After yet more mild weather here in Adelaide, autumn has finally landed big time – well, up here in the hills it has – and I write this post sitting next to my gently glowing slow-combustion stove which I’ve lit for the first time this season. As I mentioned to you last week, I’m very fond of the comforts of the cooler weather – warm fires, fluffy slippers, red wine and the seasonal foods that are around at this time of year. Pumpkin always features pretty strongly around now and it is one of my favourite vegetables.
Pumpkins are grown all around the world as commercial food crops, for animal feed and for ornamental reasons. In fact, of all the seven continents only one – Antarctica – is unable to produce them, with the biggest producer-nations being the United States, Canada, India and China. They are a versatile and adaptable vegetable and the variety of dishes which can be prepared are not just limited to the flesh of the plant. Pumpkin seeds are a popular and highly nutritious snack food when roasted and also yield an oil which contains essential fatty acids, and is considered a delicacy in parts of Europe.
There is a vast variety of pumpkins and squash which can be grown, but you would be forgiven for being unaware of this fact as the range available in supermarkets is limited to only a very few. Once again, here is where farmers markets and CSA’s come into their own as the producers not bound to the limited growing options of the large retailers can experiment with smaller crops and some of the lesser known or forgotten varieties. Jupiter Creek Farm subscribers will have found some lovely, little orange pumpkins called Potimarrons in their boxes of late. These are a French heritage variety whose name derives from “potiron” for pumpkin and “marron” for chestnut, due to their aromatic chestnut flavour when roasted.
I combined mine with some local garlic which I had preserved in olive oil, some cheesey pastry and a jar of sublime marinated feta from Udder Delight’s Divine Dairy range. I made the confit garlic in my Thermomix, but it can be done very simply in a saucepan too – directions to do this are included.
- 200 gms plain flour
- 100 gms butter, cubed & chilled
- 25 gms finely grated parmesan cheese
- 50-60 gms iced water
- 500gms slice, peeled pumpkin
- 2 tbs chopped, fresh sage
- olive oil
- 5-6 cloves confit garlic, mashed
- 200 gms feta (marinated is nice)
- 1 tbs chopped, fresh sage
- 1 tbs toasted sesame seeds
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- Place flour, butter and cheese in food processor and whizz until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
- With the machine running, slowly add the iced water until the dough just comes together. DO NOT OVER-PROCESS or it will shrink on cooking.
- Turn it out onto benchtop, knead lightly, then wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate for ½ hour.
- Toss pumpkin slices in sage, olive oil, salt and pepper, spread in a shallow baking tray and cook for 15-20 minutes until just soft. Cool.
- Remove pastry from refrigerator and roll out to fit rectangular, loose-bottomed tart flan (or whatever one you have). Place baking paper over the dough and weigh it down with pastry weights or dried beans. Blind bake for 12 minutes.
- Spread the mashed garlic along the base of the flan, crumble ½ the feta over this, then layer the cooked pumpkin. Crumble the rest of the feta on top and sprinkle with chopped sage.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until pastry is golden and cheese is melty.
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
The confit garlic is very simple to do and a great way to make the most of locally grown garlic while it is available. I have my friend chef Mel Haynes to thank for this recipe. I first tried some which she had made on the stove-top at her house and went home and adapted it for the Thermomix. She has kindly allowed me to share it with you.
Begin by peeling 4-5 heads of garlic. I use the method suggested by Saveur.com in this video – it’s not perfect, but does work surprisingly well. If you have a Thermomix simply add the peeled garlic to about 500 mls of really good olive oil, set the temperature to 80C, reverse stir setting and let it go for 2-3 hours. Start checking after 2 hours. You do not want the garlic to change colour, but it will become soft when done. If doing the garlic in a saucepan, keep the heat just under a simmer for the same amount of time and, once again, keep an eye on it. If it changes colour the taste will alter. If you have a cooking thermometer you might like to use that.
Store the finished garlic in the oil in a sealed jar. Keep refrigerated and use the extra oil for whatever takes your fancy – it’s delicious!
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Life has been keeping me on my toes of late, but here I am at last and you can find the list of this weeks contents here.
We have withstood the bucket-loads of rain that have fallen this week, but only just. Too much rain caused our lights to short out and we had the wonderful local electrician out at 8.45 pm last night and again this morning, but all is sorted and we are once again gaily illuminated.
It is great to be able to actually eat the turning of the seasons as the first pears of autumn appear in our boxes this week – along with what must surely be some of the last plums of summer! More of those fantastic Dutch Creme spuds this week – and even more for us! It is always well worth looking in the swap box at your city cousins pick up point to see what others have traded. This week our swap box had a handful of potatoes in it so I decided that we could do very nicely without our Bok Choy and grabbed the spuds! There will be a meal of baked potatoes in our very-near future.
With all of the rain lately, you could be excused for thinking about winter dishes and the delicious little pumpkins are so sweet and tasty in a soup. Butternuts are technically a squash and come from the Cucurbitaceae family, other members of which include the cucumber, zucchini and pumpkin. They have been cultivated for hundreds of years with some suggestions that they may have been eaten in the Americas as long as 5,000 years ago. Pumpkins in general are a familiar ingredient in north American meals, but the Butternut is most popular here in Australia, in New Zealand and in South Africa.
For something just a little different with butternuts, try peeling, seeding and cubing the pumpkin. Salt it and drain it in a colander for 5-7 minutes, then toss in flour and fry in a shallow frypan in melted butter, turning occasionally, until tender. Pile cooked pumpkin in a serving dish and sprinkle with a teaspoon of sumac and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. (If, like me, cayenne frightens you, reduce to your tolerated amount.) Serve with a simple garlic and yoghurt sauce on the side.
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The link to the boxes for this week is here.
Ok folks, this is it! Not much wiggle room left now for the last minute preparations so I hope that, like me, you have everything wrapped, cooked, listed or organized in some serious way.
I’m sorry, I lied just then.
I have yet to wrap anything, I only remembered an hour ago that I hadn’t bought any seafood, and I will get around to writing out the shopping list for the rest of the fresh food real soon – I’m sure.
However, I did promise some salad recipes and here they are. First up is my very favourite pumpkin salad, although sweet potato works very nicely, too. I’m very much afraid that I am quite fuzzy on the amounts of the ingredients – I have never weighed them at all, so I’ll try to give an educated guess. I dress this in several ways, depending on my mood. You can drizzle the salad with either reduced or straight balsamic or pomegranate molasses.
Pumpkin and Feta Salad
1 bunch young silverbeet or same of baby spinach
3 cups cubed, peeled pumpkin
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 good tsp ras el hanout
1 orange, peeled and thinly sliced
good handful of chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
175gm (ish) feta cheese, cubed
Toss pumpkin in oil & spread in shallow baking dish, sprinkle with ras el hanout and roast at 180C 15-20 minutes. Cool.
Use the rinsed greens as a bed on a large, shallow serving dish.
Scatter over the pumpkin, orange, nuts and feta.
Drizzle over dressing and serve.
My second offering is a spinach or silverbeet salad made famous by a good friend of mine called Susie and is just the right colours for the Xmas table! It is simply chopped silverbeet tossed together with cherry tomatoes, chopped capsicum, mung bean sprouts and chopped hard-boiled egg. What sells this one is the dressing which is –
1/3 cup castor sugar
1/3 cup bbq sauce
1 cup oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 grated onion
1/2 tsp salt
Shake, then drizzle on the salad. Sprinkle with chopped, crisp bacon to finish off.
I’ll be taking the next week off to lie around and let my kids wait upon me hand and foot (I wish!). I’ll be back again in the new year and I hope that everyone has a very happy holiday!