Five ways with….Hallowe’en pumpkins

At Cosy Home, we’re always keen not to waste anything useful. Whether it’s turning old china into quirky planters, or old curtains into cushions and doorstops, we do like to find a use for everything and anything.

Now it’s coming up to Hallowe’en, we’ve started thinking about pumpkins. These are fantastically versatile vegetables, which can be used in sweet or savoury cooking – here are our top five ways to use them all up.

1. Hallowe’en lantern

Number one at this time of year has to be a traditional Hallowe’en lantern.

For the perfect lantern, use a regularly-shaped, medium-large pumpkin with not too many bulgy bits. Slice a little off the bottom to create a flat base for the lantern to stand on squarely, then slice the top off about a quarter of the way down, to form a lid.

Using a sharp knife, scrape as much of the pumpkin flesh off the inside of the lid as you can, and put it on one side for using up in recipes. Carefully cut round the inside of the pumpkin, taking care not to poke the knife through the skin, and remove as much flesh as you can, using a spoon to pry it away from the sides. Separate the seeds, and keep them as well.

Using a small sharp knife, cut the ‘face’ into the pumpkin – if you haven’t done this before, start with a simple face of three triangles for eyes and nose and a slit for the mouth.

Let the pumpkin dry out as much as possible before putting it outside with a tealight inside. When you’ve put the lid on, there should be plenty of clearance between the lid and the flame. If the pumpkin you’ve used is too small to give good clearance, leave the lid off or balance it to one side.

2. Pumpkin seed necklace

Now it’s time to start using up all the leftover flesh and seeds.

Strip as much of the pulp as you can from the pumpkin seeds, and dunk them into a basin of cold water to rinse them. Fish them out, and dry them on some kitchen roll.

Spread them out on a plate, and leave in a warm place overnight.

When they’re completely dry, use a darning needle and some strong nylon thread to string them into a necklace. If you like, you can also dye the seeds first by leaving them in a pot of diluted food colouring overnight.

3. Pumpkin Soup

Photo by Vhorvat

A gorgeous, warming Autumn recipe. Roughly chop two onions, and fry them in butter until softened and pale golden.

Add 500 – 750g of pumpkin flesh, deseeded and roughly chopped, and one small potato, peeled and chopped, and cook gently for a further ten minutes.

Add 750ml of vegetable stock and two garlic cloves, peeled and chopped, and let it all cook for 15 minutes or so.

Blend the soup in a food blender, and stir in a small pot of double cream and some fresh, chopped sage. Serve with warm crusty bread.

4. Pumpkin cake

Pumpkin cake might be a little more unusual than pumpkin soup, but it’s only a variation on that universal favourite, carrot cake.

The pumpkin flavour can’t be detected in the finished cake, which is moist and moreish. Preheat the over to 180 degrees centigrade.

Melt 175g butter together with a good tablespoon of treacle. In a large bowl, combine the butter mixture with 300g self-raising flour, 250g sugar, 1 teaspoon each of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg, four eggs and the zest of an orange (reserving the orange juice).

Mix in 200g of sultanas or other dried fruit, and grate in 500g of pumpkin flesh. Beat it all into a smooth batter, and spread into a greased baking tin.

Bake for about 25 – 30 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn the cake out, prick it all over with a skewer and squeeze the orange juice over the cake while it’s still warm.

Cut into squares and serve with a dollop of crème fraiche.

5. Pumpkin risotto

The easiest pumpkin recipe of all, this requires almost no effort to whip up for Hallowe’en supper.

Take as much pumpkin flesh as you have leftover, and cut it into 1/2 inch cubes. Put them in a bowl with some olive oil, and give the bowl a good shake to cover the pumpkin in oil.

Tip it onto a baking tray, and roast in a hot over for 20 minutes or so. In the meantime, chop an onion and fry it in butter until pale golden and softened.

Add 200g of risotto rice, and a little extra butter. Stir the rice to give it a buttery coating, and let it cook for 2 – 3 minutes.

Add 500ml of vegetable stock and 500ml of white wine, and bring it to the boil.

Reduce to a simmer, and stir occasionally until the liquid is almost absorbed and the rice is cooked.

Stir in a handful of grated parmesan cheese, some torn fresh sage leaves and the roasted pumpkin, and serve with a winter salad of spinach leaves.

By Sara Walker

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