If your children are pestering you to make a Pumpkin Lantern for Hallowe’en but you’re not sure what to do with the contents they scoop out, here are a couple of suggestions particularly suited to the giant Jack-o’-Lantern member of the squash family.
The flesh of this pumpkin is less dense than most varieties of squash and will therefore absorb other flavours quite readily. This makes it ideal for pickling, a recipe I first learnt from chef Martin Blunos, who in turn was taught it by his Latvian parents. Pumpkins were abundant in Latvia and they were pickled in order to store them for the winter when there was nothing else around. They ate them as a dessert with cream, but Martin serves it as an accompaniment to meat terrines.
This looks nicest if the flesh is scooped out in balls, the remaining flesh can then be used in another recipe. Otherwise cut it into neat chunks.
2 lb of pumpkin flesh
1 pint water
1 pint of white wine vinegar
1 lb caster sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
20 black peppercorns
12 whole cloves
12 allspice berries
Bring the water, vinegar, sugar and spices to the boil. Skim the surface to remove any scum and add the pumpkin. Bring back to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer gently until the pumpkin becomes opaque.
Remove the pumpkin and put it into a sterilised preserving jar. Reduce the liquid by boiling it rapidly until it thickens slightly. Pour the liquid over the pumpkin and seal.
GLUTEN-FREE CHRISTMAS PUDDING
I have never liked flour or breadcrumbs in my Christmas Pudding, and it occurs to me that those who want to avoid gluten might also like this version. It uses pumpkin to bind the fruit together. Halloween is a perfect time to make Christmas Puddings, giving them plenty of time to mature.
1 lb currants
1 lb sultanas
1 lb raisins
1 bottle of stout
5 oz minced or coarsely grated apple
1 lb grated fresh beef suet
6½ oz candied peel, finely chopped
8oz grated pumpkin
8 oz demerara sugar
½ oz cinnamon
¼ oz ground cloves
¼ oz ground nutmeg
Mix all the ingredients thoroughly in a large mixing bowl. Cover and leave to stand for two days, mixing twice daily.
Put the mixture into pudding basins topped with a double circle of greaseproof paper and a double layer of foil over the bowl. Secure with string, remembering to include a handle to help you lift the puddings later. Steam according to the size of bowls used (see below). When the puddings are cooked remove them and leave to cool before replacing the foil cover. On the day of serving steam the pudding again for the sorter time given below:
600ml/1 pint 5 hours 2 hours
900ml/1½ pint 7 hours 3 hours
1.1 l./ 2 pint 9 hours 3 hours
A pressure cooker may be used to reduce these cooking times.
ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS
Nothing in a pumpkin need be wasted as even the seeds can be dried and eaten as a snack. Just spread them on a baking sheet, sprinkle with a little salt, and bake at 190C/375F/Gas mark 5 for 20 minutes.