Pumpkin Carving And Good Eating With Pumpkin Recipes

4 October 2010

Pumpkin carving and pie 1Halloween: is this another bunch of commercial nonsense imposed on us from over the pond? Or a nice theme to use to keep the kids occupied on a wet half term holiday?

For me it is the latter, and I love it. Partly because it is the only time you can give kids sweeties by the handful! But also because for me it is one of the cheapest, if not THE cheapest, themed event of the year. Last time I talked about how I made costumes out of bin liners. Now I'm looking at how a few quid spent on a vegetable can turn your house into a Halloween mecca AND feed you.


What I love the most about the simple pumpkin is how this one item can totally transform a house into a Halloween friendly home. What other single decoration can achieve the same result? Not even a Santa on his own is enough to warm up an entire night.

But last year, as I took my (then) four year old son and some friend's children trick or treating around our friendly neighbourhood, I couldn't help notice and marvel at just what a difference a smiley faced pumpkin with a candle in it made!

Lots of houses had put just one, or sometimes up to three, of these in their front porches to show they were open and ready to receive little trick or treaters and hand out candy. And on a cold, dark October night, they looked warm and inviting with their glowing faces and rich orange colour.

And all for the cost of just a cheap pumpkin and a tealight! So this year I resolved to make one myself, and because there's no point in wasting good vegetables, find out how to make something out of the scooped out innards.

Pumpkin carving and pie 2

How to do it?

Pumpkin carving. Simple right? All you have to do is stick a knife in it, make a mouth and some eyes. Anyone can do that right? Four ruined pumpkins later and my other half and I decided that maybe we should try looking this up online.

Naturally the US does this best. The most interesting one I found was Pumpkin Carving 101. This site even covers how to 'lay to rest' your pumpkin after the 31st! In my borough this burial will be taking place in the food scraps bin.

The pumpkin carving tutorials on here are fab, with lots of practical tips. Believe it or not, but make a six sided hole in the top really did work far better than trying to curve out a round one. I don't know why that's the case, maybe it is because you are only concentrating on cutting a bit at a time. At least with this method we didn't accidentally slice right down the side of the pumpkin!

My son and his friend had a great time making a big gooey mess pulling all the innards out of the pumpkin.

The other site we found that was immensely useful, particularly on how to select a pumpkin, was a British one. If you're not already familiar with the BBC's fabulous H2G2 website, founded by Douglas Adams of the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy fame, then start now. This is a marvellous, fully edited, gold mine of interesting and helpful information. Check out this entry on The Perfect Halloween Pumpkin.

Pumpkin carving and pie 3

Pumpkin preservation

I came across a couple of good tips. One is that you can restore a dry, wrinkled up pumpkin by soaking it in water. The other is that a coating of petroleum jelly will stop it drying out too quickly. Now this is something I'd never have thought of, and if you're making your pumpkin lanterns a day or two before hand it is probably pretty vital. It won't surprise you to find that in the US you can buy pumpkin preserving dip or pumpkin preserver spray to do the same thing.

Pumpkin Pie

Now I'm not about to waste perfectly good food. So what to do with all those gooey insides?

Pumpkin pie is a dish that I've often seen in US movies and TV programmes. But it isn't something I've ever had, nor have I ever heard of it being made when I was growing up. Thinking that really, it does sound a bit weird (pumpkin as pudding?) I turned to the PlayPennies mums who are from the US for advice.

Only it turned out no-one made it. I got offers of Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake, and Pumpkin Marble Cake. But no pie.

Pumpkin carving and pie 5Caroline, a mum of two in Ireland, loves this Anthony Worrell Thompson recipe for pumpkin pie, reproduced on the BBC Food website here. Sarah, a Brit who now lives in British Columbia, Canada, sent me this simple recipe. So easy to do that after a hard morning carving, I got the boys to help make me pie.

1 pre-made pie crust
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2 eggs, beaten
1tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt

Pumpkin carving and pie 4I couldn't find a pie crust so just rolled out pre-made shortcrust pasty instead. And I forgot the ginger. And by pumpkin puree I figured that the mess the boys had made of the insides was enough. And yes we'd all washed hands before the carving!

But it all turned out OK in the end. All you have to do is mix all the stuff together in a bowl and stick in in the pastry. Bake for 14 mins at gas mark 6, then turn down to gas mark 4 for half an hour or until a knife inserted comes out clean.

What do you do?

Halloween, fun or nonsense? Are we just creating another commercial rod for our backs by celebrating this event? What do you do on the 31st?

And, perhaps more importantly, what fabulous and tasty ways have you found to cook/eat pumpkin?

TOPICS:   Halloween   Parenting Tips


  • Jessica
    There are many Americans out there who make pumpkin pie...apparently just not the ones you asked! I am from the US and my husband and I make a full Thanksgiving feast every year, pumpkin pie included.
  • SlayerKat
    My dad is English and he makes pumpkin pie every year (out of home grown allotment pumpkins) and serves it warm with ice cream. I HATE it yuk sorry. Prefer my pumpkin in soup lol
  • Moozikgal
    Try roasting the seeds with olive oil and salt - few other spices and you have a very tasty snack! Pumkin soup with the carved out bits is also great. I carve about 5 pumpkins each year and love it!
  • Lynley O.
    I just don't know enough Americans! Do you have a particular recipe you like? The one I did was OK but not fantastic.
  • Lynley O.
    Your dad sounds fab! I would love to have home grown pumpkins. Soup would be my second choice though. I LOVE my pumpkins roasted. I'm from NZ and we roast EVERYTHING LOL. However we keep the skin on for that so no good here. Soup is definitely my next fave. Mmmmm. Also great to throw in some sweet potato.
  • Lynley O.
    how do you do that! roast the seeds I mean. I *have* to try that. You're making me hungry!
  • SlayerKat
    I had pumpkin and orange soup in a restaurant recently. Very nice combo.
  • Lynley O.
    No. Way! Who would think of mixing pumpkin and orange. Where was the restaurant?
  • Jessica
    The one I use is almost the same as in the post, except using regular sugar instead of brown sugar. The other tip I would give is to make sure the pumpkin is fully pureed and then let it settle for a bit before making the pie. It should be quite dense.
  • Lynley O.
    Ah I see, I took the puree as more of a suggestion. Really good to know that you can use normal sugar, as I'm more likely to have that than brown sugar in the store cupboard. I guess the puree thing is why mine didn't look like Anthony Worrell Thompson's creation...
  • SlayerKat
    In a castle in Kent!
  • Lynley O.
    ha ha a castle in Kent! Well that figures. Ooooh had no idea we had such posh readers :)
  • SlayerKat
  • Moozikgal
    Hi Lynley, try this - its a great step by step instruction http://www.wikihow.com/Roast-Pumpkin-Seeds Enjoy!
  • Lynley O.
    Brilliant you're a star Moozikgal. Will let you know how it goes!
  • SlayerKat
    I'm trying this too.
  • Lynley O.
    Let's come back here after Halloween then and compare notes!
  • Donatella
    Pumpkin is a delicious, autumnal vegetable that's really quite versatile. Italians are very fond of pumpkin ravioli - my mom makes her own. The filling is normally pumpkin, ricotta, parmesan and seasoning, of course, and they are coated in butter and fresh sage. Simple and delicious. Roast pumpkin is also heavenly, along with roast parsnips and other root vegetables. I use lots of olive oil and fresh rosemary and garlic cloves when I roast my vegetables. Now, about pumpkin pie: it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving in America without it, and we serve ours with dollops of fresh cream. I absolutely love pumpkin pie! It's quite spicy and rich. You can get pumpkin pie filling in cans nowadays, which may be why you struggled to find a lot of recipes.
  • SlayerKat
    Had Pumpkin Curry last night. Yummy
  • Lynley O.
    Pumpkin Curry! SlayerKat that sounds ... a bit disgusting actually. How did it turn out?
  • Lynley O.
    I desperately want your mother's pumpkin ravioli now! I don't know that I'd be able to make it myself though. Is that something you'd get in the shops? Is there a deli in particular you might recommend in London area? I am going to a Halloween thing, and someone else has already bagsed doing the pumpkin soup (Thai style!). I'm going to take the pumpkin pie for the afters, and maybe the ravioli? Or maybe I'll be brave and try the pumpkin curry! Roast pumpkin is my absolute favourite too, and it is a staple of the kiwi diet. However, I didn't include it here as we roast it with the skin on (and this was for what to do with the flesh when you're already using the skin for a lantern!). Do you roast it with the skin on? Cut up into chunks mind you, not whole pumpkin, and we don't eat the skin!
  • SlayerKat
    It was actually rather lovely. And vegetarian too. Just do a search for pumpkin curry on google and loads came up. I did it with balti paste and chickpeas.
  • Lynley O.
    Thanks Moozikgal! I roasted the seeds and they came out beautifully!
  • Lynley O.
    OK I made pumpkin pie. And everyone said it was delicious. And it did taste just fine. But. I didn't really enjoy it. I can't say that the combination of sweet and pumpkin does it for me.
  • Alex T.
    I tried making soup of the innards of the pumpkin, the stringy bits, the flesh that held the seeds and the little bit of flesh that I carved out of it but the resulting soup was too bitter and I think I am going to throw it out. I added about 9 long carrots and two fried onions as well as some curry powder but I could not hide the bitterness. The baked seeds came out really tasty.
  • Lynley O.
    Oh what a shame Alex! I use a really simple recipe (it is from my beloved Edmonds cookbook!). Heat one tablespoon oil in a saucepan. Add one chopped onion and cook until clear. Add 750g of pumpkin (chopped if needed), that's about two and half cups; one chopped potato; and four cups of liquid chicken stock (I used the stuff I make out of old chicken bones, I freeze it in ice cube trays so was a guess on how much was four cups!). Bring to boil and cook until vegetables are soft. It says to then puree it, but I don't have a blender! So I just kept mashing it with a masher. Then season with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of nutmeg. A little nutmeg sprinkled on top looks great on the serving. It is hard to judge when you're the cook but everyone who ate it on Sunday said it was the best pumpkin soup they've ever had! There wasn't any left. Maybe it depends on the pumpkins? Hubs bought me three pumpkins from Tesco, they had stickers on them that said something like Halloween pumpkins, and they were a much darker orange than the usual pale things I see in supermarkets here in previous years.
  • Alex T.
    Hi Linley, thanks for your reply. I appreciate your recipe and will keep it in mind when I make pumpkin soup once again. Here's an update to the problem I posted: Last Friday(5 Nov), I was all ready to set out to the compost bin to dump the bitter soup when it occurred to me to taste it to see how it fared. Much to my surprise almost all the bitterness was gone. Later that day I added a half a litre of beef broth to it, some salt and pepper and garlic cloves. It had become edible and really tasty. It was gone in a few days. I don't know why the bitterness left the soup but I can only speculate that perhaps after letting it stand a few days the ingredients reacted with one another and sort of cancelled away the bitterness of the pumpkin innards-the stringy bits that held the seeds and such. The actual pumpkin flesh was not bitter. I did a search for dealing with bitterness in food and did not find any techniques for fixing it when I encountered the problem but I did find your blog about dealing with the gooey insides of a Halloween pumpkin . When I cooked it the first time I also added about two Tbsp of sugar to fix it up. Cheers.
  • Lynley O.
    Hmmm that's interesting! I often find that soups are even tastier the next day the same with stews. I think that maybe the time gives the flavours time to really infuse. I left the stringy bits in my soup too though and they didn't make it taste bitter. No sugar in my soup either. Although that is an interesting addition and I can see how it would work!

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