For many the appearance of the bright orange pumpkin in the shops usually means Halloween is on its way and images of lanterns are the first thought. However, the pumpkin is a great fruit, yes it is a fruit, not a vegetable and a versatile one at that . For me it signals that not only is Halloween around the corner but that Autumn has arrived and it’s time for a change of flavours in the kitchen. Different seasons bring new colours, new aromas, and the pumpkin denotes warm, spicy earthy tones that add comfort to food as we move away from salads and the lightness and freshness of summer food.
Pumpkin works well in casseroles and curries, as a soup, in risotto as a stuffing for certain pasta, a roasted veg and even in a cake or a dessert. When I mentioned that I was making a selection of cakes and desserts with my pumpkin haul, there were a few raised eyebrows in the house, not surprising as my boys would never eat it as a savoury dish, preferring to carve it in to a lantern to go trick or treating or to adorn the doorstep on Halloween. However, like other fruit or vegetable cakes it makes a lovely addition as it lends a nice subtle sweetness and moistness to a sponge cake and it’s also a nice change for a cheesecake or pie. Warm spices such as cinnamon, ginger and chilli compliment the flavour of pumpkin as do sweet flavours such as orange and surprisingly for some chocolate. These recipes make a nice change from the soups and savoury dishes and where possible I have reduced the calorie content by using oil or ‘lighter’ ingredients.
Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake with Chocolate Ginger Sauce
Ingredients 225g digestive biscuits
Juice and zest of 1 orange
340g cooked pumpkin. Either roast or steam
25g fresh ginger grated
225g golden caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
175g Plain chocolate
1 tbsp ginger wine or a tbsp of the syrup from the preserved ginger.
2 pieces of preserved ginger (from a jar) chopped
Place the chocolate, butter and milk in a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water, stir until melted and creamy. Stir in the ginger and set aside until needed.
Heat the oven to 170oc /. Fan Gas 3
Grease and line a 10 in/25cm loose bottomed cake tin.
Crush the digestive biscuits into fine crumbs.
Melt the butter over a low heat, stir in the biscuit crumbs along with the orange zest Press the biscuit crumb mix into the base of the tin and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese, pumpkin, grated ginger, sugar, and cinnamon until the mixture is smooth. A food mixer will make this much easier.
Beat the eggs and fold into the pumpkin mixture. Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for approximately 90 mins until set and a skewer comes out clean. Once cool,turn onto a serving plate, cover and chill overnight. To serve, dust lightly with icing sugar and drizzle with chocolate sauce.
Pumpkin and apple samosas
1 packet of Filo pastry
225g pumpkin chopped into a small dice
110g apples chopped into a small dice
25g grated ginger
1 tbsp plain flour
Light muscovada sugar Combine the filling ingredients together. Unroll the Filo, and cover with a damp tea towel.
Take one sheet of pastry and brush with melted butter or oil, fold one third, brush again and fold I the final third to make one long strip of pastry.
Place a spoonful of the filling at one corner end of the Filo and fold diagonally to make a triangle. Continue folding until you reach the end of the pastry strip and have formed a triangle parcel. Brush with melted butter or oil, place on a baking sheet and bake, 200C/ 180c fan Gas 6 for 20 – 30 mins until crisp and golden.
Allow to cool slightly, dust lightly with icing sugar and serve with low fat creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt.
My next healthier Halloween offering is my Chocolate & Orange Pumpkin cake and although it contains sugar , there’s no artificial colourings. This is a recipe I have adapted from my Mother in laws chocolate cake and the various carrot cakes I have made over the years. It’s made with fresh pumpkin and rapeseed oil as I find using oil makes for a more moist cake and much lower in saturated fat than butter.
The frosting is made with light cream cheese, icing sugar and grated orange rind, although a lighter option is an orange drizzle icing.
300g self raising flour
300g light muscovada sugar
2.5 tsp cinnamon
60g cocoa powder (Green and Blacks gives the best flavour)
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs beaten
140 ml rapeseed oil
30 ml natural yoghurt
Zest of 1 orange
650g pumpkin grated.
200g light cream cheese
100g icing sugar
Zest of 1 orange
Approx 2 tbsp orange juice.
Oven Temp 180oc/ fan 160oc gas 4
30×20 cm loose bottomed cake tin – greased and lined with baking parchment
Put the dry ingredients, flour,sugar, spice, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder and salt in to a large mixing bowl.
Beat the eggs, add the oil and yoghurt and orange zest and mix well. Fold in to the dry ingredients and then stir in the grated pumpkin ensuring that it is mixed well.
Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 35 – 40 mins or until springy to touch.
Beat the cream cheese, butter, icing sugar together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the orange zest / juice until you achieve the desired flavour.
I find too much zest and juice makes the finished flavour to orangey and can be overpowering for the flavour of the cake. Using a palette knife to spread and swirl the frosting over the cake. Decorate as required.
Notes. Once frosted the cake keep well for a few days in the fridge. Lower the calorie count by using an orange drizzle icing.
Orange Drizzle Icing
Juice of 1 orange and zest of 1/2. 100g granulated sugar Mix ingredients together and drizzle over cake.
My thanks to Alice Strange at www.potiki.com for permission to use the ‘Add a Pinch of Salt’ print and to Debra at www.gardensinspiredblogspot.com for allowing use of the pumpkin and garden pictures.