Pumpkins, Pumpkins and More Pumpkins

FOOD, PHOTOGRAPHY

Pumpkin season is my favourite. I have been eagerly waiting pumpkin arrivals as I had so many recipe plans this autumn including pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread and of course those yummy pumpkin seeds. Pumpkins are everywhere right now and as the most common autumn squashes they have a lot of uses beyond carving. We all love to create beautiful lanterns with them every year but did you know that you can make both sweet and savoury dishes with them? I was a little skeptical at first, growing up we just carved the pumpkin with it’s unappetising smell and tossed them out when they started to get mouldy. Don’t be fooled however, in food it comes alive and tastes amazing with just a little bit of spice. As well as being incredibly tasty, it’s also full of Vitamin C and Vitamin E so really great for your skin! So the girls and I have been busy making all sorts of recipes with our big and mini pumpkins that I seemed to have collected over the past month. At one point it felt like every time I went somewhere, I got another one! I just love pumpkins and taking photographs with them, and now it’s all about what else can I bake with them. Pumpkins are really versatile and full of goodness so please recycle them for food if you can, guaranteed there will be something you like!

So, where to begin? Depending on what type of pumpkin you have, will determine what dishes are best. Little pumpkins are great for baking and using as little bowls, small pumpkins are perfect for making puree and larger pumpkins are great for cutting up into slices and roasting. All of them are great for sweet and savoury dishes and go well with spices like cinnamon or cumin depending on your preference. So are you are a sweet or savoury type of person? You might just be suprised if you experiment with this delicious squash. Luckily I like both so of course I have tried a variety of dishes although my kids defintely prefer the sweeter ones! Now cooking with pumpkins is relatively easy but recipes I have made in the past have led to soggy food so make sure you prep your pumpkins properly to avoid this happening. I always make puree over using raw pumpkin in my dishes as I find this helps reduce the water. So here are some yummy recipe links that I have tried and tested including some tips that have helped me make the most of these awesome pumpkins!

Cutting A Pumpkin

Cutting pumpkins doesn’t need a lot of skill but it’s good to know techniques to make things easier and to look a little nicer for your baking. Cutting a small or large pumpkin to roast is actually quite satisfying, when you know how to do it properly you will never look back again. Using a sharp knife cut one line from the stalk all the way around back to the stalk again (don’t try cut the stalk it’s so tough, and can be prickly!). Once cut, turn the pumpkin upside down and literally rip it apart and it will make the most satisying crack revealing all it’s seeds. Little pumpkins are a little trickier to cut but can be baked without cutting first if you find it too tricky.

Roasted Pumpkin

Roasted pumpkin is probably the simplest way of all to cook and eat it, it is also a great way of making puree or just cutting up and having as a side dish. When you scoop out all the seeds, makes sure to keep them as you will want to use them for another recipe. Also when you bake, make sure your oven is hot enough as pumpkins produce a lot of water and you could end up with a soggy tray. You can find out how to roast a pumpkin here.

Pumpkin Puree

Now the best way to make most pumpkin dishes is by using prepped pumpkin as the base, also known as pumpkin puree. We don’t really get canned pumpkin puree in the shops here in the UK, so it’s best to make your own which you can simply do by roasting any pumpkin and adding some spices. The smaller pumpkins are better for roasting usually about 1kg, they are a bit sweeter and fit easier in the oven or you can roast smaller ones individually. If you only have bigger pumpkins, it’s best to chop up first before roasting. Once you have roasted your pumpkin you can literally scoop out all of the flesh and leave the skin remaining, sometimes you can peel the skin right off too. Put all the scooped pumpkin into a blender once cooled slightly, combine until smooth and then you can refridgerate or freeze to use when you need it for a recipe.

Mini Pumpkin Bowls

Mini pumpkins are just as yummy as big pumpkins and apart from looking ridiculously adorable, they are fun to use too as vessels for your food. Chop them up and roast them alongside other veg or scoop out the insides and stuff them or fill them with soup. Either bake as they are or cut the lids off, scoop out the seeds (save for later!) and bake with the lids on. Different coloured pumpkins will roast quicker than others I find, use a knife to see if they are cooked and soft. Find a recipe to bake your mini pumpkins here.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin soup is so delicious and if you batch cook a load of puree, you can whip up a pumpkin soup really easily. I made a really nice spicy pumpkin soup to put in my mini pumpkins after I baked them, although I went a bit overboard with chilli which I don’t recommend unless you like a lot of spice! Make sure you fill your soup in your pumpkin bowl when it’s still warm and serve with some cream and some fresh parsley. Try this spiced pumpkin recipe here.

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin bread is great with a bit of afternoon tea now the weather is turning, did you know it’s actually a cake? The first time I went to make pumpkin bread I thought it was more of a savoury bread but it’s traditionally really sweet and baked similar to banana bread. Once baked, you can then drizzle cinnamon icing sugar and some sugared pumpkin seeds on the top for that little bit extra. Find this yummy pumpkin bread recipe here.

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie is probably the most well known dish to make with pumpkins and probably the most delicious in my opinion. Pumpkin pie isn’t very common in the UK and it tastes surprisingly different to what you might think despite having so much pumpkin in it. It’s basically custard tart with a bit of spice (a lot in my case!). This is such a tasty treat served warm with a bit of ice cream or squirty cream. Make sure you learn how to blind bake a crust and not to take shortcuts, you will regret it when your pie fails like my first blind bake. Play around with different designs including braiding to make your pie that little bit fancier. Try this Pumpkin Pie recipe here.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are the most delicious snack and they tend to go to waste after carving, so don’t chuck them away before trying them toasted. I love using the seeds to snack on or chucking them in a salad but you can literally put them on anything. You can make them sweet with cinnamon and sugar or savoury with a bit of cajun spice or simply salt and pepper. I recommend you dry out your seeds for a good 12-24 hours to make sure they aren’t still soggy when you toast them. Find our how to toast your pumpkin seeds here.

Go Get Those Pumpkins

I have never done so much with pumpkins, and I thought the family would be tired of it by now but that’s just how great pumpkins are. They taste completely different in every dish. The pumpkin pie was definitely a hit in this house and has now been requested that I make it every year! Other pumpkin recipes we are going to try before the season is out, will be using our bigger pumpkins to make a cheesy fondue and making a lovely campfire pumpkin stew for Halloween. Now go get your pumpkins, save them from being binned, chop them up and create some awesome tasty dishes for all the family.

Have a Happy Halloween everyone!

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WILD GARLIC PESTO

RECIPES

WILD GARLIC

So word is getting around that I am very interested in plants and cooking with wild food, I have currently three books on the go all about wild cooking and a mountain of ideas! I was told there was some wild garlic growing in the garden which apart from the initial idea of soup I didn’t really know what else I should do with it, so I had a little research for some cool dishes! I did a little research on the plant too and was very suprised to find out how this plant can be mixed up with another poisonous plant called Lily-of-the-Valley. This can happen when the flowers aren’t in bloom which being at the beginning of spring they aren’t. The main thing that distinguishes this plant from anything else is that it smells very strongly of onion and garlic! Their leaves are also formed differently I noticed after researching, but to be on the safe side I double checked with the garden owner. Pesto seemed to be the most simple, popular recipe with just a few basic ingredients that we already had in the cupboard so I thought why not give it a go.

WILD GARLIC

Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) also known as Ramsons have beautiful long green leaves and you can usually smell them before you spot them as they have a very strong onion/garlic scent. When raw they are quite strong to eat that are similar to chives, cooking them helps reduce the flavour. You will find Wild Garlic in woodland areas and damp places.

TOP TIPS FOR PICKING WILD GARLIC

  • Make sure you can identify wild garlic by an experienced forager, they can be identified by their leaves and distinct smell but can potentially be mixed up with similar looking poisonous plants.
  • Ask permission to pick and do not remove bulbs from the ground as they will not grow back.
  • Thoroughly wash leaves thoroughly before use
  • You can eat all of the plant including the flowers when in bloom.
  • Cook leaves and treat like spinach if you prefer a milder flavour.

WILD GARLIC PESTO

WILD GARLIC-5

Ingredients

100g Raw Wild Garlic leaves

50g Cashews (Pine nuts or whatever you prefer)

100ml Olive Oil

50g Parmesan

Black Pepper

RECIPE

  • Chop up the washed Wild Garlic leaves into relatively small pieces.
  • Place the nuts and parmesan with the leaves and use a blender to break it all down.
  • Introduce olive oil gradually until you have your preferred consistency.
  • Add some black pepper to finish.
  • Use as a sauce or as to add a bit of flavour to your dish.
  • Keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

WILD GORSE RECIPES

RECIPES

GORSE-3

I really love finding new ways of making the things we love to make, like cupcakes for instance. I told April we would make some more cupcakes during the holidays together so thought this would be a good way to combine some foraging as well as baking…..I first discovered Gorse in the South West of England although they grow well up here in Scotland just a little bit later. I have read about foragers using gorse flowers for wine and beer and I decided to see what else I could make out of these and if possible to store for the future. Researching, the most common theme in recipes seemed to be making a gorse syrup to add to things such as cakes, pancakes, cordials etc so I thought this would be a good start and we set out for some gorse bushes that we have spotted on our daily walk.

GORSE

Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is a very common shrub that can be found in heaths and cliffs and is noticeable by it’s beautiful yellow flowers with very green prickly leaves. If you have not come upon a gorse bush, you will be pleasantly surprised by not only their vivid yellow beauty but when you get up close or crush the petals in your fingers it smells just like coconut. If you eat them raw also they have the slight taste of grassy almonds.

TOP TIPS FOR GORSE PICKING

  • Pick Gorse flowers in Spring time and only where there are many to pick, leave the rest for the wildlife!
  • Be prepared to walk, gorse bushes tend to grow in places that are hard to get to.
  • Be patient, Gorse bushes are very prickly and you cannot quickly pick them…you can try to wear gloves but you may struggle to get at them.
  • Try pick the whole flower and not squash them too much.
  • Take a good basket or tub to catch them to make quicker work.
  • Once collected make sure you rinse the flowers thoroughly to get rid of any little creatures!

 

WILD GORSE SYRUP

GORSE-7

Ingredients

100g Gorse Flowers

300ml Water

300g Caster Sugar

RECIPE

  • Put the sugar and water into a medium pan and bring to the boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Place the clean gorse flowers into the pan and boil for a couple minutes more, take off the heat and set aside overnight or for 6 hours at least.
  • Bring the mixture to boil once more for 10 minutes for a stronger flavour and then set aside to cool.
  • Use a muslin or fine sieve to drain the syrup into a sealed container, this can be used straight away or stored in the fridge for up to a month.

 

WILD GORSE AND COCONUT CUPCAKES

GORSE-5

Ingredients

110g Butter

2 x Eggs

110g Golden Caster Sugar

110g Self Raising Flour

2 tbsp Gorse Syrup

25g Desiccated Coconut

Pinch of Salt

 

For Decorating

200g Icing Sugar

Water

2 tsp Gorse Syrup

Gorse Flowers for topping

 

RECIPE

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and fill a cupcake tray with 12 cases (this recipe may make more!)
  • Beat the butter and sugar together, you can do this by hand but it’s easier with an electric whisk.
  • Add the eggs in slowly so not to curdle until the mixture is even and soft.
  • Sieve the flour and bit of salt to the mixture stirring it constantly.
  • Add the gorse syrup (I added 2 tbsp but you can add more or less!) and the dessicated coconut until even.
  • Using two spoons, spoon the mixture evenly into the cases probably around half way giving them space to rise in the oven.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes in the middle of the oven until golden brown and use a tooth pick/skewer to check they’re cooked evenly (it should come out clean!)
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  • To make the icing sugar, pour the icing into a bowl and gradually introduce some water, the consistency is key for topping. If you add too much water in you will flood the cupcakes, you need the consistency to be thick that gradually moulds over the top. Add some more Gorse syrup for flavouring if desired.
  • Once the cupcakes have cooled down, place a small amount of icing onto the top of the cupcake and circle it around in your hand to let the icing drip evenly, place a small gorse flower in the middle and set them set.

 

WILD GORSE GIN COCKTAIL

GORSE-4

Ingredients

Gin

Indian Tonic Water/Lemonade

Ice cubes

Gorse Syrup

Gorse Flowers

RECIPE

  • Fill an ice tray with some gorse petals and add water only half way, let this freeze. Once fully frozen, repeat and fill to the top with more petals and water so the flower petals are even throughout the cube.
  • Fill up your glass with petal ice cubes, your favourite gin and around 5 tbsp of gorse syrup (or as much as you like!)
  • Add either Indian tonic water or lemonade if you prefer something sweeter…
  • Add some lemon to finish…enjoy!