Saturday, 31 October 2009

Pumpkin Gnocchi

I've done a recipe for gnocchi, the delicious little potato dumplings, before, but this one is a bit different, and uses - yup - pumpkin instead of potato. My previous attempts at making Pumpkin gnocchi have always been a bit disappointing, coming out heavy & doughy, when gnocchi should be light & tender. This would be due to the rather watery nature of pumpkin, which would have me throwing in so much extra flour to the sticky mixture that I basically ended up with an unleavened bread mixture.

So the answer - drop gnocchi! Not 'proper' gnocchi, but teaspoons of gnocchi mixture dropped into boiling water. The results are a bit Cthulhu-ish, but delicious.

Pumpkin Gnocchi

500g Pumpkin, cooked & well mashed
1 egg, beaten
2 heaped tbsp plain flour
25g grated cheese (optional, it can be hard cheese, soft cheese, goats cheese, anything you've got lying around)

Ina bowl, mix together the pumpkin & egg. If you're adding cheese, nows the time to do it. Add salt & pepper (about a tsp of each, more or less if you prefer. You can add herbs too if you like, parsley or basil go well with pumpkin, or chilli flakes). Stir in the flour. You may need a bit extra, you're after a sort of stiff cake batter consistency, sticky, but fairly firm.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, and drop the batter, one teaspoon at a time, into the water (I like to scoop up a spoonful of batter in one teaspoon, then use a second teaspoon to scrape the batter off into the boiling water so it forms a mostly-roundish shape, and less Lovecraftian Horrors*). Don't overcrowd the pan, and scoop out with a slotted spoon when they rise to the surface & waggle their extremities at you.
Serve warm with some kind of sauce, cheese, lemon or chilli works well.
I baked them with courgettes, mushrooms, onion & chilli. And lots of cheese.

Om nom nom!

*Though what better Halloween recipe than 'Zhar & Lloigor in tomato sauce... I mean, the blood of the nameless. And cheese.'

Friday, 30 October 2009

Pumpkin Gratin

Gratin is one of those fancy-knickers culinary terms meaning 'with a golden crust' (from the obsolete French word grater, meaning to scrape. hey, maybe that's where cheese graters come from?) , this scrumptious crustyness can come from breadcrumbs, cheese or a sauce rich in egg or cream. Gratins are usually made in shallow, ovenproof dishes, which provide maximum scrumptious toppings.

Here's a recipe for Pumpkin Gratin. You can make it pretty simple, just pumpkin, seasoned & mashed, topped with breadcrumbs & grated cheese & shoved under the grill until crisp & browned, but when have I ever made things easy for myself..?

Pumpkin Gratin

500g (or thereabouts) Pumpkin or squash, peeled, deseeded & cut into chunks
2 courgettes, sliced
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded & chopped
1 400g pack of passata (or 1 can of chopped tomatoes)
50g sweetcorn (or more, or peas instead)
50g/1 cup breadcrumbs (pumpkinbread crumbs or cornbread crumbs would work well, or anything you have. Panko have a really nice, light texture)
25g hard cheese (I use vegetarian Parmesan, which I insist on calling Parmesain't)
1 tbs parsley
1 tbs basil

Add a little oil to a pan & fry the pumpkin for 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Add the courgette, onion, garlic & chilli & cook for a further 5 minutes or so. Add the passata & sweetcorn & cook until the pumpkin has softened (this can take only a couple of minutes, or as long as ten, depending on how big your pumpkin chunks are). Season & pour into a shallow ovenproof container. Preheat the grill & combine the breadcrumbs, cheese & herbs in a bowl. Scatter evenly over the pumpkin & slap under the grill. When it's toasty & golden brown (should only take 3 or 4 minutes), eat!

Plays well with salad, shredded carrot, salsa, Mexican bean salad, guacamole, chips & potato wedges.

Om nom nom!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Pumpkin Burgers

I've been experimenting on a recipe for Beetroot burgers, and figured it was worth having a go at making something similar with pumpkins. Gram flour is made from dried ground Chana dal (otherwise known as chickpeas), you can use plain flour, but chickpeas & pumpkins go really well together. The results were surprisingly good, though that could have been all the cheese...

Pumpkin Burgers (makes 4)

500g/2 cups Pumpkin (cooked & mashed. If it's watery pumpkin flesh, you might want to squeeze out some of the excess water)
3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp breadcrumbs (I used breadcrumbs from the Pumpkin bread recipe, but Panko also works well, cornbread too if you have any)
1 or 2 tbs Gram (Chickpea flour) or plain flour
1 tbs chives
1 tbs parsley
50g sweetcorn or peas (optional)

In a bowl mix together the pumpkin, garlic, herbs, optional veg & breadcrumbs. Add a pinch of salt, and as much pepper as you like (I like a lot. I mean stupid amounts) Stir in the beaten egg & then add 1 tbs of gram flour. If the mixture is still quite wet, add more gram flour, until you have a slightly stick but shapeable mush. Shape into 4 burgers & fry in a little oil for 5 or 6 minutes on each side, until browned & firm.

Serve in buns with whatever tickles your fancy. I went for Lots Of Cheese but salsa, spinach leaves, onion rings, ketchup, relish, mayo, shredded carrot, jalapenos & sliced peppers all work really well too.

Next time I'll make them with half pumpkin & half cooked chickpeas, with some curry paste & chopped onion...

Om nom nom!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Pumpkin Not-Really-A-Recipe-Recipes - Pumpkin & Brown Rice Bake

A lot of the cooking I do isn't really recipes, more of a hurling things together & seeing what happens way of cooking. MikeyFox isn't happy cooking unless he has a recipe book (preferably with pictures) and all his ingredients chopped up in little bowls. Feh, each to their own.
So this is something I chucked together a few days ago.

Have you tried brown rice? It's delicious, chewy, nutty & also good for you (which has been compensated for here with the addition of cheese), though takes longer to cook than regular old white rice (which you can use in the recipe instead, maybe even with a bit of wild rice too if you're feeling fancy). There are lots of ways of cooking rice, but I tend to use the absorption method, which is easier than the name suggests (1 cup brown rice, 2 cups vegetable stock or water, bring to the boil & simmer, covered, for 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat & leave to stand, still covered, for 5 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Unless you're using the quick-cook stuff, which is, y'know, quicker)

Pumpkin & Brown Rice Bake

175g/1 cup dry brown rice (boil it, steam it, cook it some way or other)
200g-400g (or more, or less, depending on how much pumpkin you're in the mood for) Pumpkin or Squash
1 tbs oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
200g mushrooms (I used chestnut, but any kind you like will do)
200g/1 cup green peas (or sweetcorn)
220ml/1 cup milk
2 tbs water
1 tbs sauce flour (or 1 tbs each of flour & butter or oil, and make a roux. What's a roux? It's fat melted in a pan, with an equal amount of flour whisked in, then liquid is slowly added to make a rich, creamy white sauce that when I make it always goes oily & lumpy)
25g really nice cheese (I used emmental, which was really nice, but cheddar, blue, goats cheese, anything that you think will go well with your pumpkin will work), with an extra little bit for scattering over the top.

Preheat oven to 220C/425F/G7
In a pan, fry the onion in the oil until softened. Add the garlic & bat it about for a minute or two. Add the pumpkin & mushrooms & poke occasionally for 10 minutes. While that's cooking, make a cheese sauce. My really lazy cheese sauce goes like this
In a pan, mix 1 tbs sauce flour* with a couple of tablespoons of water to make a paste. Gradually add the milk and put on a medium heat, stirring constantly while it comes to the boil & simmer for 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in the cheese, add pepper & a pinch of salt, maybe even some mustard if you're in the mood & put to one side
Back to the pumpkins! Add your peas & cooked brown rice, and stir. Add the cheese sauce & mix thoroughly. Pour into an oven dish & top with more cheese.
Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until it's started to go brown & crusty on the top.

Om nom nom!

*A reeeeally fine white flour that can be used to make really easy fat free sauces. Then you add a honking great load of cheese to the mix, heheh!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Pumpkin Bread

Okay, first recipe!
I tend to scrape out the flesh of my pumpkin, slap it in a roasting tray with a drizzle of oil & bake in a hot oven for 30 minutes, or until the flesh is soft & browned at the edges. You can leave it to cool & store in the fridge for adding to blended soups, risottos, mash & bakes.
You don't have to go through all that palaver if you don't want to. You can boil or steam your pumpkin flesh before using it in this recipe.
This is really easy if you have a breadmaker, a bit more time consuming if you don't, and a great way of using up pumpkins

Pumpkin Bread

200g/7oz cooked pumpkin flesh, cooled & mashed
110ml/1/2 cup milk or buttermilk (I use water & buttermilk powder)
2 tbs olive oil (you can use pumpkin seed oil if you have it, for a richer flavour)
375g/3 1/2 cups strong white flour (or you can use half wholemeal & half plain white)
125g/1 cup cornmeal/maizemeal or polenta flour (it's the same thing, it just has a thousand different names!)
30ml/2 tbs honey
1 1/2 tsp salt
5ml/1 tsp easy blend dried yeast
2 tbs pumpkin seeds

If using a breadmaker, tip all your ingredients into the machine (keeping the salt & yeast separate) & use the medium setting. In 3 hours, you will have bread. Yum.

If machineless, put your dry ingredients in a large bowl & mix, making a well in the centre. Mix your wet ingredients together & pour into the well. Slowly bring the flour from the edge of the well into the gloop, mixing until you have a rough dough (add a little flour if it's too wet, a little water if too dry). Tip out onto a floured surface & knead for 5-10 minutes until you have a firm, elastic dough. Put back in the bowl, cover & leave until doubled in size (about an hour). Punch down (oof, poor abused dough!) & shape into whatever you fancy - rolls, plaits, loaves, flatbread, shoggoths - anything you like, and leave for another hour. Place on a floured baking tray & put in a pre-heated oven (how hot & how long depends on what your making. Pizza dough, bread rolls & flatbread only need about ten minutes in an oven on full heat, loaves take longer at a lower setting, probably 45 minutes to an hour at 220C)

Om nom nom!

A Week of Pumpkin Recipes (probably)

The pumpkin, like all things awesome, originated in the Americas (the oldest pumpkinly seeds found in Mexico dated to somewhere between 7000 & 5000 BC. Right now I'm surrounded by the things (as I'm buying them faster than I can eat them. But it's not my fault, blame Brigg farmers market - pumpkins for £1! £1! How can you say no to that?) and I'm hoping that it's not just me that has too many pumpkins & squashes* this time of year.

There are some delicious squashes out there, from the small & tasty Acorns, Buttercups & Delicatas to the honking great behemoths like Crown Prince (the bestest one of all), Turks Turban & the positively corpulent Musquee de Provence (see how wordy I get with curcubits?). But let's be honest, the big Halloween pumpkins that are in the shops right now? Not so tasty. Bland & watery, actually, and not a patch on squashes in flavour & texture. But that's no reason to chuck all that orange flesh in the bin when carving Halloween pumpkins, there's plenty of ways to make something delicious with them, and not just Bloody Pumpkin Soup (why is that the only suggestion anyone can come up with?)

So for the next week I'll be posting pumpkin recipes. Hopefully. Starting with Pumpkin bead.
Om nom nom!

*What's the difference between pumpkin & squash? There isn't one really. In the UK pumpkins are generally the big orange Halloween things, and squash are, well, everything else.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Taking Pictures of Your Obsessions

So, it's mid-October, and the annual Pumpkin Obsession is in full, terrifying swing (fuelled by farmers markets & roadside vegetable stands selling monstrous orange things for £1.75*).
So far there have been Harlequin, Acorn, Kabocha, Buttercup, Butternut, Big Orange Things Of Dubious Taste, Red Kuri, Sugar Pumpkin & my beloved Crown Prince.

So expect to see some recipes up soon.


*I mean, come on, how can you say no to that?!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Dig, Lazarus, Dig

Perhaps it is because I am, as has been previously noted, Peculiar, but I enjoy digging.

No, really. I'm not making it up.

Ever since I was old enough to wield a spade without the threat of chopping off a toe* digging was something I loved to do. As a kid it was an excuse to get muddy without reprisals**, but as I got older, and had my own garden, it became a way of connecting with the soil I was working with. Getting my fingers in the dirt & learning the peculiarities of the land. This area is prone to frost pockets, careful what gets planted there, that area gets waterlogged & needs organic matter incorporating into it. Building a relationship with the soil, learning its needs & tending to them. Gardening has always been a spiritual pursuit for me (I heard a theory once that shepherding societies were prone to monotheism, of the belief of a solitary deity that wanders with them, whereas societies based on agriculture were more inclined towards polytheism, and a deity for everything), the contact with the earth grounding & centering, even in my vaguely Pagan crackpot view of the world.

Over the last few weeks when I haven't been involved in the making & selling of beer (which, rather surprisingly, involves a lot of digging), I've been digging. A lot of digging. new muscles have formed in my back & shoulders purely for the purpose of aching (the Random Twinge in the trapezius & the Dull Ache in the Latissimus dorsi are my personal favourites), what started out as a few blisters on the hands have become spectacular calluses. Having said that, if you're doing any digging proper posture & Not being An Idiot should keep any back pain to a minimum. To quote Alice Cooper - back straight, lift with your knees. If you're not accustomed to a spot of digging, take a break every ten minutes or so & do a few stretches, preferably while grumbling within earshot of loved ones.

Tiger balm is a pungent, dark red ointment made with camphor, clove & cinnamon oil in a petroleum jelly base available from Chinese supermarkets & some chemists. It is an excellent, soothing rub that relieves muscular aches & pains, and all the ills that come with overdoing it (there is a milder white version, if the red stuff is too pungent for you. A dab of it on the forehead or temples works wonder for hangovers & tension headaches). A hot bath with a few drops of lavender & tea tree essential oil will soothe aching muscles too.

There is still much more digging to be done, preferably (but not bleedin' likely) before winter sets in. I prefer to dig in the autumn, or early spring. Digging in the summer is a miserable experience. heat, small creatures that find me delicious, sweat & chafing. Ugh. But cold weather means heading out with your shovel & gloves in sixteen layers of clothing, knowing that pretty soon you'll be in your T-shirt and overusing the term 'Soft Southern Shandy' at passers by. Plus there's the occasional break for a cup of tea and quiet admiration (or loud, if there's other people to hear it)

Until next time, which will probably be about parsnips. Or beetroot. Or something.

*And other parental paranoia's experienced when seeing your barefooted, semi-feral youngest child arsing around in the mire

**Any other situation that got me that filthy; falling in the canal (which happened with distressing regularity), hiding in the coal store, attempting to dig a bomb shelter etc all got me called a little diddikai and sent to an early bath.