With Maggi Carstairs
Pumpkins are plentiful, reasonably priced and come in an assortment of varieties, that make this cheap, and nutritious vegetable handy for everyone to cook, freeze and share.
My favourite is always the pumpkin soup, and everyone can make this so easily, from very basic, which is pumpkin steamed or boiled, and mashed with seasoning and some form of liquid to make it soupy. The taste depends on the pumpkin. If you have a rich deep coloured, flavoursome pumpkin, you only need water or milk added to the mashed pulp to make a great soup. Serve with toast or garlic bread and everyone thinks you are a genius. Extra soup can be frozen easily in zip lock sandwich bags in single serving proportion, and you take from freezer, thaw and you have dinner.
You change the flavour of the soups by what you add with the pumpkin. Onions are always popular, so is carrots and celery. I always add garlic and ginger to the soup, and some bay leaves, a few cloves and sometimes curry powder or turmeric for extra flavour. You can also make the soup using stock made from a stock cube, or just water from boiling or steaming other vegetables or meat.
You can thicken the soup by adding some cornflour or flour mixed in water to stretch it out, and serve with garlic croutons made by buttering toast with minced garlic and adding some herbs and then chopping it into small pieces. You can top with a handful of grated cheese, and my favourite is sour cream or yoghurt. A generous dollop changes the soup from ordinary to special, when also sprinkled with fresh herbs.
Everybody knows pumpkin soup, but not everybody knows Pumpkin dip, made by mashing the pumpkin and adding ginger, garlic and either sour cream or yoghurt to make a tasty dip. You can also add a tin of mashed chick peas and beat it into the pumpkin with oil. Tahini can also be mixed with the pumpkin for a richer flavour and Tahini is highly nutritious as well as delicious. I add lemon juice or lime juice, or cider vinegar as well as salt and pepper, sometimes chilli powder as well. Experiment with what you add once you master the basic recipe which is pumpkin with seasonings.
Always when making a baked dinner, I bake the pumpkin whole. I cut it in half, horizontal slice, trim the bottom for stability, sit it in a sheet of foil, place it in a baking dish, add what I want onto the pumpkin…herbs, mixed vegetables, mince, bacon, potato, left over casserole or curry…and fold foil over and bake until the pumpkin is cooked. I check with a skewer. Then I fold back the foil and let the pumpkin brown before serving by cutting it into slices. Once I cooked the whole pumpkin as is, after Halloween in Korea, because the pumpkin was too expensive to throw away, and we all enjoyed generous slices of delicious baked pumpkin. I removed all the shelves except the lowest one and a whole pumpkin fitted happily into the oven.
Pumpkin scones are so easy to make. I grate the pumpkin and add the grated pumpkin to a scone recipe. The easiest recipe I know is mixing self-raising flour with cream, teaspoon of baking powder, add the grated pumpkin, some sugar and roll flat, and using a knife, cut into squares, arrange on tray, paint some milk on top before baking, and 220 degrees about 20 minutes or until done. Damper recipe works well too. Flour and milk, add grated or mashed pumpkin, knead well and bake. Fried scones were very popular in the mines. It’s basically the scone recipe but instead of baking, put into hot oil and they will float when ready. Fried scones have a different flavour because of the oil and they are ultra-delicious hot or cold and were popular for smokos in the Aussie bush. Make sure the oil is hot, or the scones will go soggy. Cook just a couple first to get the oil right.
Pumpkin curry was my mother’s favourite. Add pumpkin chunks to fried onions and tomatoes, then the curry powder, with mustard seeds. You can buy a ready-made curry mix if you choose, or add curry powder with coconut milk to the pumpkins and fried onions. It cooks quickly and is ready to serve with steamed rice.
Americans love their pumpkin pie. It is so easy to make. Beat eggs in milk, add mashed pumpkin and pour into a pie dish or pie case. Using a slice of frozen pastry, I place it on a buttered pie dish, trim off the overhanging ends, and fill with the pumpkin mixture to which I have added sugar to taste, some cinnamon and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake 180 degrees until the custard sets. If you wish, add another slice of pastry over and trim down for a closed pie. Decorate with a folk or pinching the pastry ends together. Glaze with beaten egg for a golden finish and serve with cream whipped with icing sugar and cinnamon for a delicious flavour.
Lately I have been eating chunks of delicious baked pumpkin. I cut the vegetables into chunks, potato into 4 pieces, carrot into circles, and yams and pumpkin into chunks. All unpeeled as the peel is nutritious. I put them in a bowl, generously add olive oil over, then a spoonful of Italian or mixed herbs, a spoon of garlic salt, half a cup of flour and I shake the bowl until the mixture has evenly coated the vegetables, adding more oil, flour or spices as needed.
Carefully place the now coated vegetables into a baking tray or dish, and bake 20 minutes each side. I serve with sour cream and sprinkle of fresh herbs, or mayonnaise or aioli and it’s a meal on its own or a snack. You can use breadcrumbs if you choose instead of the flour, or both flour and breadcrumbs for a different texture. This method is not greasy as the oil is already in the vegetables, and placing them on a sheet of foil makes it even cleaner cooking.
Pumpkins are cheap and plentiful and delicious and so easy to cook. They are also quick cooking. Try pumpkin chips instead or as well as potato chips, remembering that pumpkin chips cook faster, so either take them out when cooked or cook them separately.