Regardless of the Halloween associations, pumpkins and squash really herald the coming of autumn. After a morning of hard digging in the garden a bowl of butternut squash soup is an absolute joy as is the classic squash and sage risotto for an October dinner with friends. Healthy, comforting and so filling, the squash family has a special place in my heart. These are two recent creations of mine. An Indian meal is always my go-to cuisine for a vegetarian get together and this Crown Prince curry went down very well. I'm particularly pleased with the pumpkin pie ice cream which transformed the rather uninspiring flesh of a carving pumpkin into something quite delicious.
Crown Prince Curry
Crown Prince is one of my favourite squashes. It's shaped like a traditional pumpkin but has a rather sophisticated silvery grey colour. The flavour is greatly superior to your standard pumpkin and it has a nice firm texture. You can prepare this all in advance to cook for half an hour at the end. Served in the shell of the squash this is a wonderful centrepiece for a halloween or bonfire night dinner, fit for a crown prince!
Serves 6 (or more depending on accompanying dishes)
1 large crown prince squash, hollowed and the flesh, however it comes out!
300g root vegetables (I usually use carrots and beetroot but parsnips, turnips and even celeriac works well), cut into a 2cm dice
1 large red onion, cut into 8 wedges
5 garlic cloves
5cm fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 black cardamom, whole
6 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 tsp black cumin seed
2 tbsp garamasala
1 star anise
1 bay leaf
Fresh coriander leaves
Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
Lay the root vegetables and the onion pieces on a roasting tray. Add a good slug of olive oil and the whole coriander seeds. Roast for about 30 minutes until browning at the edges.
While the vegetables are cooking, toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan. Coarsely grind and add to the yoghurt. Add the remainder of the spices, the crushed garlic and the chopped ginger. Then stir in the squash flesh.
When the vegetables are cooked remove from the oven and allow them to cool. Add them to the yoghurt marinade, mix well and stuff into the squash shell. Pour in around 100ml of water. Add the lid of the squash and roast for 30 minutes or until the shell softens.
Before serving, give the curry a good stir and garnish with coriander leaves. The skin of the crown prince is generally very tender so when you've served up the curry contents you can carve slices of the squash too.
Top tip: We had lots of the squash shell left over and it's great for a simple soup. Don't bother peeling the pieces - just whizz them up, add a bit of stock and you have a delicious hearty soup.
Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
The pumpkin pies I have enjoyed can be counted on one hand, or probably one finger. I always like the idea but there's a tendency to a bland flavour, normally clawingly sweet and a peculiar texture. To avoid creating a mediocre recipe I went to my comfort zone and this is pretty brilliant! It's an ideal use for the flesh from your carved halloween lanterns.
This recipe is for a very traditional, and rather long-winded custard-based ice cream. I think it's worth it but you can also add the spices and puree to a simplified base.
Bonfire parties may be postponed this year but keep this recipe for future years. The perfect antidote to a fiery chilli around the bonfire.
300g pumpkin flesh
3 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp water
Zest of half an orange
6 egg yolks
180g demerara sugar
pinch of salt
300ml double cream
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Caramelised pecans, broken up brandy snaps or just an additional drizzle of maple syrup
First make the pumpkin puree but putting the pumpkin chunks in a small saucepan with the maple syrup and water. Cook until the mixture is soft and you can easily mash it to a puree. Set aside to cool before adding the orange zest.
Now make the custard. Pour the cream and milk into a heavy based saucepan. Add the spices and the vanilla extract. Put on a very gentle heat for about 10 minutes until the mixture is almost boiling, remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for around twenty minutes.
Meanwhile beat together the egg yolks, sugar and salt until the mixture lightens in colour.
Now slowly pour the still warm cream mixture onto the eggs, gently whisking. Return the mixture to a clean saucepan and cook gently for around 10 minutes, stirring continuously. The custard will start to thicken and when it easily coats the back of the spoon it's time to remove from the heat and pour into a clean bowl and leave to cool completely. Stir in the pumpkin puree and you mix is ready for freezing.
Churn the mix in an ice cream maker or simply freeze in a container. Remember to remove the ice cream about half an hour before you want to serve.