Halloween Pumpkin – Carve It, Cook It, Eat It!
Halloween means pumpkins. Every October these big orange squash appear in shops and on roadside stalls, ready to be carved and put on a doorstep or windowsill on October 31st. It’s a really fun tradition, but also an incredibly wasteful one – over half of all pumpkins grown and sold in the UK each year are carved for a Jack-o’-lantern and then end up in the bin the next day. That’s eight million pumpkins wasted – all perfectly edible.
This year, why not try to use up your delicious Halloween pumpkin? Carve it, and then cut it up and either cook it or freeze it for later. Here are a few ideas for different ways to enjoy your pumpkin, and if you put the peel in your compost bin then it’ll be a zero waste decoration.
Prepare Your Pumpkin
After it’s done its job spooking the children on your street, cut the pumpkin into large slices or chunks. Drizzle with some oil and roast at 200 C for 30 minutes. Once cooled you can cut the flesh away from the skin, and mash it or blitz it in a food processor to make pumpkin puree. Use immediately (see the two recipes below), or freeze for later.
Pumpkin Seed Bar Snacks
You’ll have scooped the seeds out in order to carve your pumpkin and make space for your candle or light. You can buy pumpkin seeds as a snack from supermarkets or whole food stores, but the ones from your Jack-o’-lantern will look different as they are large white seeds rather than the smaller green shop-bought ones (these have been hulled, but it’s too much effort to remove the white outer at home, and not really necessary). Rinse your seeds in a colander to get rid of any of the stringy orange pulp, then spread them out on kitchen paper in a warm place to dry for 24 hours. Once dry, toss the seeds in olive oil, garlic powder, smoked paprika and black pepper. Spread them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment in a pre-heated oven at 170 C and cook for 12-15 minutes, turning them at five-minute intervals. Serve as a bar snack.
Pumpkin and Leek Mac ‘N’ Cheese
Finely chop one leek, half an onion, and two cloves of garlic, or whizz in a food processor. Heat a glug of oil in a heavy-based pan and sweat for 10 minutes until turning translucent.
Cook your macaroni pasta in a pan of boiling water for one minute less than the instructions, then drain.
Stir your pumpkin puree into your leek mix until it is the right consistency for your macaroni cheese sauce (to your liking). Remove the sauce from the hob, grate a handful of cheddar (100g or so), and stir it into the sauce and then tip in your drained macaroni and mix. Season to taste. If you’re a meat-eater then now would be a good time to add some fried pancetta or bacon lardons to the mix.
Pour the macaroni and cheese into a baking dish (or two, depending on the size of them).
In your food processor, blitz a couple of the crust ends of a loaf of bread and some grated parmesan or other full fat hard cheese (if you don’t have a food processor, you can grate stale bread). Cover the mac with the breadcrumb mix, and bake in the oven at 180 C (fan) for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
Unless you’re REALLY into baking, then you’re probably not going to make your own pastry, so let’s just assume you’ll be using pre-made pastry from the shop. Unroll your pastry, homemade or otherwise, into a pie dish and cover it with baking parchment. Tip in baking beans (small ceramic balls, or you can use dried beans if you don’t have them) and blind bake at 160C for 15 minutes. Remove the baking beans and parchment paper, and put back in the oven to continue baking for another 10 minutes. Take out the pie dish and turn the oven up to 200C (fan).
Take two bowls. In the first bowl put 140g caster sugar, ½ tsp of nutmeg, ½ tsp cinnamon, a pinch of ground ginger and a pinch of salt.
In the other bowl put 25g of butter and either melt it in a microwave or place the bowl over a pan of boiling water for a few minutes. To the melted butter add 2 beaten eggs, 175ml of milk or plant milk, and a dash of vanilla essence, then mix together. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients, then add around 750g or so of pumpkin puree. Mix well and then pour out into the pastry lined pie dish.
Cook at 200C for ten minutes then turn the oven down to 160C and continue to cook for a further 35-40 minutes until the filling has set.
Allow to cool, then dust with icing sugar and cinnamon.