As the annual ghoul fest approaches the shops start to fill up with pumpkins, essential to creating the eerie glowing face peering from your window.
Big ones, little ones and those in between, pick a perfect pumpkin and not only can you display your artistic creativity, you can show off your culinary skills as well.
Here in the UK we tend only to see these rather stunning orange orbs over the Halloween period, which is a shame because they are highly nutritious and extremely tasty. As a result we probably make our choice based on colour and size with little knowledge of whether the fruit (fruit according to Wikipedia... some say vegetable!) is at its best for eating.
The question is how to tell when a pumpkin is ripe. Is a pumpkin ripe when it turns orange? Does a pumpkin have to be orange to be ripe?
Check the colour
As a rule if your pumpkin is orange all the way around, your pumpkin is ripe. However, a pumpkin does not need to be all the way orange to be ripe. Some pumpkins are ripe when they are still completely green. Confused? Well, to be certain, there are other ways to double check whether it is ripe or not.
Give it a wallop
Another way how to tell when pumpkins are ripe is to give the pumpkin a good thump or a slap. If the pumpkin sounds hollow, that the pumpkin is ripe and ready to be picked.
Study the skin
The skin, or indeed the stem, of a pumpkin will be hard when the pumpkin is ripe. Use a fingernail and gently try to puncture the pumpkin’s skin. If the skin dents but does not puncture, the pumpkin is ready to pick.
So you've got all creative and your jack o'lantern sits proudly waiting to be illuminated on the big night... surely there must be something we can do with that big pile of erm, stuff that came out of the middle?! Of course there is... savoury or sweet, you choose.
There is little more simple than a classic soup, and this one is just the thing to warm your cockles as you look out at the night sky in search of marauding witches...
Prep: 30 mins l Cook: 30 mins
1. Cut pumpkin flesh into even pieces.
2. Peel the onions and cut in half. Prepare the garlic cloves by peeling and roughly chopping.
3. Put all into a large stock pot and almost cover with water. Boil till the pumpkin is soft, then allow to cool.
4. Puree the mixture in the cooking liquid
5. To serve, thin with milk, or with milk and water and reheat.
6. The puree can also be frozen for later use.
Sweet Pumpkin Pie
For a classic sweet pumpkin pie, this has to be one of the simplest recipes around.
For the pastry, use ready made sweet short crust pastry case (approx 23cm diameter and 4cm deep)
For the filling
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. Steam the pumpkin then place in a coarse sieve and press lightly to extract any excess water. Then lightly whisk the eggs and extra yolk together in a large bowl.
3. Place the sugar, spices and the cream in a pan, bring to simmering point, giving it a whisk to mix everything together.
4. Pour over the eggs and whisk again.
5. Add the pumpkin puree, still whisking to combine everything thoroughly. Pour the filling into your pastry case and bake for 35-40 minutes, by which time it will puff up round the edges but still feel slightly wobbly in the centre.
6. Remove the pie from the oven and place the tin on a wire cooling rack.
Can be served warm or chilled, accompanied by creme fraiche, cream or ice cream. Yum Yum! So treat yourself, or impress your guests; there's a lot more to pumpkins than scary faces!
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