Whether it is images for Halloween or the cornucopia concept of harvest, autumn to me can be summed up in Pumpkins. There is something about these roly-poly orange veg that just makes me smile. (Maybe that is why we are driven to carve toothy faces into them?)
This year I tried my hand at growing pumpkins, and I have to say, with a vague form of success. I bought a packet of seeds, for what looked to be a normal type pumpkin, and planted. I put in a wooden ladder as potential trellising, as I had heard that pumpkin vines can be rather prolific and thought I would be smart and try to train the vine upward. As summer progressed so did the vine, and the select few pumpkins grew. By select few, I mean 5. But boy did they grow. Then 2 rotted on the vine, 1 ripened, and 2 kept growing. As did the vine. It started strangling the courgettes and rosemary with murderous intent.
When I discovered that one of the pumpkins was being nibbled on by our local veg patch squirrel, I deemed it time to cut, cull and cultivate. The nibbled bits were cut off and placed back in the garden for the squirrel and the rest cut up and cooked. In a variety of ways. Spicy Pumpkin and Apple Chutney, Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Thai Coconut Pumpkin Soup, Pumpkin and Peas Curry, and, of course, pumpkin purée – the necessary ingredient for Pumpkin Pie. Personally, I think Pumpkin Pie was the reason pumpkins were invented.
I had various visitors during the slaughtering of the pumpkins. All were treated to my variety of Pumpkin recipes. The Chutney was declared the all time favourite, going particularly well with Comté cheese. And, to my horror, almost all had never tried Pumpkin Pie. Sacré bleu! They hadn’t lived! (At least not in the United States.) Guinea pigs all, they declared it delicious.
I am still ripening one pumpkin and gearing myself up for the final slaughter… Just as soon as I can make room in the freezer for more.
Spicy Pumpkin and Apple Chutney (recipe from BBC Good Food)
4 tbsp rapeseed, vegetable or sunflower oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
100 g piece of ginger, peeled and thinly shredded
1 fat red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
15 cardamom pods, bashed open
2 long cinnamon sticks, snapped in half
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
4 fat or 6 smaller garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 kg butternut squash or pumpkin flesh, peeled and cut into sugar-cube size pieces
3 Bramley apples (about 500g), peeled and cut into sugar-cube size pieces
1 tsp ground turmeric
500 g light soft brown sugar
300 ml cider vinegar
- Heat the oil in a large preserving pan, then gently fry the onions, ginger, chilli, cardamom, cinnamon, mustard and cumin seeds together for 5 mins, until the spices are aromatic.
- Stir the garlic, squash and apples into the onions, then cook for 10-15 mins more, until the onions and apples are soft and the squash yields a little here and there.
- Stir in the turmeric and sugar and let it melt around the vegetables. Simmer for 5 mins – this process almost candies the chunks of pumpkin, so that it doesn’t entirely break down during the next step.
- Pour in the vinegar, season with 2 tsp salt, then bring the chutney back to a simmer. Cook, stirring regularly, for about 30 mins or until the apple has cooked down to make a squishy base for the chutney, with chunks of tender pumpkin here and there, and a little syrupiness at the bottom of the pan – you don’t want the chutney to be too dry as it will thicken as it cools.
- Spoon the hot chutney into sterilised jars and seal. The chutney can be eaten straight away, or left to mellow in a dark place. You can store it for up to six months.