I love this time of the year. The cool, crisp Autumn evenings. The gold and brown leaves carpeting the ground. And of course, Halloween and Bonfire nights.
Last week I looked at how to carve a pumpkin. And found some pretty cool ideas. You can read all about it if you want, right here. After going quite mad last year, I've reigned it in a little bit this year and am only carving one or two pumpkins. I'm making up my outdoor display with some decorative pottery pumpkins I found at the Poundland pound shop near me.
However, one thing I will definitely be doing this year and that's making good use of all the innards in my pumpkins. Read on to find out what my favourite recipes are. And let me know if you've any of your own.
Make sure you save all the seeds from the pumpkins. They make a delicious snack. I have to say that the one thing that puts me off doing this is the faffing about it takes to get the stringy bits separated from the seeds. Apparently the easiest way is to put them in a sieve under running water and let the water help wash the fleshy bits away as you rub the seeds in your hands. And this does work but still, please let me know if you've an even easier way!
I like the flavour you get from soaking the seeds in salted water over night but that's up to you. The next thing you need to do though is dry the seeds, then season them. Use anything here you like - garlic powder (not too much!), all season salt (my favourite), curry powder.
Then put in a pan, one layer deep, and roast in the oven giving the pan a shake about now and again.
Pumpkin pie is a dish that I'd 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. So last year I thought I'd give it a stab. 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.
Caroline, a mum of two in Ireland, loves this Anthony Worrell Thompson recipe for pumpkin pie, reproduced on the BBC Food website here. However, my friend 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
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
I 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.
And finally, my favourite. I absolutely love pumpkin soup. It kind of tastes like a very mild korma, and it is hands down the best way to warm up on Halloween night.
I use the recipe that my family uses and I don't know where it comes from. Also the ingredients are vague because really you just stick in what you can. It doesn't need to be precise.
Heat up some oil (I have used both olive oil and vegetable oil), probably about a tablespoon worth or enough to cover the bottom of the saucepan. In this cook one large chopped up onion, then throw in the chopped up pumpkin (one large one should be enough for a family of four) and also some chopped up potato (this acts as thickener). Now, I use vegetable bouillion or stock but my mum uses chicken stock. Whatever your preference put in about 1 litre's worth. Bring to a boil then cover and leave to cook until the pumpkin and potato are thoroughly done.
Next you need to puree it, as a nice thick but even texture is part of pumpkin soup. Finally I garnish with nutmeg (looks fabulous) and/or sometimes a dollop of sour cream. If you like salt and pepper put some in before serving, to suit your own taste.