two halves, then remove the seeds and stringy fibers using a tablespoon. Place the two pumpkin halves on a baking tray and roast in preheated oven for 40 - 50 minutes, or until flesh is tender and soft ( you should be able to insert and remove a knife from the pumpkin easily). Let cool. Once cool enough (but not cold) to handle, scoop out the pumpkin flesh and process in blender or with a potato masher. Set aside and let cool.
2. Tip glutinous flour and baking powder (optional) into a large mixing bowl. set aside.
3. In a saucepan, heat butter, milk, salt and paprika until just boiled. Remove from heat and immediately tip into the mixing bowl of glutinous rice flour. Mix the batter using a wooden spoon. Add pumpkin puree and mix well.
4. When the dough is cold enough (but still slightly warm), add eggs and grated cheese. Combine well until it forms a dough that can be handled by hand. Knead on a floured surface until it is very sticky and elastic. This will take 10 - 15 minutes.
5. Pre-heat the oven to 220C. Line two baking trays with baking parchment, or use muffin tins lined with paper muffin cases. Using your lightly greased hand (to prevent sticking), form golf ball-sized dough-balls. Place them on the baking tray at least 2 inches apart (as these will grow in size when baked) or in the muffin tins. Make sure the oven is hot before popping them in. Bake in pre-heated oven for 15 - 25 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown on the outside.
6. Serve hot.
3. Spiced pumpkin soup
This is the ultimate pumpkin soup recipe! Not only are we using fresh pumpkin flesh (preferred over the canned stuff), we are also using pumpkin seed butter / oil in the recipe. Add the right amount of spices this is just perfect for this cold winter (and it's just the beginning!). A medium pumpkin will probably last you a couple of dinners, so the effort of cutting up the pumpkin is worth it! We are huge fans of the combination of chilli and ginger, but chili and cumin work well too! Serve it with pouring cream / a spoonful of creme fraiche to add richness to the soup, or vinegar to further inspire your taste buds!
1 medium pumpkin
1-2 carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 chilli (chopped, de-seeded if preferred)
1 inch ginger, chopped or 1/2 tsp cumin
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp pumpkin seed butter
2 litre cold water
salt and pepper to taste
pouring cream or vinegar to serve
1. (Skip this step if you are using store-bought pumpkin puree. NOTE - not preferred!) Pre-heat oven to 200C. Cut the pumpkin into two halves, then remove the seeds and stringy fibers using a tablespoon. Drizzle 1-2 tbsp olive oil and season the pumpkin with salt and pepper. Place the two pumpkin halves on a baking tray and roast in preheated oven for 40 - 50 minutes, or until flesh is tender and soft ( you should be able to insert and remove a knife from the pumpkin easily).
2. In the mean time, heat remaining oil and the pumpkin seed butter in a medium-sized pot. Add onion, chilli, ginger/cumin and carrot and cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until the onion is translucent and carrot is soft.
3. Take the pumpkin out of the oven. Once cool enough (but not cold) to handle, scoop out the pumpkin flesh and add it to the pot. At the same time add 1 litre of cold water into the pot, bring it to boil and let it simmer for a further 15-20 minutes.
4. Remove the soup from heat and use a food processor to puree the soup. Push through a strainer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Serve the soup with a dash of cream / creme fraiche on top to add richness and thickness, or vinegar to lighten it up.
In addition to the above... you can also check out Nigel Slater's recipes here. We saw this whilst writing this piece, and we may well be making the dumpling squash for dinner tonight!!