#TheDurhamPantry: Pumpkin Anyone?

Pumpkins ripe for picking

As Halloween creeps up on us, pumpkins are becoming increasingly hard to ignore. These great autumnal beasts are not just lining supermarket windows but are rolling their way into our favourite Starbucks lattes and headlining many foodie forums—check out this BBCgoodfood feature.

With all these temptations, we couldn’t resist an adventurous pumpkin themed morning in the kitchen and after some research we stumbled across a rather decadent looking pumpkin brûlée recipe on The Guardian.

However, it wasn’t until after cooking began that we realised we were no longer in the comfort of our own homes and were lacking the luxuries of a full range of kitchen utensils, homegrown spices and of course our beloved Agas… Instead, our viaduct dwelling lifestyles forced us to cope with limited facilities (and a tight budget!) by making some slight amendments to the original recipe. Blending the roasted pumpkin into a silky brûlée proved rather tricky as both of our hand-me-down Magimixes failed us. However we resorted to using a rather blunt potato masher and after a bit of physical labour, it did the job quite nicely. We were also reluctant to splash out on a new bottle of rum to spice up this pudding, as the original recipe so innocently suggests, and so we made a compromise, as our recipe outlines below.

Pumpkin brûlée in mugs
Pumpkin brûlée

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

  • 1 small pumpkin (butternut squash also works)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 250ml of double cream
  • 120g of light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (ground mace and nutmeg would be ideal, but we made do with North Road’s below par supplies)
  • 2 generous tablespoons of rum (we used leftovers from last night’s pre’s…)
  • 4 tablespoons of caster sugar
  • A pinch of salt

Method:

  • Peel, core and slice (hack) the pumpkin into chunks (a little elbow grease and perseverance may be required here if your knives are as blunt as ours)
  • Set the oven to 180C and roast for about 20–30 minutes until the pumpkin is soft enough to blend/mash
  • While the pumpkin is roasting, warm the cream, spices and whatever rum you can find in a pan on the hob for 2 minutes (be careful not to let the heat creep up and burn the cream!)
  • Beat the egg yolks in a bowl, adding the brown sugar, cream and a pinch of salt, and combine with the mashed squash until everything is smooth and creamy
  • Turn down the oven to 150C and begin to spoon the mixture into small individual dishes—ramekins are perfect, but we had to improvise by half-filling mismatched mugs, ensuring a true student finish
  • Place your dishes into a deep-sided baking tray and carefully pour boiling water into the dish in order to surround each brûlée (which helps to keep a stable temperature throughout)
  • Cook in the oven for approx. 30 minutes until set with a slight wobble
  • In order to ‘brûlée’ the surface of each dish, allow a few hours of cooling time in the fridge, then sprinkle with the remaining caster sugar and heat under a grill until the layer turns caramel brown (having a blow torch would be much more fun and efficient but, again, we must make do!)

Georgie and Helena’s solutions: What to do with leftovers (ways to turn your kitchen into a pumpkin patch)

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Being savvy students who hate the thought of waste, we also came up with a few of our own ideas on how to truly maximise the output of the pumpkin. Our housemates were more than willing to try our home-roasted pumpkin seeds as the smell of toasted sugar and cinnamon wafted through the house—described by one housemate as “the definition of a winter warmer”. We also found that boiling the fleshy pumpkin guts made a lovely, fragrant pumpkin stock which can be later added to a variety of dishes—pumpkin risotto is on our menu for tomorrow night’s supper!

Roasted pumpkin seeds: These are really delicious and make a great film or revision snack!

  • Separate the seeds from the stringy orange flesh and rinse through in a sieve
  • Place the washed seeds on a shallow baking tray, and coat the seeds in a drizzle of olive oil
  • Flavour with a teaspoon of brown sugar and cinnamon and cook them in the oven for approx. 20 minutes at 180C, giving the seeds a quick stir halfway through

Pumpkin stock: Easy yet oh-so-yummy!

  • Place the stringy flesh from the inside of the pumpkin into a saucepan and generously cover with water
  • Boil for approx. 30 minutes, ensuring to top up the water if needed
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste, then finally pour the stock through a sieve to remove any unwanted flesh
  • Store the stock in an airtight container in the fridge, to use as a flavouring for risotto, soup, casserole and pasta dishes!

[Blurb image credit: Ginny via Flickr]

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