Posts Tagged ‘halloween’

Recipe For Pumpkin Pie

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

What to do with all that lovely pumpkin that you’ve got after scooping out your pumpkin, or just because they are such good value discounted in those shops that have overstocked.  This year we’ve made a classic pumpkin pie – which was deliciously indulgent – and a warming pumpkin soup.

Pumpkin pie with cream

Pumpkin pie with cream

Here’s our Steenbergs sweet and traditional pumpkin pie recipe that has the texture of cheesecake with the warm spices of winter – cloves, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.   It uses Steenbergs organic Pumpkin Pie mix that I invented, so I make no apologies for using it in the recipe, however you can make your own using equal amounts of cinnamon and ginger and half of each nutmeg and cloves.


375g/ 13oz shortcrust pastry
3 medium free range eggs
425g/ 15oz puréed pumpkin (either canned or make it yourself – see later for making your own)
195g/ 6½oz Fairtrade golden brown caster sugar
¼tsp sea salt
3tsp Steenbergs organic Pumpkin Pie spices
335ml/ 11½ fl oz evapourated milk

1.  Preheat the oven to 200oC/ 400oF.

2.  Roll out the pastry and use it to line a 23cm round pie dish, to about 3mm thick.  Blind bake the pastry case for about 10 minutes. 

3.  Now mix up the filling.  Whisk the eggs lightly in a bowl.  Add the Fairtrade caster sugar, sea salt, Steenbergs Pumpkin Pie Spices, pumpkin purée and then evapourated milk.  Give it a good whisk after each ingredient to ensure that it has been mixed through thoroughly.

4.  Reduce the oven temperature to 170oC/ 340oF.  Take the part-baked pastry from the oven and pour in the filling.  Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the filling has just set; if you insert a skewer into the centre of the pie filling, it should come out clean.

5.  Allow to cool completely, then serve with cream.

6.  If you’re feeling indulgent, how about adding a smidgeon of Jack Daniels to the pie (about 2tbsp).

7.  To make your own pumpkin purée:

(1) chop up the pumpkin, removing all seeds and internal fibres and the skin and dice it into 3cm squares.  Boil with water for about 10 minutes.  Drain then process in your food processor until smooth; or

(2) chop up the pumpkin, removing all seeds and internal fibres, then place onto a baking tray and bake for 20 minutes at 180oC; now scrape out the cooked flesh and process until smooth.

For Halloween let’s enjoy Calan Gaeaf

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

It’s Fright Night which seems to be the name that Halloween is now being marketed under.  This is not its first branding makeover as All Saint’s Day was shifted from 13 May to 1 November, and so All Hallows’ Even to 31 October, to hijack and repress the traditional British festival of Calan Gaeaf and the Celtic festival of Samhain.  This was done by Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV in the 8th and 9th Centuries.   Halloween derives from All Hallows’ Even.

It’s a pity that he did this as it hasn’t really worked and this Christian Festival is actually celebrated still as a pagan night; it would have been much better to have embraced Calan Gaeaf like the Mexican Catholics have embraced the El Día de los Muertos or All Souls’ Day, which traces itself back 3000 years to the earlier Aztec, Maya and Totanac traditions.

Both traditions have similar ideas.  These are that Calan Geaaf and Samhain are the end of the lighter half of the year and the start of the darker half of the year, so we are really moving from summertime to wintertime.  The belief was that as the year moves from one phase to the next, the thin gossamer barrier between the Living World and the Otherworld shimmers, stretches and thins and dead spirits can move from the Otherworld to the Living World.

So it’s a time to remember our ancestors and all those who have come before us and pay homage to those that have brought us here.  Lighting a candle inside a carved head pays tribute to departed familial souls. 

But unfortunately some nastier spirits can cross over, so we must dress up in scary clothes to frighten them away, or at least for them to mistake our skeletal costumes for other evil spirits.

Traditionally, the lanterns were carved from a turnip and I remember many a boring day trying to carve out the tough inner of a turnip to carve a very crude face on it.  So as I eccentrically announced this week “the pumpkin is one of the greatest inventions!”  Carving a pumpkin is much simply than a turnip, so allows much more fanciful patterns to be made.  Also, the orange colours are much more beautiful than the white of a turnip and the smell much sweeter.

A pumpkin carved hag

A pumpkin carved hag

Interestingly, pumpkins and turnips only became associated with Halloween in the mid 19th Century.  They have always been around but really they were more a celebration of harvest and thanksgiving for the bounty of the earth rather than anything to do with Fright Night.  Perhaps though these lanterns or jack o’lanterns may protect the home from evil spirits, so they are a quite good co-option.

We enjoy carving quite complicated pumpkin patterns and this year, we have made a hag, a ghoul and a dragon.

We also used some Flying Pumpkin Lanterns, which were great fun.  These are based on Chinese flying lanterns called “Khom Fay” or “Khom Loy”, where the Chinese have had these for 2000 or so years.  Basically, it is a paper lantern stretched over a bamboo frame with a small candle in the centre that gives the lantern lift, just like a mini hot air balloon.  Ours were decorated as pumpkins.

It actually took quite a lot of time for the pumpkin lantern to fill out with hot air and we needed to tease out the creases and edges to let it bulge out fully.  However, when it was ready to go, I could feel it straining at my fingertips and then (after releasing), it shot upwards for about 100 metres, caught the wind and headed northwards at a far lick towards Helperby.  We lost sight of it after about 10 minutes when the lamp flickered a bit and then obviously went out.  Some farmer will have a surprise when he finds a flattened pumpkin paper lantern lying in his field.  Awesome fun.

Carving Your Pumpkin At Halloween

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Carving a pumpkin is really quite simple and (dare I say it) quite satisfying to do.  Here is how we do it in the Steenbergs household.

Firstly, choose a decent sized pumpkin with a good area on the face for you to do the carving.  A too small front face will be hard to carve and be fairly curved in shape.

Next, either draw a pattern onto the pumpkin using a marker pen or get a stencil and attach this to the pumpkin, using either tape or drawing pins.  You can download stencils from the web or buy them from good grocery stores – we bought a set of pumpkin carving safety knives from Booths in Ripon this year which came with some stencils.

I then usually mark around the stencil using a pin or the end of a sharp knife to mark out the pattern.

Marking out the pattern

Marking out the pattern

Put a read newspaper onto the table you are going to use as this makes tidying up much easier.  Now, using a knife cut a circle out of the top of the pumpkin and remove the top lid. 

Next, using a spoon and your hands scoop out all the seeds and the fibrous inner gunk.

Scooping out the gloop

Scooping out the gloop

Carefully and patiently cut out the pattern that you have marked out or drawn on the front of the pumpkin using safety knives if you’ve got them.  I use what looks like a slightly deadly array of pumpkin carving knives, sharp kitchen knives, metal skewers and bamboo skewers to cover all the possible bases while chopping away. 

Finished sea monster

Finished sea monster

The key thing is patience and perserverance.  Sometimes you also need to put your hand inside the pumpkin to give it further support as you are carving away as in the past we have broken off the more delicate bits of teeth or broomsticks and then have had to do emergency repair work using wooden toothpicks to put pumpkin flesh back onto the pumpkin!

As with all things in life, pratice makes perfect so every year you do it the better you will get.