Crusted Pumpkin with a Yogurt Dip

Crusted Pumpkin

It’s the first week back to work for me, and boy has 2013 started off with a bang. I feel like I’ve had the hit the ground running from the airport since arriving back from Hong Kong. It’s also really rather cold in London compared to the shockingly low temps of 11°C I had to endure over the holiday so all I want to eat is warming comfort food. Amazingly I had all the ingredients for this at home, plus it uses up breadcrumbs that tend to sit around forever in the cupboard. What’s not to like?

Crusted Pumpkin:
a small pumpkin
A large handful of grated parmesan
A smaller handful of panko breadcrumbs
A handful parsley - finely chopped
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Zest of a lemon
1 garlic clove
3 tbsp olive oil
A pinch of sea salt
A few cracks of black pepper
4 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tsp sumac

Oven to 190°C. Cut your pumpkin into 1 cm wedges, leave the skin on. Get them on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. In a separate bowl mix all of the crust ingredients together (except for the yogurt and sumac), you can use ordinary breadcrumbs of course, but I don’t have any of those. Besides, get yourself a bag of panko it’s way *way* nicer. You’ll wait to taste your mix before adding salt as the cheese will be salty.

Brush the pumpkin slices generously with the oil and coat them with the crust mixture, you’ll want a few millimetres of the deliciousness. Gently pat the mixture to bind it better.

Whack it in the oven for around 30 minutes. I’ve burnt mine a wee bit as I left them in a bit long. Oh well. Texture!

While that’s cooking mix up your yogurt dip with some salt, pepper, maybe a bit of olive oil or cream if it’s not the consistency that you want. Sprinkle with the sumac before serving. Get those wedges out of the oven when done and maybe squeeze some lemon juice over them. Super easy and fun to eat.

Chinese Styled Pumpkin Stew with Kale and Mince

As the title suggests, this is a Chinese stew type dish which really reminds me of wintertime in Hong Kong. And after these past few cold rainy days, I really needed some HK styled comfort food. The type that has gloriously squidgy textures and an oyster saucy gravy that goes divinely with plain steamed rice. This is rather hilariously made with posh versions of all the 3 main ingredients of pumpkin, carrots and kale (Casperita squash, purple carrots and cavolo nero), obviously you can substitute with the more easily found versions in your grocery isle. I’ve also used Quorn mince instead of proper meat mince, if you would like to use real meat, go for pork mince. Failing that, turkey or chicken.

Chinese Pumpkin Stew:
1 small squash or pumpkin (Cantaloupe melon sized?)
1 carrot - chopped
2 generous handfuls of kale - shredded
2 cloves garlic - slightly smashed
4-6 shallots - quartered
1 tbsp veg oil
250 g mince
1/2 cup water
1-2 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tbsp chilli bean paste
2 cardamom pods - lightly smashed
1 whole star anise
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp white pepper
salt to taste
1 tsp cornflour (optional)

Oven to 170°C. Chop up your squash and cut it into smallish chunks, I left the skin on because I like the extra texture after roasting, toss them in a bowl with a bit of oil, white pepper and some salt. This is probably where the recipe isn’t strictly Chinese as not everyone has an oven back home, but I really like the slight crisping of the edges roasting provides. Roast until tender about 30-40 minutes.

While that’s roasting. Pan on the stove. Medium-high heat. Heat the oil then sauté the garlic and shallots until slightly tender. Add your smashed cardamom pod, star anise and cinnamon and fry to release some nice smells. Now add your mince and brown a bit. Carrots, the 1/2 cup of water, oyster sauce and the chill bean paste go in next. Cover and cook until the carrots are tender. The kale goes in last for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

The optional cornflour should be used to thicken the sauce at this point. In a small bowl, mix thoroughly with a tablespoon of cold water and add it to the pan and stir in well. Be careful! Too thick and it becomes horrible Chinese takeaway gloopy – and nobody needs that. Stir through your pumpkin and serve up. There should be enough to feed two. Or, one very hungry small person…

Thanksgiving Potluck: Pumpkin Pie

Last year, a friend of mine decided to host a Thanksgiving dinner. But as the task was a bit vast a pot luck dinner was agreed where each guest would focus on one element of the meal. It was a great success. This year Thanksgiving Potluck was had again, and it’s looking like a pretty nice tradition being established. Good food, good friends, and a moment to be thankful for the past year.

Last Thanksgiving I made a pumpkin pie. It was latticed, yummy but too massive for a comfortable after dinner treat. So this year, I used a different recipe and tried to focus on dainty.

The first thing you want to do is make the pie crust:

Basic Pie Crust:
260 g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
110 g unsalted butter
a 23 cm pie dish - greased
baking beans

Flour, salt and butter in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment. Beat at a low speed until they’re all combined and  you get a sandy consistency. Add a tablespoon of water and start to increase the mixing speed. When well mixed, add another tablespoon of water. You want to get a smooth even dough, but you don’t want to add too much water. It’s better to be patient and wait while that paddle it going round super quick to bring that dough together. Wrap in cling film. Rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

Oven to 170°C.

Lightly flour a work surface and roll that dough out and line your pie dish. Put some greaseproof paper on and fill with those baking beans. Partially blind bake this for 10 minutes. It should be a bit raw still. Keep that oven at 170°C and make that pie filling.

Pumpkin Pie:
1 egg
425 g tinned pumpkin puree
235 ml evaporated milk
220 g caster sugar
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp plain flour

In a large enough bowl, thoroughly mix up all these ingredients and pour them through a sieve into you’re slightly raw pie crust. I know, I know. I’m using tinned pumpkin puree…oooh…contentious. But you know what? I actually think it tastes nicer than prepping all that pumpkin myself. I usually like doing everything from scratch, but you get less of that green/fresh vegetable taste and I’m not keen on that in my desserts. Bake for  30-40 minutes, or until the filling has set and has lost that wobble when you shake it. Serve it with some ice cream or cream. Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving.

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