Saturday, 27 October 2012

Pimping Up Your Pumpkin (with Pumpkin Soup & Pumpkin Cake)

I love the Autumn and the hues of orange that cover the trees, skies, pavements and greengrocer veggie racks.  In particular, I love pumpkins.

One thing I like about pumpkins is that they only seem to be available this time of year unlike other veggies that are available throughout, which makes them seem that little bit more special.

There are two types of pumpkin.  The large ones that are sold this time of year, grown for size and carving which are quite hollow inside.  Then there are the culinary ones that are full of flesh and lend themselves well to roasting and cooking.

My Dad uses the seeds from my carving pumpkins to grow culinary ones in his vegetable patch so I get the best of both pumpkin worlds!   Here’s how you can do the same:

In my Dad's vegetable patch.  (Late Summer).

The pumpkin now ripe from Dad's vegetable patch - ready to be cooked

As thoughts turn back to carving pumpkins, it's with a heavy heart when I see discarded pumpkin flesh as it seems all people want to do is carve the outer shell for Halloween lanterns (or Jack-o-Lanterns as they say in the USA) and not want to use its inner goodness.

Within its bright outer shell, the flesh contains health-boosting elements such as vitamins A, C, E and K alongside antioxidants and all important iron.
The delicious goodness can be converted into wholesome warming meals and should you not wish to use your pumpkin supply in one go, it’s easily freezable. 

Year after year, I make Pumpkin Soup and after a few versions that haven’t quite made the grade, my lighted spiced version has now been perfected and is my signature soup dish.  I cover the flesh in spices (paprika, cumin, mixed spice), cook it with a potato and a little sweet potato plus vegetable stock and finally blend it with double cream.  You can of course increase the spice levels as your palette dictates but the levels I include pacify a meeker spice tolerance, so if you wish, you can ‘pimp up your pumpkin’ as your heart desires.  

My Pumpkin Soup served up with a drizzle of cream

A predictable choice of pumpkin usage I know, but the soup is delicious, warmingly wonderful and welcoming on these drizzly Autumnal days and makes you feel all cosy as the nights draw in.

The pumpkin’s flexibility is such that it can morph into the dessert arena from its savoury safe hold with much ease.   For our American cousins, sweet dish pumpkin recipes, namely Pumpkin Pie, is a stalwart USA favourite featured on every US diner menu.  Its popularity as a sweet ingredient in the UK is increasing with recipe emphasis on delights such as muffins and puddings. 

And whilst my soup bubbles away on the stove, I make my Pumpkin Cake.  Although a lot darker and heavier than its sponge counterparts, I urge you to try it as it can also double up as a dessert, especially when served warm with a cool cream.

Pumpkin Cake as per the recipe but with cocoa and no icing

So here’s my plea.  When carving your pumpkin, scoop out the flesh and cook with it – whether it is for something sweet or savoury.  Or at the very least freeze it to use for another time and if you’re feeling very resourceful, you can keep the seeds for growing your own like my Dad does and begin the cycle of pumpkin-life right from the very beginning.

But whether you’re carving or cooking (hopefully both!), I wish you Happy Halloween and when in the kitchen, remember to Pimp Up Your Pumpkin!

Post has been submitted as part of the Simple And In Season event for October.

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