Tag Archives: Pumpkin

Recipe: Pumpkin jam (or there’s more to pumpkin than soup and lanterns)

It’s that time of year again when any house with resident kids rush out to buy one of those large orange things, only seen once a year, that overflow from the supermarket shelf for about a week only to disappear again shortly afterwards. Many people have no idea what to do with them (apart from the obvious lantern) and so hundreds end up binned, without so much as trying to put the scooped out innards to good use.

It’s a shame that many people find pumpkin so difficult to deal with. I love pumpkin. I’m so glad they are now in season as they are one of my great Autumn pleasures. While the stereotypical Halloween pumpkin only seems to stick around for a short while (no doubt all stocks are depleted over the Halloween period), there are still a variety of squash’s and gourds that make a more prolonged appearance.  When it comes to eating seasonally Pumpkin is what should be taking pride of place on our table. Not only do they look beautiful, they taste fantastic and because they are really a fruit they are totally versatile. Use them in a creamy comforting soup, roasted with some wintry herbs (like thyme and garlic or rosemary) or add some zingy spices; chilli, lemongrass or ginger gives an exotic edge as does a sprinkle of Zahar or Sumac or add sugar and spice and it turns into the filling for an all American pumpkin pie.

I’ve blogged about my pumpkin soup with chilli and ginger before and true to form I will be making it again this year, but I’m at risk of being predictable so I thought this year I’d also try something different, pumpkin and ginger jam. I know, it sounds weird, a bit like the tomato chilli jam I’ve made recently, but I found a basic recipe in one of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstalls columns, added a couple of touches of my own and voila! Pumpkin to last through the winter, to serve with Christmas meats or cheese or even on my toast. Now I just need to see if the kids will eat it!

Spiced pumpkin jam:

1kg pumpkin flesh chopped small

an inch of peeled and finely chopped ginger

a good pinch of pink peppercorns

a pinch of chilli flakes

the zest and juice of one orange and one lemon

600g sugar

Mix all the ingredients in a big saucepan and leave over night to macerate. I used 600g of sugar, but the original recipe used 900g so if it seems like it needs more sugar add another 100g. I don’t think the 900g is necessary.

The next day, bring the mixture slowly to the boil stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Boil rapidly for about 20 to 30 minutes or until it has reached a setting point. Test for a set by placing a saucer in the freezer until very cold. Then drop half a teaspoon of the jam on to it and see if a skin forms. If it does your jam is ready. Leave to cool and then pour into sterilised jam jars. The recipe only made four small jars, but the gorgeous jewelled orange colour and sweet but sharp taste reminded me of marmalade….our own British version!




Filed under British food, Foraging for fruit, home cooking, local produce, preserving, Uncategorized

The Joys of Pumpkin (Pumpkin soup with chilli and ginger)

Halloween, followed closely by bonfire night, is a well entrenched tradition for our children and their friends, highly anticipated, planned and enthusiastically enjoyed by all. Therefore it was with some disappointment that I reluctantly cancelled our Halloween dinner. I’d looked forward to a vampire theme menu and dressing up but the usual problem prevailed, not enough bookings. Themed nights are still a bit hit and miss for me, but that doesn’t stop me trying and so I will continue to do so.

Despite no ‘official’ dinner, the night was duly marked and enjoyed with all the trappings of a traditional Halloween; pumpkin carving, masses of sweets (for trick or treaters), dressing up in spooky costumes, the consumption of plenty of hot pumpkin soup, followed up by tarte tatin with its luscious caramel apple centre.

Vampires abound

Gruesome gangsters

a few hags…well two actually. Notice the teen looks rather beautiful, hhmmm

Pumpkin itself tends to be overlooked and hugely underrated. Most people will simply carve theirs out and throw away the flesh, under the impression that it is a watery and insipid vegetable. I’m amazed at how many people I hear say they don’t like pumpkin, but I often wonder what kind of experience they’ve had of it.  Perhaps in a bland and tasteless pie, or mashed to within an inch of its life, or even in a thin, uninspired and under seasoned soup. I simply think that with the right kind of advice on what to do with it most people will warm to pumpkin soup.

My own Pumpkin  soup with chilli and ginger (adapted from a River Cafe recipe) seems to have won many Pumpkin haters over recently. With the glut we’ve had at Moelyci I seem to have a constant pot of it on the go. It’s so easy everyone should have a go at making it!

Simply peel and finely chop a couple of red onions and fry gently in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and 50g butter. When soft add a couple of crushed garlic cloves, the leaves from a few sprigs of fresh marjoram, about an inch or two of fresh ginger peeled and grated and cook for 30 seconds before adding 1.5kg (that’s about 3 and a quarter pounds) of pumpkin and 150g scrubbed and diced new potatoes. I say new, but generally its main crop potatoes at this time of year and I can’t see much difference really. Cover the vegetables in the pan with good vegetable stock and season with salt, pepper and a small crumbled dried red Chilli (or use fresh if you would like it to knock your socks off). Simmer gently until cooked, about 20 minutes or so. Allow to cool briefly before blitzing in a blender. Check the seasoning then serve with toasted crostini (basically ciabatta, crisped in the oven or toasted under the grill, drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with garlic), and a bit of grated parmesan.

This soup cries autumn! It’s warming and comforting, not just for Halloween, but for the whole of the season, well at least until those pumpkins run out.

Even Vampires and hags need pumpkin soup!

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Filed under British food, family budget cooking, home cooking, local produce, Recipes, seasonal food

Italian River Cafe inspired dinner accompanied by a good old sing-song round the piano

The instruction for this private dinner for twelve was soup to begin, red meat for main and plenty of everything!! Simon, who organised the evening was a returning guest, this time accompanied by a different group of friends, mainly teachers, but all lovers of good food.

With the simple instructions above I settled on a seasonal, River Cafe inspired menu. I use the River Cafe Cook book a lot at home  and I particularly love their Pumpkin soup recipe (although I usually add a bit of ginger) so I decided to do this for starter, especially since Pumpkins are just coming into season and we’ve had so many at Moelyci. For main I chose a dish of braised beef wrapped in Coppa de Parma, with Parmesan mash and seasonal veg.  Living in Wales and not having the choice of deli’s and shops available elsewhere, I ordered my Coppa di Parma and aged Parmesan from Italian online deli nife is life and amazingly they delivered to my postcode (believe me, not everywhere does) and within two days!!

For dessert I put my own twist on the classic Italian Tiramisu (one of my favourite ever puds), this time with cointreau and white chocolate (I have also made it with Baileys and white chocolate which is just as yummy) and served with a drizzle of sharp Tayberry sauce).

The twelve made for a very cosy group, but having been before they were prepared for this. Sat at two tables of six (a girls table and a boys table!) we started the evening with Pomegranite Bellini’s (Three parts Prosecco one part Pomegranite) and Focaccia ‘shots’ (al la msmarmitelover ). All ran smoothly until Anya, one of my teen helpers had to disappear…she’d given vague indications about how long she could stay and what time she  had to leave (her social life was calling!!) but she chose the moment immediately before the main course was about to be plated to make her exit…subsequently for the first time ever, I had a little panic….well quite a big panic actually. The beef took longer to cook than anticipated (twice as long actually), I worried about guests waiting too long for their mains, then I worried that the food was going to go cold as I struggled to carve the beef in an attractive way….it started to fall apart….(the beef not the evening…although I was well on my way to do doing the same). The sauce ran out and I had to make more. I’m sure they were just being polite when I asked if the beef was too red/not hot enough/OK….they said yes, but I know it could have been better. So sick was I of trying to rectify the main course that when one or two of the men hopefully suggested seconds, I think I was a little too quick to say ‘sorry, none left’.

After the battle with the beef everything else was stress free. Thankfully the Tiramisu redeemed me, especially with the girls who raved over it. One lady put away three portions (some passed over buy the men who didn’t have a sweet tooth)….the plate was wrestled from her grip as she proceeded to embark on plate four!!…One friend said “if there’s food about, she will eat it”….As a very fit looking sports teacher, I guessed it didn’t do her any harm!!!

Food, beer and wine left little room for cheese, although some gave it a go. Pots of coffee rolled out and the entertainment began. One chap turned to me and said “10% of the Welsh can sing…..and the other 90% do!!” before launching into song with the rest of them. At some point the piano lid was opened and the singing was accompanied by our very out of tune upright.  As the evening drew on I wondered if the neighbours were able to hear all of it….

The last time Simon visited supper club (read back over festive pants and piss pots of plonk) he showed us his (festive) pants. He had strict instructions not to repeat the event. By the end of the night we were once again graced with a vision of Batman pants (no I didn’t take a picture, but if he does it again next time he comes I think I will be obliged to!!).

It was a good night and I learnt a few lessons. No complicated beef. Make sure the teen waitress is committing to help the whole night. Tune the piano and don’t let strange men show you their pants in the kitchen!

The menu for the evening was:

Pomegranite Bellinis and Focaccia shots

Zuppa di Zucca (Pumpkin soup, with chilli and ginger)…served with garlic-parmesan croutons. For six people you need 1.5k pumpkin flesh chopped, 150g potatoes peeled and chopped, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 50g butter, 2 small red onions finely chopped, 2 garlic cloves, 4 large sprigs of marjoram, 1 small red chilli or dried chilli finely chopped,  about an inch of ginger, peeled and grated, 1 litre chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you are vegetarian).

Cook the onion in the oil and butter until soft. Stir in garlic, marjoram, pumpkin and potato and cook for a minute or two. Add chilli, ginger, salt and pepper then add enough stock to just cover the pumpkin. Simmer on a lowish heat until the pumpkin is tender (20 mins or so). If it needs more stock just keep topping up.

When its cooked strain off about a third of the stock and set aside. Puree the rest in a blender or food processor. The mixture will be very think. Return to the pan with the stock put aside. Check seasoning and serve. I served it with sliced and toasted ciabatta or sourdough, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil. I also scattered over a handfull of parmesan cheese.

scooping out the pumpkins for the soup

Braised beef fillet with garlic, rosemary and Coppa di Parma

a mixture of orange, white, rainbow and purple carrots

the teens hard at work

Parmesan mash, rainbow carrots dada and seasonal beans

White chocolate and cointreau Tiramisu with Tayberry sauce

Large dishes of Tiramisu...looking somewhat like crumble with the white chocolate coated top

plated tiramisu with tayberry sauce

Welsh cheeses, chutney and coffee

the boys table

the girls

sing-song around the piano

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