Pumpkins and Prizes
When I used to write my old blog it was a mixture of art, embroidery, family life, gardening and food. And if I'm completely honest the food often attracted a lot more attention than my art, especially when I posted recipes. My podcasting buddy Izzy has admitted to looking up my lemon posset recipe before now (you can find it here or an alternative for blood orange posset here) and my post about bread pudding was my most viewed post ever. I often wondered if I should give up art and become a food writer.
But I do rather enjoy writing about food and so, as this weekend I have tried two new but particularly good recipes I thought I would slip a little food post in here... I know... it's a slippery slope! But let's back track a little...
During the summer I took on an allotment where I have spent many a happy hour outdoors. I had barely got a spade in the ground when one of the other plot holders presented me with a small plant and said there was a pumpkin competition. All allotmenteers (I think I may have made up that word!) had a plant from the seeds of her giant pumpkin from the previous year and we were being challenged to grow our own giant pumpkin. I stuck the spindly plant in the ground without much thought, definitely without much care, and pretty much forgot about it. Roll on four months to last weekend when it was the allotment barbecue and pumpkin weigh in and... (drum roll)... my pumpkin weighed in at 11.1 kg and made joint first place! A small trophy was acquired which I get to keep for six months.
But what to do with such a beast of a pumpkin? Carve it for Halloween of course, but first I managed to salvage about a kilo of pumpkin flesh. I was thinking soup... possibly a curry... but then glancing through the Sunday supplements I found two recipes from Nigel Slater that sounded worth a try and indeed dear reader, they were. In fact they were so good, they have driven me to write out the recipes for you. I have adapted both slightly and so what I give you here are my tried and tested versions. In both his recipes, Nigel suggests steaming the pumpkin which if I'm honest, rather puts me off, conjuring up images of soggy orange flesh. Instead I cut the kilo of pumpkin flesh (butternut squash would be equally good) into 5 cm chunks, tossed it in some oil, salt and pepper and then roasted it for about half an hour at 180 deg C until it was tender. It was enough for both the following recipes.
Pumpkin and Pesto tart
For the pastry - 150g plain flour, 90g butter, 40g grated parmesan and approx a tablespoon water
For the filling - 2 onions, olive oil, approx 750g cooked squash (see above), 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, a roulade of soft goats cheese, about 4 tablespoons of pesto (fresh or from a jar is fine) and a couple of tablespoons of pine nuts
Make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour with a little salt. Then stir in the parmesan and enough water to make a firm dough. This is something I do in a food processor. Wrap the dough in a plastic bag and rest it in the fridge while you start the filling. Slice the onions and gently fry them in a dash of olive oil until they start to soften, stirring regularly. You want soft and golden not crisp! Add the thyme and salt and pepper and continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes. Set aside to cool a little.
Heat the oven to 200 C or 180 C Fan. Roll out the chilled pastry on a floured board to about 35 cm in diameter and transfer it to a baking sheet lined with parchment. Leaving a 5 cm rim around the edge, arrange slices of the cooked squash all over the centre of the pastry. Top this with the cooked onions and then slices of the goats cheese. Spoon the pesto around the cheese slices and scatter with pine nuts. Fold the outer edge of the pastry in, to cover the edge of the filling.
Bake for 25 minutes until the pastry is golden. Serve, hot, warm or cold! Nigel Slater's version doesn't use the cheese or pesto but I can only imagine, having tasted my version, that it would somehow feel lacking but I'll let you be the judge. He also claims it serves six. I cut it into six and we had a portion each... but then wanted more so shared another portion. It serves four!
And the second recipe, something I have never tried before but will definitely make again...
250g of cooked pumpkin or squash (see above), 400g plain flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, salt and pepper, 85g butter, 80g grated parmesan (keep some back to sprinkle on top), 100 ml milk, 100 ml water, 2 teaspoons grain mustard, beaten egg to glaze.
Heat the oven to 220 C or 200 C fan. Mix the flour, baking powder and a little salt and pepper in a large bowl. Dice in the butter and rub into the flour until you have a breadcrumb texture. Roughly mash the pumpkin with some pepper and the mustard and add to the flour with all of the milk and just enough of the water to make a soft dough (Nigel says to use all the water but I found this made a sticky dough. It does rather depend on how wet your pumpkin is). Turn out onto a floured board and pat into a circle about 3 cm thick. Use a 5 cm round biscuit cutter and cut out 12 - 14 scones, reshaping the dough as necessary. Place on a lined baking sheet, brush the tops with egg and sprinkle with a little more grated parmesan. Bake for 12 -14 minutes until golden and preferably eat warm. I had two one after the other, thickly spread with butter... not sorry! Perfect autumn food!
I'll be back before the end of the week with more thoughts on the change in seasons but until then...