With lots of pumpkins and squashes to play with, I spent some time – well a whole evening – making the most of them. I used a large pumpkin to make some pies (below) and five small (‘Baby Bear’) pumpkins to make some arrangements, which were for the Halloween night at the Tara Vie on Sunday.
They will not last long but the idea is that they are ‘exploding’ pumpkins and they are filled with things from the garden. I cut the tops off in a jagged shape and scooped out the seeds and fibres. I then pushed a piece of dry floral foam in the cavity. It was loose so it was held in place by sticking a split cane through it and into the base flesh. The top of the cane was cut to a point so the top of the pumpkin could be stuck on top – after I had placed the large, silver-sprayed Allium cristophii seed head in place.
I then added some dried statice, sprayed nigella seed heads and sprayed nicandra heads, some rudbeckia seed heads and a head from Allium hollandicum. To add some extra colour I threaded some fruits of malus ‘Evereste’ on sticks and stuck those in.
And now on to the pies!
I love pumpkin pie but prefer the American type with a blended, creamy filling rather than the British type which is chunks of pumpkin, spiced and sweetened with sugar and sultanas (which help to soak up some of the juice).
The filling was based on an American recipe but cups are a bit of a mystery to me and most American recipes seem to use canned pumpkin – which I can’t get and I wanted to use the ones from the garden anyway. So I had to roast the pumpkin. This is easy enough but takes just over an hour. Cut the pumpkin into wedges, scoop out the seeds and most fibrous interior and place in a metal tray. I line the base with lightly greased foil just to keep things easier to clean. Roast in an oven at about 180c until the flesh is soft. Leave to cool till it is easy to handle. Then peel off the skin or scoop out the flesh, avoiding any hard or crisp edges. If you have a food processor you can use that to blend it till smooth but I used an electric, hand whisk. This works well because the coarsest fibres get caught on the whisk and can be removed. The rest of the filling is simple and to about 450g of pumpkin I added 1 can of condensed milk (about 350g), two eggs, about 50g of soft brown sugar, a dash of vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon of spice and whisked it lightly. The mixture is quite wet and soupy. I panicked but don’t! Pumpkin spice is best but I didn’t have that I used mixed spice and added some extra cinnamon. After tasting them I would add a bit more spice really but they were OK.
It was at this stage that I realised I didn’t have a tart tin. So I decided to make individual tarts in my muffin tins. I made a sweet shortcrust pastry – like a normal pastry but with added egg yolks and icing sugar. It was then that I realised I didn’t have pastry cutters either! So I had to find a ramekin that was the right size to just about line the tins! If I was making a full-sized tart I would have baked the pastry blind but I was getting frustrated by now so just lined the greased tins and put the filling in. I knew the filling would rise a little so filled them almost to the top. Then they were baked in the oven at 190c for about 20 minutes. The filling rose in a dome but collapsed when cooled. A large tart would need at least twice this time – cooking till the filling in the centre is just set.
I made a double mix of the quantities above and there was enough to make 48 tarts. I had some mix left which I then froze because the novelty had worn off and it was 11pm!
I am glad to say that the pastry cooked right through and I did not have soggy bottoms and the filling was creamy and sweet but not overly so. They did taste even better with some whipped cream on top – but what doesn’t.