Saturday, 27 October 2012

Pimping Up Your Pumpkin (with Pumpkin Soup & Pumpkin Cake)

I love the Autumn and the hues of orange that cover the trees, skies, pavements and greengrocer veggie racks.  In particular, I love pumpkins.

One thing I like about pumpkins is that they only seem to be available this time of year unlike other veggies that are available throughout, which makes them seem that little bit more special.

There are two types of pumpkin.  The large ones that are sold this time of year, grown for size and carving which are quite hollow inside.  Then there are the culinary ones that are full of flesh and lend themselves well to roasting and cooking.



My Dad uses the seeds from my carving pumpkins to grow culinary ones in his vegetable patch so I get the best of both pumpkin worlds!   Here’s how you can do the same: http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/basics/techniques/growfruitandveg_growingpumpkins1.shtml


In my Dad's vegetable patch.  (Late Summer).




The pumpkin now ripe from Dad's vegetable patch - ready to be cooked




As thoughts turn back to carving pumpkins, it's with a heavy heart when I see discarded pumpkin flesh as it seems all people want to do is carve the outer shell for Halloween lanterns (or Jack-o-Lanterns as they say in the USA) and not want to use its inner goodness.

Within its bright outer shell, the flesh contains health-boosting elements such as vitamins A, C, E and K alongside antioxidants and all important iron.
  
The delicious goodness can be converted into wholesome warming meals and should you not wish to use your pumpkin supply in one go, it’s easily freezable. 

Year after year, I make Pumpkin Soup and after a few versions that haven’t quite made the grade, my lighted spiced version has now been perfected and is my signature soup dish.  I cover the flesh in spices (paprika, cumin, mixed spice), cook it with a potato and a little sweet potato plus vegetable stock and finally blend it with double cream.  You can of course increase the spice levels as your palette dictates but the levels I include pacify a meeker spice tolerance, so if you wish, you can ‘pimp up your pumpkin’ as your heart desires.  

My Pumpkin Soup served up with a drizzle of cream

A predictable choice of pumpkin usage I know, but the soup is delicious, warmingly wonderful and welcoming on these drizzly Autumnal days and makes you feel all cosy as the nights draw in.

The pumpkin’s flexibility is such that it can morph into the dessert arena from its savoury safe hold with much ease.   For our American cousins, sweet dish pumpkin recipes, namely Pumpkin Pie, is a stalwart USA favourite featured on every US diner menu.  Its popularity as a sweet ingredient in the UK is increasing with recipe emphasis on delights such as muffins and puddings. 

And whilst my soup bubbles away on the stove, I make my Pumpkin Cake.  Although a lot darker and heavier than its sponge counterparts, I urge you to try it as it can also double up as a dessert, especially when served warm with a cool cream.

Pumpkin Cake as per the recipe but with cocoa and no icing

So here’s my plea.  When carving your pumpkin, scoop out the flesh and cook with it – whether it is for something sweet or savoury.  Or at the very least freeze it to use for another time and if you’re feeling very resourceful, you can keep the seeds for growing your own like my Dad does and begin the cycle of pumpkin-life right from the very beginning.

But whether you’re carving or cooking (hopefully both!), I wish you Happy Halloween and when in the kitchen, remember to Pimp Up Your Pumpkin!

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Post has been submitted as part of the Simple And In Season event for October.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Solihull News - "Recipe of the Week"

Word In Veg Ways has been given the honour of being featured as 'Recipe of the Week' in the Solihull Times!

Read all about it .......



Sunday, 7 October 2012

Cobnut, Blackberry & Fennel Salad. A Forager's Supper

As the last of the blackberries hang from the hedgerows, here's a recipe for a lovely salad that offers a delicious way of using them up.  And for those that wish to continue with the foraging theme for this dish, cobnuts are a wonderful way of adding crunch to the salad and although having a strong-hold in 'the garden of England' - the county of Kent, they can be found elsewhere if you look hard enough.

Cobnuts gained popularity amongst the Victorians and Edwardians and were often served by the rich as an accompaniment with port and cheese.  With direct rail lines between London and Kent in the 1800's, transporting cobnuts from their Kentish plantations was made easy and they were sold in the capital's markets.  However during the First World War, the production of cobnuts ceased as growers changed to farming other crops that were more profitable and the cobnut trees disappeared.  Now cobnut trees are making a come-back across Britain, still largely centred in Kent, but nevertheless, good news for eager foragers! For more information about cobnuts, visit: www.kentishcobnuts.co.uk

My dear friend Lucy, a fellow foodie and forager fan, has given me her recipe for a Cobnut, Blackberry & Fennel Salad (below).  If you cannot source cobnuts, they can be bought via www.kentishcobnuts.co.uk,  although hazelnuts make an excellent replacement.

Also to note, an extra bonus for vegetarians – six cobnuts are said to contain the same amount of protein as a 4oz sirloin steak! So all the more reason to go nutty and get foraging this Autumn!!


Toasted Cobnut, Fennel and Blackberry Salad with Goats Cheese


For the dressing:
freshly squeezed lemon juice
drizzle of sesame oil
pinch of sea salt
black pepper
raspberry balsamic vinegar
(or regular balsamic vinegar if preferred)

For the Salad:
1 small bulb fennel,very thinly sliced
1 handful of juicy blackberries
Veggie parmesan shavings
toasted cob nuts (or hazelnuts)
mixed salad leaves
lemon wedges

Serve with Goats’ Cheese




·         Slice a bulb of raw fennel really thinly, almost wafer thin.
·         Dress with freshly squeezed lemon juice, a drizzle of sesame oil, and lots of salt and  black pepper. 
·         Add a splash of raspberry balsamic vinegar if you have it (or ordinary balsamic vinegar) before adding this to a bowl of mixed salad leaves, toss well.  
·         Scatter over some nice ripe blackberries, some roughly chopped toasted cob nuts (or hazelnuts) and lemon wedges.
·         Place slices of slightly melted goats' cheese on top and serve with crusty sourdough or ciabatta bread.