When I were lad, Halloween lanterns were carved out of swedes or turnips. In fact, Halloween was mainly something that Americans did because they didn’t have Bonfire Night. Trick or Treat hadn’t been invented and. And although we were familiar with pumpkins, like unicorns they didn’t exist in the real world.
Nowadays almost every allotment plot has patch devoted to at least one variety of winter squash. Even if this year’s crop has not been great, due to the lack of sun, we still have butternut and Hubbard golden squash, both of which are ideal for Halloween soup accompanied by savoury pumpkin cakes and seeds.
Pumpkin Soup with savoury pumpkin cakes and toasted seeds
The quantities I have suggested should serve eight. Split the pumpkin in half and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. You will then have to separate the seeds themselves from the sticky fibre. Weigh out the required quantity, peel and cube.
For the soup you will need:
1 large onion, chopped
3 pt stock
2lb lb pumpkin, cubed
1 large carrot, thinly sliced
1 oz of butter
½ lb potato, peeled and diced
½ pt single cream
Parsley finely chopped, salt and pepper
Prepare the stock according to whatever ingredients you have in hand. (On this occasion, I used onions, celery, carrots, a winter radish, a bunch of herbs and a glass of white wine. Meat or chicken stock would also do.)
In a heavy saucepan, fry the onion gently in the butter. Add the pumpkin and carrot the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. The carrot is not essential, but adds colour, particularly if the pumpkin is not fully ripe. Add the potato and continue to simmer until the vegetables are soft. Then liquidise in batches. I also push the soup through a sieve to make sure that there are no bits and that the soup has a rich, velvety texture.
Just before serving, reheat the soup, add salt and pepper to taste, stir in the cream and sprinkle with parsley.
For the savoury pumpkin cakes you will need:
1½ lb pumpkin, cubed
4 oz plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tb sugar
½ teaspoon spice (e.g. cinnamon, allspice, ginger, Chinese 5 spice)
Pinch of salt
(Makes about 24)
Bake the pumpkin in a hot oven until soft, turning if the edges seems to be browning. While the pumpkin is cooling, pour oil into the bottom of 2 small tart tins, the sort that are used for mince pies. The compartments should be about ¼ full of oil. Put into the hot oven
Meanwhile mash the pumpkin with the sugar, spice, salt and egg. Mix the flour and baking powder and fold into the mixture. When the oil in the tins is very hot, put a spoonful of the mixture in each compartment and back until they are the colour of onion bhajis. About ten minutes should do it. (The ones in the photo went a bit dark, but still tasted fine) Take out of the oven and keep warm. As an alternative, you can deep fry spoonfuls of the mixture of make pumpkin fritters.
Poor Man’s Liver
Obviously you will have lots of pumpkin left over. Pumpkin pie is one possibility. Another is a Sicilian dish, named Poor Man’s Liver. For the same eight people you will need:
2 lb pumpkin cut in ¼” slices, still with the skin attached
2 tbs dried mint
6-8 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1 tsp salt
Olive oil for frying
(We dry mint in bunches tied across the front of our fireplace. At this time of the year, it has a really strong, fresh taste. You could use a cupful of fresh mint instead.) Heat the oil over a medium flame. When it is hot, lay the slices of pumpkin in the pan and fry. Sprinkle with dried mint, salt and garlic and fry, turning until brown. Serve with lemon wedges and rice or pasta.