Food&Drink Writer Sarah Cayless shares three tasty ways to utilise your pumpkin, perfect for a spectacularly spooky halloween dinner party

Written by Sarah Cayless
Published
Images by Josephine Cayless

This is how to cook a three-course pumpkin meal, which generously serves four people, for a total of £10. Now, just because you can do something does not mean you should, and I am not going to pretend that this challenge is a ‘must try.’ However, there are definitely worse ways to spend a cold day in quarantine. 

Ingredients

Large pumpkin

Bag of potatoes

Milk 

Vegetable stock cubes

Garlic

Flour

Puff pastry block (500g)

Ground mixed spice

Eggs

Caster sugar

As many carrots and red onions as you can buy with any remaining money

Salt, pepper, oil and a small amount of butter (not factored into the £10 cost)

Starter

Method:

Turn the oven on to 180oC. 

Cut the pumpkin in half vertically – the easiest way is to cut a line down the sides and bottom and then simply prise it apart. 

Scoop out the soft, stringy middle with a spoon. Put all of this in a bowl. 

Separate the seeds from the gunk. This step will either be therapeutic or tedious. And either way, the end result won’t really be worth it. 

Thoroughly rinse the seeds, getting rid of any orange bits. At this stage the seeds are incredibly slippery so exercise some caution when doing this – I had to spend about five minutes retrieving half of mine from down the plughole. 

Coat the seeds in a little oil, salt and pepper. Place on a small tray and set aside. 

Carefully cut and scrape out the flesh from half of the pumpkin. Place it on a tray, drizzle it in oil and season with salt and pepper.

Save the carved out pumpkin half to use as a bowl later. 

Place the seeds, pumpkin and three garlic cloves (with the skin on) in the oven. 

Remove the seeds after 12 minutes (tossing half way through). Keep a close eye on them whilst they cook! Mine burnt a bit and I would not wish that pain on my worst enemy; they tasted like a scratchy bowl of ashes.

Remove the pumpkin and garlic after 25-30mins. 

Whilst the seeds and pumpkin are roasting, peel two or three potatoes. Cut them into small pieces and boil in salted water until soft. 

Place the pumpkin and potato in a blender. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skin and add that too. 

Add around 200ml of stock and a dash of milk. 

Blend well. Keep adding stock and/or milk until it reaches your desired consistency. The first time I tasted this soup, it tasted like a school dinner. If this happens to you, do not panic. Keep adding salt, pepper and stock. Eventually it will taste sophisticated and edible. 

Ladle it into the pumpkin bowl you made earlier and sprinkle on some of the roasted pumpkin seeds. 

Main

Method:

Peel the other half of the pumpkin. Set 750g of what you have left to one side to use for the pudding. Cut up the remaining pumpkin into bite-sized chunks. 

Peel and chop the carrots and red onions into similarly sized pieces. 

Drizzle on some oil and season well.

Roast these vegetables at 180oC for around 30 minutes, turning occasionally. 

Whilst these are roasting, peel the rest of the potatoes (or enough to feed four people). Cut them into evenly sized pieces before boiling them for 8 minutes. Drain well. 

Heat up 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pan. Add the potato and the roasted veg. Fry for 5 minutes. 

Add 2 tablespoons of plain flour to the pan and mix thoroughly into the veg.

Slowly pour in 400ml of stock cube. When making the stock mixture, do so with two stock cubes so it is doubly tasty. 

Give it all a good mix about and it should start to thicken up. If it goes too thick, add a bit more stock. You want it to be like a very thick sauce which coats all the of vegetables, binding them together. Welcome to your pie mixture.

This is where things become really exciting. Take a about half of your puff pastry supply and roll it out nice and flat. 

Pour the pie mixture into a suitable vessel, lay the puff pastry on top and brush it with a little milk. If you’re feeling frisky you can then even crimp the edges. 

Cook in the oven on 180oC for about 12 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked.

Enjoy! This is the one course in which you can properly taste the pumpkin, and coincidentally the point at which I learnt that I cannot stand pumpkin. Whilst this pie could do with being embellished with some chicken or lentils, it is healthy and filling. 

Pudding

This definitely falls into the category of saving the best till last. If you have made it this far, you are about to be suitably rewarded. This recipe has been adapted from BBC Good Food (https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/pumpkin-pie). 

Method:

Boil your remaining 750g of pumpkin for 15mins. Once this is over you will never have to look at a pumpkin again, I promise. Drain and let it cool. Whilst it’s cooling, do something cool yourself, like turning the oven to 200o C. 

Push the pumpkin through a sieve and into a bowl with the back of a spoon. Now the bit you will be using is what you have left in the sieve. I cannot stress this enough. This is the pumpkin purée, what you have pushed through to the other side of the sieve is just useless pumpkin water. 

In a bowl, mix together 140g caster sugar, a pinch of salt and 1 ½ teaspoons of ground spice. 

Then mix in two beaten eggs, 25g of melted butter and 175ml of milk. 

Finally, add the pumpkin purée and combine it all together. If this looks like a bowl of chunder it means it is going to plan. 

Roll out the remaining puff pastry and use it to line a circular oven-proof dish. 

We are now going to blind bake the pastry. To do this, poke some holes in the pastry with a fork. You then need to weigh the pastry down with something. You can use baking beans (note: not baked beans), rice, or find a smaller oven-proof dish and place that on top.  

Bake at 200oC for about 10 minutes. Then remove whatever is weighing it down and bake for a further 3-5mins. I wish I could tell you what any of these steps achieve, but unfortunately it’s the blind baking leading the blind. 

Pour the pumpkin mixture on top of the pastry and bake at 200o for 10mins.

Turn the oven down to 160o and bake for a further 35-40mins, or until the filling has set.

Allow to cool before slicing. 

Sarah Cayless

Want to continue the cooking creativity? Here are some more recipes:

Food of the Fortnight: Bao Buns with Sticky Pork Belly and  Aubergine Satay

Recipe: Lentil and Parsnip Curry

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