What to do with a Pumpkin

Two for the price of one this week. Pumpkin season is upon us and apart from making lanterns, or perhaps as well as, a few recipes using up the flesh appear to be in order.

Pumpkins themselves do have a fairly bland flavour so the best tactic is to spice it up. Here are a couple of recipes to such an end.

Thai Red Vegetable Curry

This is heavily based on a Nigella recipe: Thai Yellow Pumpkin and Seafood Curry in her book Nigella Bites.

You will need (serves 4): 400ml tin Coconut Milk (full or half fat), 1 heaped tbsp Red Curry paste, 300ml Vegetable Stock, 2 tbsp Fish Sauce, 1 tbsp Sugar, 1 heaped tsp Lemongrass paste, 2 Lime Leaves (if you can get them, dried will do), ½ tsp Turmeric, 350-400g Pumpkin, chunked, 300g waxy Potatoes, chunked a little smaller than the pumpkin, 1 Red Pepper, thickly sliced, a couple of handfuls of Spinach, shredded Swiss Chard or trimmed Green Beans, juice of ½ Lime, Coriander leaves to serve.

You should be able to buy the Thai ingredients in Tesco or Sainsburys; Barts make the lemongrass paste and Blue Dragon the fish sauce. Lime leaves will be with the spices or specialist ingredients of larger supermarkets.

So, open the tin of coconut milk, don’t shake the tin before opening, and scope out the coconut cream which collects at the top reserving the coconut water. Plop this in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan over a moderate heat and add the curry paste, stir that around for a minute or two and then add most of the coconut water, the stock, fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass paste, lime leaves, turmeric, pumpkin, potatoes and peppers and simmer until the pumpkin and potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes. Then add the greens and cook for another 5 minutes or so and finally add the lime juice. Serve on rice or with naan bread and sprinkle with the coriander.

You can add prawns with the greens if you want and cook until piping hot. This has that lovely sweet, hot tang to it. Yummy.

Easy Peasy Carrot and Pumpkin Curried Soup

This is quicker to make than say the title.

You will need: a small Leek, finely sliced, a splash of Sunflower Oil and an even smaller splash of Garlic Oil, 2 tsp Ginger, grated, 300g sliced Carrots, 300g Pumpkin,chunked, 1 litre Vegetable Stock, 1 tbsp medium Curry Powder, ½ lemon, juiced, Coriander leaves (optional)

In a large saucepan, gently fry the leek in the oils and after a minute or two add the ginger, stir that around and then add the pumpkin and carrot and sweat over a low heat with the lid on for 10 minutes or so. Stir in the curry powder and then add the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or so until the veggies are tender. Blend. Season if required (but I doubt it) and add the lemon juice. Delish.

Now, I will tell you how to make the little pumpkin cakes above next time, I am still trying to refine a pumpkin cupcake as the Hummingbird one is frankly a disaster. Those above are plain cake with orange flavour butter icing, but more of that next week…….

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Chilled Thai Broccoli and Ginger Soup

This has got EVERYTHING going for it. Low-fat as I used low-fat coconut milk, non-dairy, no gluten, works well heated up or chilled so perfect for all seasons

and absolutely scrumptious.

Just before we get onto that I am going to just show you these in a fit of jingoistic, patriotic excitement. Good Luck Team GB we are rooting for you in this house!

So on with the recipe; you will need for 4-6 servings:

2 tbsp Thai Green Curry Paste, 1 can of Coconut Milk, 600ml of vegetable stock, 3 cm piece of peeled Ginger, grated, 2 freeze-dried Lime Leaves, 2 heads of Broccoli, washed and broken up into smallish florets, 2 tbsp of fresh Coriander, chopped, 1 ½ tsp of sugar, the juice of a Lime, plus a little zest to garnish.

If you have a recipe to make Green Curry Paste, then I strongly recommend preparing the paste from scratch. It is far superior to the bought stuff. I use Nigel Slater’s recipe which can be found here. Half the quantities stated gives 2 tbsp.

Once you have made the paste it is easy peasy. Pour the coconut milk and the stock into a heavy bottom saucepan over a moderate heat and add to that the curry paste, grated ginger, broccoli florets, kaffir lime leaves, sugar and half the lime juice. If you have not made your paste you may wish to add a tsp of fish sauce to supply a bit of saltiness. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down and simmer, with a lid on, until the broccoli is tender. Blend. Add the remaining lime juice and stir in most of the chopped coriander and check the seasoning.

That’s it.

Ladle hot or cooled into bowls and sprinkle with a little more coriander and the lime zest. I started off with it hot as I couldn’t wait and then moved onto chilled with a couple of ice cubes in the bowl. It delivers that sharp heat that inflames the back of your throat. Yummy.

Beach Hut Food (or almost half a dozen things to do with Tortilla Chips)

Despite the distinctly mediocre weather we have been experiencing this week, we have found our collective stiff upper lip and pressed on with our half term/Jubilee plans regardless. We like to book a beach hut on Studland beach for a week each year and this week has been the appointed one. The weather on the Isle of Purbeck can frequently render national forecasts useless and certainly for part of the time I think we have managed to suffer far less rain than some. Sunday tea time we returned from a very pleasant afternoon at the beach, switched on the TV, to find the National Anthem in full flow on the River Thames and a bedraggled choir trying to look cheerful notwithstanding the driving rain. Nightmare.

Kitchen for the week

So during a typical week, we like to cook at the beach as much as possible and over the years we have developed Beach Hut Food. This can easily be regarded as camping food and so with the camping/glamping/festival season upon us some might find the following useful. I’m not really suggesting anything very revelatory just jogging memories I suspect.

The return of the 5 layer dip; the original recipe is here but an easier or possibly more child friendly version would be as follows:

Small tin of refried beans spread on the bottom of  the bowl/saucepan/suitable receptacle.

A layer of sweetcorn from a small tin to cover the beans or a layer of guacamole from a ‘ready to eat’ tub

A layer of tomato salsa, strength to your taste

A layer of half fat soured cream

A layer of grated cheese

Arrange the tortilla chips around the bowl as illustrated. This is really good as an accompaniment to a barbecue. N.B. Doritos are not very strong and therefore not good for scooping. Sainsburys Basics Tortilla Chips are much much better in this regard.

Tortilla Soup; British summers being what they are, soup is still a must even in July at times. Cuppa soup Cream of Tomato or a tin of Heinz Tomato can be pepped up with a few drops of Tabasco sauce and tortilla chips to dip with.

Camp style Caesar Salad; this is adapted from a Nigella recipe so she deserves all the credit. Arrange some salad leaves (Little Gem are good here) in a bowl and dress with Caesar salad dressing (we like the Pizza Express Light variety). Add to that handfuls of tortilla chips and grated Parmesan or any grated cheese.

Tortilla chip sandwiches; if you are at the beach, the ‘do I have sand in my sandwich’ concern can be offset by adding tortilla chips to the filling. The crunchy sensation they provide will mask any actual sand. Again grated cheese, a drop of Tabasco and chips work well and should you have these ingredients around because you made the 5 layer dip, will help with using stuff up.

As it was Jubilee weekend, we really pushed the boat out however and had my favourite sandwich of all, baguette with smoked salmon, lots of dill, lemon juice and black pepper and whilst barbecuing constructed this user-friendly arrangement.

Frozen raw King Prawns can defrost throughout the day in a cool box. Thread onto the skewers as the barbecue is lit to finish defrosting if necessary. Fill a fish holder with the skewers and cherry tomatoes for ease of handling.

The fish holder is often filled with Bream stuffed with dill. If you have sea air up your nostrils, this barbecue dish has to be one of life’s great pleasures.

Warming up for Wimbledon

Hidden Vegetables Italian Style – Minestrone Soup with Meatballs

Following on from last week’s post, I definitely tried to keep the kids and food debate general but as I wrote I realised that I was actually rounding on the subject of kids and veg. That 5-a-day advice haunts me relentlessly and I can’t blog for much longer without addressing the issue head on.

I’m with everyone else who becomes more than a little frustrated with the food writers who claim that as long as the food looks appetizing and that you start as you mean to go on then there is no reason why your kids won’t enjoy vegetables. Yeah right! Perseverance, patience and pleading is more likely and so it has been with us.

I don’t share Annabel Karmel’s world view.

Nigella on the other hand does really talk some sense and not just on this subject. She, like me, believes in cooking vegetables hidden in cakes, casseroles and the like, suggests that if you are really going to be bold about it (and deal with the issue head on) serve fruit and veg up in pure form as part of the habilitation process and (rather randomly) the kid’s homework is far more troublesome than your own ever was! (It’s that last remark which totally won me over to her way of thinking.)

Marrying kids and vegetables is a long hard road with many pitched battles along the way; I keep adding cucumber to Child 1’s ham sandwiches and he keeps taking it out and leaving it in the box to taunt me. He is clearly defiant on this point as he doesn’t even pretend he’s eaten the stuff by disposing of it in school. Both of mine will not ever never eat a tomato (just like Lola, or maybe because of her!) cherry or otherwise despite that fact that I will pop the little ones like sweets.

So we really are driven to underhand means. For the record mine do eat a reasonably wide range of veg now but only after much work and the list of acceptable veg is random, still protest if asked to eat fruit however will do so if they can have something ‘nice’ afterwards (I don’t always comply) and, thankfully, can still be completely duped with hidden stuff. Tee Hee.

Mouli

The Continentals do have gadgetry for helping with this; the French have moulis, and the Italian’s, Nonna (Grandmother – hardly a gadget I know) to cook sauces and soups for hours and hours so that a rich, thick, delicious homogenous, usually tomato coloured goo is all you have to look at. Perfect.

Now this minestrone recipe won’t take 3 hours to make, I promise, but can be made in advance/at the weekend/frozen in batches to make a fantastic mid-week meal and can also be assembled in about ½ hour having dashed in from swimming.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C. Into a reasonably sized saucepan add 2 tbsp olive oil and fry off a chopped onion gently for 5 minutes or so and towards the end of this time add a crushed clove of garlic, a grated carrot, ½ finely chopped red pepper and 1 finely chopped stick of celery! (Round our way this is the basis for practically anything that needs a tomato based sauce.) Cook that lot gently for another 5 minutes or so and then add 1 tin of tomatoes, chopped ultimately, 1 squirt of tomato puree, 1 pint of vegetable or chicken stock (you may need a bit more), 1 tsp of sugar and optionally 2 tsp pesto and the rind-y end-y bit of the parmesan. Stir all that round and bring to the boil and then add either a handful or so of rice or macaroni and let it simmer whilst you cook the meatballs.

Now then, you can make your own….. *hmmm* (quite), or buy some of those in packets of twelve on the fresh meat section, beef or sometimes you can get pork or turkey. Think mini here as we are having soup not spaghetti, so cut each one in half and reshape and place them in a small roasting tin or baking sheet and pop in the oven for 15 minutes or so to cook. Beef and pork will cook in their own fat, turkey may need a drop of oil in the bottom. Everything should then be ready together. Back to the soup: fish out the parmesan rind, check the seasoning and add a little more warm stock or water if necessary to provide the right consistency.

If you need to produce a smooth puree then the tomato sauce minus the pasta/rice can be blended with a hand-held blender and couscous can be added with 5 minutes to go instead.

Ladle into bowls and ‘sprinkle’ with the meatballs. Supply grated cheese, parmesan or otherwise if you wish. To bulk this up a little more, we often have cheese on toast as an accompaniment rather than cheese sprinkled on top.

N.B. Whilst you can freeze or hold the soup in advance I would cook the meatballs at the point you need them, not ahead of time.

I appreciate that the amount of veg here is minimal, but everyone has to start somewhere, we will aim higher when I return to this topic.

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