Friday, 4 November 2011

Small Pleasures

I've been seeing a lovely emotional therepist for the last few months. Something I always said I'd never do, but that totally blew me away when I realised how much it actually did help!

She reminds me to enjoy the little things: that success doesn't have to mean achieving every life-long dream at once, it can also mean making your own face-mask and having a sleepover; putting together the perfect playlist on iTunes; or maybe carving a pumpkin and then using the inside to cook something delicious!

The first I haven't done yet (but am looking forward to making happen at some point), the second and third I have indulged in during the last week. The pumpkins you see here were carved the Sunday before Halloween, whilst watching my favourite Halloween movie, Hocus Pocus (gotta love Bette Middler), and then followed by a delicious meal with my housemate and her lovely new man. I made warm pumpkin salad as a starter for the meal. It was good.

So I thought I'd share some recipies that make fantastic use of the leftover pumpkin! A reminder to always enjoy small pleasures.

Recipe 1
Warm Pumpkin and Feta Salad
Serves 4
The seeds and flesh of 1 small pumpkin, flesh cut roughly into 1 inch chunks
Crushed chillies
Juice and grated zest of 1 lime, plus a little extra juice for serving
2 tablespoons runny honey
generous drizzle olive oil
6 sprigs fresh thyme
approx 1 teaspoon paprika
1 pack feta cheese
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven at 150 C
2. Wash seeds and mix with 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes, the lime zest and juice, and some salt and pepper. Roast in the oven on a baking tray for 30-40 mins, tossing once during cooking, until they're dry and crispy
3. Next place the pumpkin flesh in another tray. Mix together the honey, oil and thyme, pour over the pumpkin and mix until well coated.
4. Sprinkle over about another 1/2 teaspoon of chilli flakes, the paprika and some salt and pepper, and cover with foil
5. Turn the oven up to 190 C and roast the pumpkin for 20mins, then remove the foil and cook for around another 20mins, basting regularly until the sauce and pumpkin wedges have caramalised.
6. Cut the feta into 1cm cubes. Mix together with the pumpkin and finally squeeze over a little more lime juice and sprinkle with the seeds. Serve with creme fraiche and warm buttery bread.

Recipe 2
Proper American Pumpkin Pie
Serves 10-12 depending on portion size!
4oz plain flour
1oz icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2oz butter
1 1/2oz lard
A little very cold water
300g mashed, cooked pumpkin flesh
1 small tin evaporated milk
2 eggs, beaten
150g dark soft brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Start by making the pastry case:
1. Preheat oven at 190C
2. Sift the flour, salt and sugar together into a large mixing bowl
3.Cut the butter and lard into small chunks and mix into the flour using a knife, cutting up the lumps as you mix.
4. Once it's is in small pieces, use your fingertips to gently rub and mix the butter and lard into the flour, until it looks like breadcrumbs
5. Add a little splash of water and mix using your hands. Make sure the mixture stays cold- this is the key to good pastry! So use very cold water and keep a window open if it's hot in the kitchen...
6. Add enough water to make a dough. The bowl should be left clean. Then cling-film the ball of dough and leave in the fridge while you make the filling:
7. Cut a small pumpkin into 1 inch chunks and remove the skin, seeds and any stringy bits. Put the pumpkin in a saucepan and cover with boiling water, then simmer for approx 30 mins until it's soft.
8. Drain and leave to cool.
9. While you're waiting, you can take the pastry from the fridge and use it to line a 20cm flan dish. Put a circle of baking parchment in the centre to stop the inside from burning or bubbling up, then blind-bake the pastry case for 10 mins. Don't throw away the pastry cuttings, you can use these later on.
10. Next, blend/mash the pumpkin to a pulp. Weigh out 300g of the mash, and place in a bowl. (Don't throw the rest away, it makes a really good soup heated up with some cooked onions, coconut milk, thai spices and veg stock)
11. Add all the other filling ingredients to the bowl and mix till combined.
12. Remove the paper from the pastry case and pour in the mixture, then return it to the oven for 15mins, when the top of the filling should be starting to harden.
13. At this point, I take the leftover bits of pastry and cut out little star shapes, then carefully place them at random on the top of the pie. Just a pretty little touch, not exactly neccessary, but like I said, pleasure in small things!
14. Put the pie back in the oven and cook for approx another 20-25mins, until the filling is set but still soft.
15. Serve hot or cold (but I prefer it hot) with a generous dollop of fresh cream. NOM!

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