It's that time of year again - time to grab all the pumpkins you need before they disappear forever at the stroke of midnight on Hallowe'en.
I may have overdone it this year, but at least I was able to match up pumpkin sizes to everything I needed, from salad bowls to a pig-roasting tray.
Eschewing my usual Pumpkin-In-A-Chicken-In-A-Pumpkin-Palaver
I decided to try Pig-In-A-Pumpkin for a change.
Muh. It's OK, but it takes an awful
lot of effort to get it to taste as good as it did, and a lot of time too.
I invited eight people before I'd remembered to count up my chairs (7)
so in some ways it was quite handy that my flakey friend Jenny decided not to show up,
despite the fact that she was the pivotal link between my sailing and studying buddies.
Even so I was slightly concerned that my meagre-looking pork shoulder joint would never feed everyone.
No need to worry - they didn't even get through half of it:
when the pork is pulled into shreds it goes a surprisingly long way
(though it needed more sauce, a factor not helped if one of your guests goes all Freddy Kruger on the pork's ass
and slashes its pumpkin to pieces thus losing all the precious, precious juices.
I'm looking at you
Frankly I vastly underestimated the amount of work in getting this meal out,
whether because feeding 8 guests rather than my usual dinner party of 4 is a whole exponential increase in the time required,
or because cutting and cleaning dozens (well, 6) pumpkins is a lot of work I hadn't counted for,
or because of my poor choice of particularly labour-intensive dishes (I'm looking at you
Salt Cod, Chickpea and Chorizo Soup!) I'm not sure.
I mean, it's not as if I hadn't set up a sufficiently detailed meal plan
but for whatever reason I was still desperately scooping out Bloody Tomatoes
when the first guests arrived.
Despite having taken off the whole day before to get a head start.
As a result a couple of dishes I had planned: crackling
roasted pumpkin (we probably didn't miss those
some Borlotti beans to pimp out the pork (completely unnecessary as it turned out)
and a broccoli side dish
(to break up the rather monotonous pumpkin colours of the main course), never quite made it to the table.
There was also a lot of oven juggling to slow things down - I think if I was going to attempt something along these lines again,
I'd prepare a larger number of smaller stuffed or filled pumpkins that I could fit a half-dozen or so in the oven at once
and that would cook in a shorter time. Maybe next year?
Anyway, what with a bucket-load of empty Bloody Tomatoes, a dozen bloody egg yolks and a score of bloody pumpkins to get rid of
I won't be starving any time soon! Which is handy - as it means I can avoid eating my disastrous
Bloody mary served in a hollowed-out tomato
Serves 8 - or a couple of thirsty lushes
I had the idea of this novelty method of serving bloody marys
when I failed to get that drink during one of our
sailing trips to the Churches Hotel
due to their lack of tomato juice.
I'm glad to finally try it out.
Pretty cool - if a bit time-consuming to prepare, and very wasteful of tomatoes. You'd better have a leftover vodka-flavoured tomato recipe on hand!
I figured I couldn't do any worse than follow Felicity Cloake's
for the bloody mary.
- 1 Beef tomato per person
- 300ml vodka
- 5cm piece of fresh horseradish
- 1l good tomato juice
- 2 tsp Tabasco
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp celery salt
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- 2 tbsp amontillado or cream sherry (cream is sweeter)
- Celery, to serve (optional)
- salt & black pepper to taste
Grate the horseradish into a pitcher
Mix together the tomato juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and celery salt and briefly squeeze each lemon wedge into the jug,
leaving some juice in each.
Season well with black pepper, add more salt if necessary and check the spice level for your taste, adjusting if necessary.
Drop the lemon wedges into the jug and stir together well. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Cut a small hole in an upper slope of each beef tomato, cut away the stalk inside the tomato,
and using a teaspoon handle scoop out the tomato innards as best you can.
Tidy up the hole with a sharp knife, cut a short piece of celery to sit in the hole and lay a straw on the celery stick.
Pour the vodka and sherry into the jug and stir well with a celery stick. Using a funnel, carefully fill each tomato.
Pumpkin Bread Machine Bread
Very good bread with a rich taste and firm texture - though you can overdo the seeds.
Makes a 1kg loaf
- 2½ cups strong white flour
- 1 cup rye flour
- 1 cup pumpkin purée
- 1 heaped tsp salt
- about 1/8 tsp or so each of ginger, cumin, cardamom, or garlic powder
- 3 tblsps olive oil
- 1 tblsp brown sugar
- ½ cup milk less 1 tablespoon
- 1 egg
- 2 tsps/1 sachet dried yeast
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
- ¼ cup roughly chopped walnuts
Beat the eggs and mix in the milk, pumpkin, sugar, spices and oil.
Pour into the bread machine.
Mix up the flours and salt and add to the bread machine.
Add the yeast.
Salt Cod, Chickpea and Chorizo Soup (with Pumpkin)
soup fish meat
For a special Autumn edition I added pumpkin to
Emma Sturgess's base recipe
and went to the absurd effort of actually cooking the soup in
You really need to use a good stock (I used chicken but I'm sure pork would also be fine) for this, but it's definitely worth it.
I was surprised how difficult it was to find un-pre-packaged Serrano ham here in Edinburgh that I could have sliced up to my specifications.
I had to go to all the way to Harvey Nichols
and pretend to be someone's manservant for God's sake.
If you simply can't find Spanish Serrano ham, or be bothered to trek through haughty clothing stores, then substitute an Italian prosciutto like Parma or Speck.
Also substitute thyme for oregano, if you can't find any fresh.
Fortunately for my sanity I can
buy salt cod homemade by
my local fishmonger
So there: local
- 400g cod fillet, skinned and cut into 2cm pieces
- 1tbsp sea salt
- 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 200g Chorizo in ½cm slices
- 400g can chickpeas
- 1 small pumpkin, de-seeded, roasted
- 1 red pepper, cut into 1cm cubes
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika
- 1.5 litres chicken stock
- pinch of saffron
- 1tsp chopped oregano
- 75g Serrano ham, in about 1cm cubes
- 125g baby spinach
- crusty bread, to serve
Put the cod in a dish, sprinkle with salt and chill in the fridge for 1hr.
Halve or quarter the red pepper, remove the seeds and grill until the skin chars.
Place in a plastic bag to cool, then peel off the skin and cut the flesh into 1cm squares.
Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the carrot, then the onion, and cook for 10 min until softened.
Add the garlic and cook a little, then the Chorizo and sprinkle with the paprika once it begins to darken.
Add the chickpeas, red pepper, stock, saffron and oregano and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10min.
If you're adding pumpkin, then cut the pumpkin in half, scrape out the insides and set aside the cleaned seeds for
Lay cut side down on a lightly oiled oven tray and roast at Gas Mark 5 for 20-30 minutes
until softened and the skin starts to separate from the flesh.
Peel and cut into chunks to add to the soup.
Remove the cod from the fridge, rinse, pat dry and add to the soup with the Serrano ham and spinach.
Simmer for 5 min more.
Divide the soup between individual bowls and serve immediately with plenty of crusty bread.
Pulled Pig in a Pumpkin
Slow-cooked pork shoulder, finished in a pumpkin.
main meat crockpot
There's something of a problem with slow-cooking pork - it dries it out.
Which is why the method is usually used to make pulled pork, which can be re-lubricated with an unctuous sauce. Barbecue, say.
I used apple/cider flavourings rather than barbecue to make the sauce for this autumnal dish, but you definitely need to get it as rich as possible.
Then hopefully your guests won't notice the slightly twiggy aspect to the meat!
The slow-cooking will break down collagen in the meat (usually a well-muscled cut such as shoulder) to gelatin producing very tender meat,
but the necessary temperature (70-80°C/160-180°F) and time required for this to happen
exceeds the temperature at which the meat fibres begin to shrink and release their moisture,
drying the flesh out (60°C/140°F).
The effect isn't too bad when you have pieces of meat in a stew, which can absorb much of the flavour and moisture of the sauce,
but is quite obvious when cooking a single piece.
Here I wanted to keep the pork as a single piece to serve cooked in a pumpkin,
but I knew that I wouldn't be able to cook the joint for long enough to tenderise it in the pumpkin without setting it on fire,
so I opted for getting the joint started in my slow cooker.
The meat could then be finished off in a pumpkin for a shorter time,
but at a relatively higher temperature in the oven without destroying the pumpkin,
and at the same time nicely crisping the generous layer of fat I had left on the shoulder joint.
You'll need a joint which fits snugly into your slow cooker for this to work:
I took my cooker insert along to the butcher and had him trim the joint to suit.
You'll also need a good fitting pumpkin for the final roasting, so it helps if you have a bit of selection to hand!!
Get your butcher to pick out a shoulder joint with a generous covering of fat, but trim away any skin. You can keep that for crackling.
- 2kg shoulder joint of pork - or to fit snugly in your slow cooker.
- 1-2 Granny Smith apples
- glass of Calvados
- 1 large pumpkin
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed
- couple teaspoons powdered ginger
- 1 teaspoon salt and a generous grinding of pepper
- 2 bottles dry cider
- 2 litres apple juice
Thoroughly rub your pork joint with the garlic, ginger, salt and pepper.
Cover it, or wrap in a plastic bag, and leave in the fridge at least overnight.
Remove the joint a good hour before you need to start it cooking.
Peel, core and slice the apple and line the bottom of your slow cooker. Moisten with a glass or two of Calvados.
Place the pork in fat-side up, set the cooker on low, and leave the joint to tenderise.
You can use a meat thermometer to check its internal temperature -
its centre should spend some reasonable length of time at 80°C to break down the muscle fibres.
I cooked mine overnight for 12 hours - though I suspect you could get away with significantly less.
Allow the meat to cool in the cooking liquor (this will help the dried fibres to slightly reabsorb some moisture),
and when completely cool remove the joint to a draining tray.
Collect and separate all of the stock and fat produced by the cooking.
Use the fat for your roasties, and strain and reduce the stock to a reasonably thick sauce.
You may need to bulk out the gravy using some stock if you haven't ended up with enough juices from the cooker.
Meanwhile reduce a couple of bottles of cider and two litres of apple juice to a syrupy consistency.
You can keep everything at this stage until you're ready to start dinner.
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6.
Choose a pumpkin into which the cooked pork joint will fit snugly.
Cut off the top and scrape out the innards and inside walls until all the stringy material has been removed.
Fit in the pork joint, fat-side up and put in the oven.
Reheat the reduced pork juices and apple/cider reduction together in a pot.
Once the fat has crisped up nicely (15-30 minutes) you can turn pour the hot sauce over the meat,
put it back in the oven and turn down to Gas Mark 4 (if you want),
and cook until the meat has thoroughly reheated all the way through (I was happy with 55°C at the centre,
but 75°C is the recommended reheating temperature for wimps and pregnant women).
Serve the meat from the pumpkin so everyone gets an admiring look,
shredding (pulling) much of the meat of each slice and making sure to mix in a generous amount of sauce.
dessert veg vegan
Sharp, but refreshing. A good accompaniment, but probably not a sorbet you would each much of on its own.
You can, though, easily tune it to your taste.
- 2" root ginger
- 3-4 limes
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
Put 3 cups of water with the sugar into a pot.
Grate in the peel of two of the limes, and add an inch or so of chopped ginger.
Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes to infuse with the fruit and ginger flavours, then strain and set aside to cool.
Use a zester or a sharp knife to curl off nice twists of peel from another lime and add to the liquid.
Juice the other inch of ginger (it really helps if you have a juice machine, but you can do it by hand with a grater and a strainer otherwise).
Juice three or four limes to get ½-1 cup lime juice.
Now add lime and fresh ginger juice to the sorbet liquid to taste - the ginger is very sharp and a little bitter so you won't want to overdo it, but you will probably want to add at least some.
Bear in mind that the flavours will be slightly dulled when the mixture is served frozen.
When you're happy with the flavour balances, fire up your ice machine and freeze the mixture.
Remember to move it out of the freezer into the fridge about half an hour before serving so it can soften up a little.
Serves as many as you like.
Although this never made it into my Pumpkin Palooza dinner, I did get around to making it afterwards
at least partly to get rid of the slab of belly pork which was slowly turning leathery and stinking in my fridge.
I bought a fat hunk of belly pork just for the crackling, and had the butcher leave on a very generous layer of fat, and even some of the meat.
I scored, then spiced and salted the skin just before roasting,
unlike this rendition
which to be honest turned out better -
some of my pieces in this round turned out either too hard or just a bit rubbery.
That might be down to the age of the belly though.
If I learned anything from this latest attempt
it's that you're better off completely scoring the skin (about a fingers-width apart) even if you then slice up into fingers for roasting.
- pork skin - a piece of belly pork is good
- fennel seeds
Preheat your oven as hot as it will go (250°C/Gas Mark 9 in my case).
Thoroughly dry the skin and use a Stanley knife (with the blade half-retracted to the right depth)
to deeply score the skin all over in a diamond pattern about a finger-width apart.
Avoid cutting right through :)
Slice the pork into nice fat fingers across the direction of scoring.
Grind fennel seeds into a powder, mix with fine sea salt and generously rub into the pork.
Spread the pork fingers out on a wire rack inside a (shallow) roasting tin skin-side up, and put in the top of the hot oven for 15 minutes.
Check that the skin has bubbled satisfactorily and turn the heat down to 190°C/Gas Mark 5 for another 15 minutes,
or 180°C/Gas Mark 4 for another 30.
Don't let them burn!