I have two confessions to make –
1. I’m not a fan of Halloween.
2. I dislike pumpkin.
I hate that I don’t like what’s become a really popular, cool holiday.
In my defence, and to prove I’m not totally boring, I really dig the idea of Dia de Los Muertos (day of the dead), celebrated in South America around the same time as Halloween – I could really get behind that. But Halloween just doesn’t do it for me.
When I see plastic pumpkins and spider webs in the supermarket I just imagine them in landfill a couple of weeks after and can’t help but do the biggest, most obnoxious, attitudey eye roll ever.
I also really hate that I dislike such a beautiful (not to mention nutritious) vegetable, especially when I love all the other squashes – even the ones that look very similar to pumpkins, but I’ve just never liked actual pumpkin any way I’ve tried it.
Perhaps it’s because my very first encounter with it was not a good memory.
I was nineteen, living in Bordeaux as an au pair, and had met some Canadian girls who invited me to a Halloween party. I was excited to go, but had no idea what to expect. At that time we didn’t really celebrate Halloween in the UK, and if anyone DID ever dress up, it was as a ghost or a witch.
I wasn’t prepared for all the Scooby Doo and Incredible Hulk costumes, and I distinctly remember one guy dressed as a shower, with the shower arm strapped over his head and the curtain surrounding him on a rail. That was hilarious, admittedly, but I never got why none of the costumes were related to Halloween. I remember wondering how it became a thing in North America to wear any old costume, and not a Halloween themed one.
At some point during this party, someone handed around a pumpkin pie. I wasn’t vegan at the time, so when it got passed to me I took a slice, looking forward to trying this strange, new (to me) treat.
It was grooooooossss! Yes, I think the cook had just screwed it up, I really don’t think it was the pumpkin’s fault, but that taste memory kind of sticks.
To try and get over my silly aversion, for the last few years I’ve bought a pumpkin around this time, planning to make a soup or stew.
Shamefully, these pumpkins have always ended up going mouldy in the fruit bowl – and that’s no small feat, do you know how frickin’ long pumpkins last?
Last year I bought a small pumpkin, determined to make myself like it.
I figured that if butternut squash wedges were good, pumpkin wedges had to be too, right?
WRONG! They were disgusting.
I’ll try again sometime. I WILL like pumpkin, I MUST like pumpkin – how can I not love something called ‘pumpkin’? That’s just ridiculous.
I love pumpkin seeds, so I’m half way there right?
Of course I feel completely hypocritical asking you to make sure you use up any pumpkins you may be carving or painting for your Halloween celebrations.
But I’m going to do it anyway.
Huge powerhouses of vitamin A, it would be a waste not to use your Halloween Jack o’lantern once it’s served its scary purpose. After carving, they can last up to five days. But what do you do with it after the big day?
Here’s an idea.
Pumpkin puree is the basis for many, MANY autumnal culinary treats. From vegan pies, to soups, to smoothies, you are gonna want some of this stuff in your freezer. The canned or jarred stuff just isn’t as good as if you make it yourself….ahem…apparently.
What you do.
– If you’ve carved your pumpkin you’ll have already scooped out the stringy innards and seeds – if not, do this now, and cut off the stem.
– To boil your pumpkin; quarter it, peel each quarter, then chop each quarter into chunks. Boil them for around twenty minutes, or until chunks are tender. Drain, let cool, then blitz chunks with a food processor/blender and transfer puree to a fridge-friendly container. It will keep in the fridge for three days or in the freezer for three months.
Or you can cut it in the same way and steam the chunks – this should take around forty – fifty minutes.
Or – and this may prove to be tastier, you can roast it.
– To roast – pre-heat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Cut pumpkin in half from top to bottom. Lay the two halves flesh side down on a greaseproof paper lined baking tray, and bake for thirty – forty-five minutes, or until you can easily insert and remove a paring knife. Test with the knife in several places, to ensure it’s roasted well all over.
– When cooled, scoop the flesh away from the skin and blitz it in a food-processor. If it’s a little thick, you can add water until it achieves puree consistency – though add a very little at a time – you don’t want it to end up too runny.
– Store the same as boiled pumpkin puree.
– Peruse vegan pumpkin recipes on the world wide web.
And do not forget to eat the seeds!
Pumpkin seeds are jam-packed with nutrients. They are an excellent source of zinc, magnesium, iron and manganese; and contain vitamin E – a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent free radicals from doing dastardly things to your body.
You’ll have noticed the seeds come out of the pumpkin looking white. The white bit is the shell, with the green seed (that you may be more used to seeing) inside.
You can hull your seeds, but it’s easier to just roast them as they are, then you can eat them whole, seed and all.
It’s SUPER easy.
Here’s how it’s done:
The seeds come out of the pumpkin covered in orange fibrous crap. Put seeds in a sieve and wash the fibrous crap away as best you can.
Boil your seeds in water for around twenty-five minutes, then strain them and lay them out on a clean tea-towel to air dry for half an hour or so.
When they’re dry, put them in a bowl. Add half a teaspoon of olive oil; salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste, and mix it all up so the seeds are well coated in oil and flavouring. Then lay them out on a baking tray and roast at 350 degrees fahrenheit for twelve minutes. You’ll know they are done when they are golden brown and they sound like they are crispy when you jiggle the tray (you’ll know what I mean when you do this!)
Once cooled, eat them fresh or keep in an air tight container and they’ll last a week or so.
A great snack or salad topping any time!
Elmo says happy Halloween!