Post Halloween Pumpkin Feasts

However you spent halloween, at a fancy dress party, shepherding little ghosts and ghouls round on the trick or treat circuit or staying up to scare yourself to death on fright films, now that it is over let’s get down to the serious stuff – cooking with pumpkins.

I did a quick run through the books on my shelves and pumpkin recipes on line and came to the conclusion that there is no excuse for not using the flesh from the pumpkins used to decorate the porch for the ghostly evening. I try not to get on my high horse in these blogs but the waste of food in the form of pumpkins really upsets me.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1.91 billion pounds of pumpkins grown in the U.S. in 2014 were only used for lanterns before being trashed and in the UK we are no better. The UK buys over one million pumpkins during October – around 90% of annual pumpkin sales. Once carved, the majority are thrown away with around 18,000 tonnes ending up in landfill according to the North London Waste Authority (NLWA).

Don’t give me the stories about nobody in the house liking pumpkin – would they be able to identify it in a lovely vegetable stew? or not knowing what to do? – I found 20 pages of recipes from all over the world in my Ecosia search. Let’s aim to reduce the figure of pumpkin waste by next halloween.

So how about it?  Send me your favourite pumpkin recipes. The three best will win a copy of Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen and I’ll publish them in future blogs.

For more information on what you can do with scooped out pumpkins this Halloween, a selection of handy recipes can be found on the Love Food Hate Waste website 

One of my favourites is Pumpkin Bread from Flavoured Breads by Linda Collister

Ingredients

700g pumpkin or winter squash, 1 tablespoon virgin olive oil, 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (don’t be tempted to reduce this), 2 teaspoons of golden caster sugar, 15g fresh yeast*, 350g strong white bread flour, extra flour for dusting, 1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt to glaze.

* or use 7g sachet of dried yeast, mix with the flour before adding the pumpkin puree.

Method

Peel, remove seeds and dice the pumpkin into 1cm cubes, you need 400g. Cook this without water, either roast or steam. Put in a processor with the oil and puree until smooth. Then allow to cool until just luke warm add the salt and sugar.

If you are using freash yeast mix in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of warm water. Mix the paste into the puree.

Measure the flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Spoon in the puree then mix in the flour to make a soft dough. Turn our onto a floured work surface and knead thoroughly for 5 – 10 mins (or 5mins in a mixer on a dough hook.

Shape into a round loaf and put on a baking sheet covered to rise until doubled – about 1 1/2 hours.

Press your thumb into the middle to make small hollow and brush with the egg glaze. Score into segments with a sharp knife then bake in a preheated oven at 200c, 400F or gas 6 for 30 mins, until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a rack if you can without eating it before it cools (very difficult). It makes a lovely bright orange loaf that looks and taste great.

The Comfort that is a Bowl of Soup

There really is nothing like a bowl of soup to make you feel human again after a hard day, to warm you coming in from the cold, to comfort you when you are tired or down, to make a great satisfying lunch in the middle of a busy day.

And what could be simpler? Of course my all time favourite is What’s Left in the Vegetable Basket Soup. So although, to my mind, a good vegetable soup has to have a basis of onions, carrots and celery, the variations on this mean that no two soups are alike. Some have the hit of the last wrinkled chilli  and quite often something from the store of vegetables frozen from the glut in the summer but then there are the odd ingredients like the the last few tomatoes and half of a left-over courgette. Sometimes made chunky and sometimes whizzed to a creamy liquid. Every one a winner!

The spring soup I always look forward to is Asparagus and Sorrel Soup

Asparagus and Sorrel Soup

This recipe comes from Eat Your Greens by Sophie Grigson, published in 1993. While the asparagus and the sorrel are still in season, this is a delight.  You can use asparagus trimmings for this recipe. This lovely light fresh soup and can be served hot or cold.

Ingredients Serves 2 – 3

175 g (6oz) chopped asparagus or asparagus trimmings, 40g (1 1/2oz) butter, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped clove of garlic, 1 large handful of shredded sorrel, 1 tablespoon plain flour, 600ml (1 pint) water from cooking the asparagus or stock, salt and pepper, 50ml (2 fl oz) double cream, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped chervil or chives.

Method

Melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the onions and garlic without browning. Add the sorrel and stir until it collapses to a mush. Sprinkle over the flour and stir for a few seconds then a little ata time add the asparagus water or stock. Add the asparagus and season. Simmer for 20 mins.

Process or puree until smooth and if you want, sieve to remove any stringy fibres. Just before serving stir in the cream and chervil or chives.

And a brilliant and tasty soup for the summer – or anytime!

Soup au Pistou

Pistou, the Provençal cousin of pesto, is stirred into this summer vegetable soup just before serving. Pistou, made from cloves of garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil. The basics are the potato, courgettes and beans but this is one of those soups that can vary as much as you like in terms of the vegetables used. Broken spaghetti, rice or bread is sometimes added as well. Try it out and then make it your own.

This version was from an anonymous hand-written recipe and translated in Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen

Soup

1.5 litre water, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 150g potatoes, 150g onions, 150g courgettes, 150g aubergines, 200g white haricot beans (a tin would be fine), 100g green beans, Salt & pepper

Pistou

4 crushed cloves garlic, 4 cups packed basil, 1 cup grated parmesan, ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 plum tomato, cored

Method

Make the pistou: Process basil, parmesan, olive oil, salt, garlic, and tomato in a food processor until finely ground or in a pestle if you are feeling energetic. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Prepare the vegetables – chop the potatoes, courgettes, aubergine into cubes, roughly chop the onions and chop the green beans into 1 cm pieces. Fry the onions in the oil then add the rest of the vegetables and cook for 5 minutes. Add the water, all the fresh vegetables then season well. Cook for around 15 – 20 minutes. Add the white haricot beans and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the pistou sauce and stir gently then taste and season again.

Guess what I’ve got for lunch?

Afternoon Tea Week

Let’s celebrate afternoon tea week, who can resist those little finger sandwiches, scones and fancy cakes, it’s like reliving a dolls tea party. That quintessential British meal that sadly is disappearing from our daily lives. With the advent of full time work for women the ritual that is afternoon tea became lost, hardly surprising, who of us has time to work and cook for a tea break?

As lifestyles and hours of working changed over time so have mealtimes , following working patterns and changes in social status.  The following is from “A Short History of [British] Mealtimes”

1780
Breakfast 10AM; Dinner 3-5PM, Tea 7PM, Supper 10-11PM
1815
Breakfast 10AM (leisurely), 9AM (less leisurely), 8AM (working people); Luncheon Midday; Dinner 3-5PM; Supper 10-11PM
1835
Breakfast, before 9AM; Luncheon (ladies only) Midday; Dinner 6-8PM; Supper depending upon the timing and substantiality of dinner
1860s/Middle Class
Breakfast 8AM (town), 9-10AM (country); Lunchoen 1-2PM; Dinner 6-8PM (depending upon formality and place)
1900
Early morning 8AM (tea, bread and butter); Breakfast 8-8:30AM; Luncheon Midday; Afternoon tea 5PM, Dinner 7:30-8PM
1930s
Breakfast 8AM; Lunch/upper classes or Dinner/rest Midday-1PM; Afternoon tea 4PM; High tea 5-6PM; Dinner 7-8PM; Supper 9-10PM.

1990s
“Mealtimes…These vary somewhat depending on the region of the country you are visiting, but in general breakfast is served between 7:30 and 9, and lunch between 12 and 2. Tea–an essential and respected part of British tradition, and often a meal in itself–is generally served between 4:30 and 5:30. Dinner or supper is served between 7:30 and 9:30, sometimes earlier.”—Fodor’s Great Britain [1992] (p. 34)

As you can see, tea the kind of fancy-schmancy affair emerged as a social event sometime around the 1830s or 1840s, Bruce Richardson writes in A Social History of Tea. And Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford, led the pack. When there is nothing else to do but enjoy a little ‘something’ with friends, why not?

Nowadays we only celebrate high tea on high days and holidays usually eaten out rather than at home despite the popularity of TV programmes such as The Great British Bake Off which celebrate baking in all its forms.

But it is a lovely way to indulge yourself, so this week find somewhere locally that does provide ‘high tea’ and give yourself a treat. Or make something you usually don’t make time for – a few scones or how about a little Victoria sponge? or at least a biscuit and a cup of tea.

These great biscuits are easy to make and are just right for children to decorate.

Tunbridge Water Cakes (William Sayer)*

I have seen references to these biscuits called Tunbridge Wafers or Romary biscuits after the baker Alfred Romary who had a bakery in Tunbridge, opened in 1862. Romary later received Royal warrants for his wafers. Recipes seem to vary of course, some of them more savoury, and this writer has added orange flower water.

Ingredients

250g butter

250g icing sugar

500g flour

3 egg yolks

1 tablespoon orange flower water

Method

Preheat the oven to 180oc/350of/gas 4

Rub the butter in with the flour; add the sugar and make the whole into a paste. Don’t work too much as this will make the biscuits hard. Roll it out very thin on a floured table and cut it out with a plain round or scalloped cutter about 3in across. Place them on a greased baking tray and bake them to a pale delicate colour.

They take about 15 – 20 minutes depending on your oven.

These make lovely biscuits for children to decorate and makes about 50 biscuits.

* From Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen click here

 

British Pie Week Day 5 – A British Classic Bacon & Egg Pie

For the final pie in British Pie Week I give you a classic. This is a real memoryjerker. Bacon and egg pie turned up quite frequently on our menu as a child in the 50s and 60s. With my mum’s light hand with the pastry and a variety of vegetables from the garden this was a staple.  

The English version of Quiche? There is some discussion about where this originated, we Brits think it was a Victorian breakfast pie but in New Zealand it is a common household dish and it is common to come across it in menus of popular restaurants. So many people there claim that the pie probably originated in New Zealand. The jury is out on that one. A very popular, cheap and filling meal, hot or cold.

This version was written by G. R. Moore and is from the 1950s section of Recipes from an Unknown kitchen but everyone had there own take on this classic. 

Ingredients

500g of shortcrust pastry

300g bacon

1 medium onion (chopped)

5 eggs

30ml milk

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

100g peas

Salt and pepper

Method

Pre heat the oven to 200oC/400of/gas 6

Cut the bacon into smallish pieces. Put the onion and bacon in a frying pan and cook on a medium heat until the onion is transparent, the bacon crisp and no liquid is left. Roll 2/3 of the pastry and line a loose bottomed flan tin. inches diameter (20cm) about 2inches (5cm) deep, then roll the remaining 1/3 into a round to make the lid.

Lightly beat  2 of the eggs with 30ml milk and season, light on the salt but heavy on the pepper. Hard boil the remaining 3 eggs and chop roughly.

Place the bacon and onion mix in the pie, add a layer of chopped hard-boiled egg and the parsley then? pour on the egg mix. Add the layer of peas and season again then put on the pastry lid. Glaze with beaten egg.

Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 180oC/350of/gas 4 and bake for another 30 minutes.

Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen

British Pie Week Day 4 – An American option? Pecan Pie

I know it’s British Pie Week but the odd American import must surely spice things up. So against the grain here is a lovely Mimi’s Pecan Pie Recipe from Cordon Blue Grass – Blue Ribbon recipes from Kentucky. 

 

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups dark corn syrup (or maple syrup)

1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla

1 teaspoon lemon jiuce

5 eggs

1 tablespoon plain flour

1 1/2 cups pecan nuts

1 prepared flan case uncooked

Method

In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add all other ingredients except the pecans. Mix well.

Fold in the pecans.

Bake the pastry case for 2 – 3 minutes at 450 degrees f/230 degrees C/Gas mark 8

Pour in the filling and return the pie to the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees f/ 180 degrees C/Gas mark 3 and bake for 40 minutes.

This is scrummy!

Cordon Bluegrass

British Pie Week Day 2 – Festive Jalousie

A great all-rounder, this pie comes from Vegetarian Cooking & Vegetable Classics by Roz Denny and Christine Ingram. I love it and it comes with it’s own inbuilt creamy sauce.

Festive Jalousie

Ingredients

450g/ puff pastry, 450g Brussel sprouts, 16 whole chestnuts, 1 large red pepper, 1 large onion, 45ml sunflower oi,l 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon of water,

For the sauce

40g plain flour, 40g butter, 300ml milk, 30ml dry sherry, 75g cheddar cheese, good pinch of dried sage, 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method

Roll out the pastry to make 2 large rectangles (1 slightly larger than the other) roughly the size of your dish and about 6mm thick.

Blanch the brussels sprouts in 300ml of boiling water for 4 mins then drain, retaining the water and refresh them under cold running water.

Cut each chestnut in half. Lightly fry the red pepper and onion in the sunflower oil until transparent for about 5 mins. Set aside until later.

Make up the sauce by beating the flour, butter and milk together. Beat the sauce continuously and bring to the boil until it is thickened and smooth.  Then add the reserved sprout water cheese, sherry, sage and season to taste. Simmer for around 3 mins then add the parsley.

Fit the larger piece of pastry into your pie dish and layer the sprouts, chestnuts, peppers and onions on top. Pour over the sauce making sure it seeps through the vegetables. Brush the pastry edges with the egg mix and fit the second sheet of pastry on the top sealing the edges well. Crimp the edges. Glaze well with the egg mix.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees f/200 degrees C/ Gas mark 6. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

Vegetarian Cooking and Vegetable Classics

Great British Pie Week Day 1 – North Country Fidget Pie

North Country Fidget Pie (G. R. Moore)

Generally fidget pie includes apples and bacon or ham so this North Country version is quite unusual. Fidget Pie is a traditional English recipe for a pie served in the fields to the workers busy bringing in the harvest. I can see why.  The name fidget (or fidgety) pie, originates around Derbyshire andShropshire, in the middle of the country. The origins of the odd sounding name seem to have come from the fact that it originally was fitched, which means five sided in Anglo-Saxon. 

Pastry

250g plain flour

Pinch salt

175g margarine

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon of cold water

Filling

1 finely chopped onion

250g sausage meat

Pepper and salt

1 egg

250g raw potatoes

150g peas

Method

Make the pastry by popping the flour, salt and margarine in a processor, whizz until the mix is like breadcrumbs then add the egg then the water, to make a firm dough. Wrap in clingfilm and allow to rest in the fridge for half an hour or more. Mix the chopped onion with the sausage meat, seasoning and bind with the beaten egg.  If you are using frozen peas defrost and drain well, if you are using fresh- cook gently then drain.

Roll out the pastry and use 2/3 to line the base of a pie dish. Put in a layer of the sausage meat mix, then a layer of potatoes thinly sliced, season well then add the peas. Lightly beat the egg and pour over the filling. Use the remaining 1/3 of the pastry to form the lid, glaze using beaten egg. Heat the oven to 190oc/375of/gas5. Bake it in hot oven for 30 minutes reduce heat to moderate – 180oc/350of/gas4 and cook for further 15 minutes. Can be eaten hot or cold.

From Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen 

Scarborough Fair Pancakes

Looking for a savoury pancake to celebrate Pancake day? I love these so much I make them every year and sometimes when it is not even pancake day!.

Scarborough Fair Pancakes makes 8 large pancakes or 16 small

This recipe comes from The Artful Cook, Secrets of a Shoestring Gourmet by Richard Cawley published in 1988.Reflecting the spirit of the age when chefs were realising that food could be beautiful as well as tasty. This book has some excellent recipes.

8oz plain flour, 2 heaped teaspoons baking powder, salt & pepper, 9 fl oz milk, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon each chopped fresh, parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme. Oil for frying

Mix together pancake ingredients. Stir in chopped herbs. Drop tablespoons of the batter into a lightly oiled frying pan and cook over medium heat for 3-4mins turn over once until golden on each side.

Strangely these can be eaten sweet or savoury. For a sweet option serve with yoghurt,  soured cream or maple syrup. For a savoury option serve with goats cheese and salad they also make a good alternative to breakfast pancakes. I also tried them filled with steamed asparagus (of course with a little butter and ground pepper)

Packets of magic – never underestimate the power of seeds

Remember the story of Jack and the beanstalk where Jack foolishly sold his cow for 5 magic beans? He wasn’t undersold, his beans were the passage to a store of treasure in the sky. And it’s true – seeds are natures treasures.

I have just received a parcel of seeds for this season and I can’t tell you how excited I was when the postman dropped them off. Along with the store of seeds saved from last year this promises to be my food for the coming year, the provide the colour and scent of my garden, the taste of fresh sprouting seeds in my salads and a year’s fun sowing planting and harvesting. Who needs a gym when you have access to a garden or allotment a few packets of seeds and a few tools.

Seeds may be tiny, but they’re packed with nutrients like protein, fibre, iron, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. A seed is life. It is a living food. Seeds also provide most cooking oils, many beverages and spices and some important food additives. In fact food from seeds, beans, nuts and grains (all seeds) forms the majority of human calories.

To get the most out of them remember the golden rule – raw food provides the highest sources of vitamins and cooked food helps the body extract the highest amounts of minerals so vary the way you eat them. Salads, raw seed and nut dips for vitamins and added to bread, biscuits or toasted for minerals.

Eating sprouted seeds adds another dimension of flavour and texture as well either raw in salads or cooked in stir fries.

It’s not too late to make chocolate orange peel.

Over Christmas I find myself addicted to clementines. I always feel a little guilty about throwing the peel away – too many in the wormery upsets the worms – then I found this recipe for candied orange sticks in The River Cottage Preserves Handbook. So I just replace the orange peel with clementines, although I have used grapefruit peel as well. There are always little bits of peel that are too small to turn into sticks and these I cut up and use in other recipes as candied peel . I must say that the about 25% of these don’t make it as the presents I intend, well I have to check the quality!

Ingredients

4-5 large oranges (If using clementine peel it takes around 10 skins), 500g granulated sugar, 1 tbsp glucose syrup, 200g good plain chocolate.

Method (it looks complicated but actually isn’t)

Scrub the oranges and using a sharp knife, remove the peel and attached pith. Weigh out 250g or peel and cut into slices about 6mm x 5cm. Place the peel in a large pan and cover with 2 litres of cold water.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, drain and return to the pan with 1 litre of cold water. Bring to the boil again and simmer, covered, this time for 45 minutes (30 minutes for clementine peel). Then add the sugar and stir until it’s dissolved, simmer for a further 30 minutes, still covered. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 24 hours.

Bring the pan to the boil again – if using glucose syrup, add it now – and boil for 30 minutes, until all the liquid has evaporated and the sticks are coated with bubbling syrup. Allow to cool then carefully remove sticks to a wire rack. Leave in a warm place (an airing cupboard is ideal) for 24 hours.

Break the chocolate in to pieces and melt in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat and dip half of each orange stick in the melted chocolate, placing on greaseproof paper to set. Before dipping the sticks will last 3-4 months, once dipped in chocolate they are best eaten within 3 weeks. (As if they are going to last that long!)