This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias
I grew up watching 1970s US sitcoms, like Diff’rent Strokes, Happy Days, One Day at a Time (totally giving away my age now).
I was fascinated by their Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays – when families would gorge on turkey, cornbread, and candied yams (a bizarre dish of caramelised sweet potato slices, topped with melted marshmallows).
But it was the dessert dish that always stood out to me; pumpkin pie. Which – at first glance – sounds completely wrong; a traditional veggie, used in a dessert?!
Except – here’s the kicker – botanically, pumpkin’s not actually a vegetable, it’s a fruit. I. Know.
Once you get past this little fact the idea of a pumpkin pie doesn’t seem nearly so strange. After all, the fruit (!) has got a natural fleshy sweetness that goes beautifully with spices like nutmeg and cinnamon.
So, after all these years of wondering what a pumpkin pie actually tastes like, I decided to find out by making my very own. I found a basic American recipe and tweaked it to suit my own taste buds.
Pumpkin pie is such a massive thing in the States – especially around Halloween when pumpkins are EVERYWHERE – that they have loads of tinned purees you can choose from. I was pleasantly surprised to find my local Waitrose stocked the canned version but also wanted to ‘keep it real’ by including fresh pumpkin in my mix, so I bought both.
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 large eggs
- 200g canned pumpkin puree
- 200g fresh pumpkin puree (mixed together with canned)
- 1 12 oz can evaporated milk
- shortcrust pastry
I started by cutting up my pumpkin and boiling it until soft, then mashing it into a puree. I filled a pie tray with shortcrust pastry and blind baked it at 200 degrees Celcius for 10 minutes, just to get a little bit of crispness to the base.
Next, I mixed all the pie ingredients into a big bowl, and slowly poured the mixture into the pastry base.
I popped it in the oven for another 10 minutes on 200 degrees, then turned it down to 175 degrees, and baked for a further 15 minutes.
While that was cooking I prepared my pièce de résistance – candied pecans.
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- pinch salt
I mixed all the ingredients together in a saucepan, then added the pecans until they were deliciously coated in the toffee-like mixture. I gently poured them over the top of the pumpkin pie, then returned it to the oven to bake for a further 25 minutes.
I used a fork to test the pie – when it came out clean it was ready – and the pecan mixture had deliciously caramelised on top. After letting it cool, it was ready; the perfect indulgent autumn treat served with a side of vanilla ice cream.
Kill two Halloween birds with one stone by adding another pumpkin to your shopping trolley.
Pumpkin carving actually originated in Ireland, when people used to carve spooky faces into turnips to celebrate the end of summer (Samhain). When immigrants took the traditional harvest celebration to America, the locals adopted it with vigour, then evolved it into pumpkin carving.
To carve a pumpkin, first, you need to cut the top off, being careful to cut at an angle (so the lid doesn’t fall straight through when you put it back on) and making the aperture big enough to comfortably fit your hand inside.
Scrap all the pulp and seeds from inside, I find a plain dessert spoon works best, and if you’re really enthusiastic, you can even roast the pumpkin seeds with a bit of olive oil and salt.
You can put pumpkin carving kits from your local supermarkets for a few pounds, otherwise carefully pierce the flesh with a small serrated knife, and carve out your design (draw it on first, if you want some guidelines to follow).
Finally, fill the inside with a battery-operated tea light, or string of fairy lights, to safely illuminate your Jack-o’-Lantern.
Now you’re all ready for those trick or treaters!
• read our step-by-step Halloween tutorial to create a Vampire makeup look