Sophie Jackson is a British cook and freelance writer who has been published in a number of UK magazines.
Pumpkins are a member of the squash family and technically a fruit (though many consider them a vegetable). In the UK, they are the forgotten squash, being brushed aside in favour of the butternut squash or other varieties that are available year-round.
We usually only see the pumpkin around Halloween, and then they are largely bought to make jack-o'-lanterns. Once October is over, pumpkins are reduced to knockdown prices and in most places won't be seen again for another year.
No wonder we overlook using the pumpkin in our cooking. Which is a shame, as they are a versatile and tasty ingredient. They do require a little preparation before the flesh can be used, but if you can get to grips with this orange delight, then you will experience a whole new realm of great recipes.
Many pumpkin recipes come from the US and use pumpkin puree, which is bought in tins. It is not easy to find tinned pumpkin puree in the UK, and it can be quite pricey. However, making your own pumpkin puree is simple, and you can freeze it for up to six months—meaning you can make great use of those bargain-price pumpkins on sale after Halloween.
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An average pumpkin produces around 600g of puree
- 1 medium-sized pumpkin
- Using a large serrated knife (such as a bread knife), cut the pumpkin into chunks. The seeds and spidery strands in the middle of the pumpkin need to be removed, and this is easily done by scraping them away with a spoon. Remove the hard outer skin from the pumpkin flesh, and place the pieces into a large saucepan.
- Cover the pumpkin chunks with water, and bring to the boil. I boiled up the water in a kettle first to speed the process. Place the lid on the saucepan, and boil for about 20-30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft.
- Drain the water and either hand mash the pumpkin, or blend it in a food processor until it is a smooth puree. Leave it to cool and either use at once in a recipe, or store it in suitable containers. It will last in the fridge for 3-4 days, but it can be frozen for up to 6 months.
Once you have a batch of pureed pumpkin, the next thing you need is a great recipe to use it in. A traditional American favourite is pumpkin pie, and there are numerous recipes to be discovered on the internet. You might also consider using the pumpkin as a base for soup, a cake, muffins or even ice cream.
A quick search will produce thousands of recipes and ideas, many of which are based on American measurements and use ingredients not available in the UK. I recommend trying the free recipes on such UK websites as BBC Good Food to get you started. Above all else, explore, enjoy and discover! Who knows, you might come up with a brand new pumpkin recipe yourself!
© 2018 Sophie Jackson