As the week after Halloween, there’s a good chance that you are looking for things to do with pumpkins. Maybe you have some uncarved ones that never made the lantern stage or even some pieces of one that are sitting in the fridge. There are also bound to be loads on offer at the supermarket so it’s a great chance to try some of those pumpkin recipes. But what are the top things to do with pumpkins apart from make scary Halloween decorations?
Meet the pumpkin
The pumpkin is so wrapped up with Halloween and with the whole autumn season that it is easy to forget it is around all the year. it is from the same family of vegetables as the squash and is often known as winter squash in different parts of the world.
The plant originally comes from North America and this is probably why it is associated with many traditions such as pumpkin pie and Thanksgiving. Evidence for its use goes back to 7000BC in Mexico so it is a truly authentic American ingredient.
Pumpkins get their shocking orange colour from a number of orange carentoid pigments including some of the ones that give carrots their colour. These are transformed into Vitamin A in the body so the pumpkin is a great source of this.
Things to do with pumpkins
Pumpkins have a wide range of uses and most parts of the plant can be eaten including the seeds, leaves and the flowers as well as the vegetable itself. Mashed pumpkin is a big tradition in native North American dishes and it is also made into soups and purees that can be stored for later use. Seeds are roasted and eaten as a snack.
The seeds can also be roasted and pressed to create pumpkin seed oil. This can be either green or red in colour and is often mixed with other oils because it is very strong in flavour. It is used in a few local delicacies around Europe including for potato salad, pumpkin soup and even in vanilla ice cream. It is a good source of fatty acids such as oleic acid.
Pumpkin is a great candidate for soups and at this time of year, there’s nothing better than a warming bowl of soup.
Pumpkin and bacon soup
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 50g butter
- 1 onion
- 150g bacon cut into small pieces (I would be tempted to try pancetta here as well, my favourite!)
- 500g pumpkin, deseeded and in medium chunks
- 1 litre chicken stock
- 100ml double cream
In a pan add half the butter, the onion and a little salt then cook until softened. Add half the bacon and cook until fat is released. Increase the heat to medium and add the pumpkin, stock and season again. Boil then reduce the heat and summer for around 40 minutes then add the cream and boil once more. Blend until smooth, adding a little more stock if required then leave to cool. Fry the rest of the bacon with black pepper, split into four bowls and pour over the soup.
Healthy pumpkin soup recipe
- 1 ½ tbsp. olive oil
- 115g onion
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 700g pumpkin
- 480 ml vegetable stock (low salt if you prefer)
- 2 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- ½ tsp dried crushed red pepper (chili pepper to the UK)
- 360ml coconut milk
Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onion and garlic for around 10 minutes. Add the pumpkin, stock, sugar, spice and pepper then boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for around half an hour. Blend until smooth then add back to the pan, mixing in the coconut milk. Warm through them serve, adding pumpkin seeds if you like.
Apparently, this is both vegan and Paleo friendly!
While not always first on the list for the main courses, it seems many people have found creative ways to make a good meal from pumpkin with a few friends.
Pumpkin curry with chickpeas
- 1 tbsp. sunflower oil
- 3 tbsp. Thai yellow curry paste
- 2 onions
- 3 stalks lemongrass
- 6 cardamom cods
- 1 tbsp. mustard seed
- 1kg pumpkin
- 250ml vegetable stock
- 400ml coconut milk
- 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 limes
- Handful mint
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the curry paste with onions, lemongrass, cardamom and mustard seeds for a few minutes. Add the pumpkin in chunks and allow it to be coated by the spices. Pour the stock and coconut milk and summer. Add the chickpeas and cook for another 10 minutes until the pumpkin is tender. You can cool and freeze this now if you want.
Squeeze the juice of one lime into the curry and keep the other to serve as wedges. Tear up the mint leaves and sprinkle over once the curry is on the plate then serve with a naan bread.
Cakes and desserts
Pumpkin is definitely in its element as a sweet treat in cakes, breads and other types of desserts. There is the classic pumpkin pie but also many other ideas.
Banana pumpkin bread
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 oz. butter
- 2 eggs
- 2 bananas
- ½ cup pumpkin (recipe calls for canned but you could puree it up to get the same effect)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (see below to make your own)
Preheat oven and butter and flour a loaf pan. In a bowl, mix sugar and butter then add the eggs. Add the mashed banana and pumpkin then mix until combined. In a separate bowl, sift the flour then add the salt, baking soda and spice. Mix the two sets of ingredients together and add to the loaf tin. Bake for around 1 hour and when starts to brown, cover with tin foil.
Best pumpkin pie recipe
Probably everyone in the US will have their own version of the best pumpkin pie recipe but I picked this one because it sounds easy to do as well as tasty.
- 2 eggs + yolk of another one
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp nutmeg, cloves, cardamom
- ½ tsp lemon zest
- 2 cups pumpkin puree
- 1 ½ cup heavy cream
- Flaky pastry pie crust
Mix the eggs, sugars, salt, spices and lemon zest in a bowl then add the pumpkin and the cream, stirring until combined. Place the mixture in the uncooked pie crust and bake on high for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to a medium setting. Around 45 minutes later, check the pie is done with a temperature probe or by sticking a knife in and being certain it comes out clean.
Let the pie cool for at least two hours then serve with whipped cream
Other uses for pumpkin
Baked pumpkin oatmeal
This is a great idea for a breakfast dish or a light meal.
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 cups milk
- 2 eggs
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ginger
- 1/8 tsp clove
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup chopped walnuts (plus the same number of pecans if you like)
Soak the cranberries to soften them. Mix the butter, pumpkin, sugar, milk and eggs together then add the dry ingredients. Strain the cranberries and add with the nuts. Pour into a buttered baking dish and bake for around 30-40 minutes then cut into squares to serve.
Easy pumpkin spice latte recipe
This seems to be the in seasonal drink now and Starbucks is famous for it but you can easily make it at home and adjust the flavours to your own tastes.
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tbsp. white sugar (or more if you like it sweeter)
- 1 tbsp. pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup brewed espresso
Whisk up half the milk, sugar, puree and spice with the vanilla and simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes. Whisk the remaining half of the milk. Strain the mixture to remove any pulp and return to the saucepan, simmering for another 2 minutes. Add the espresso and whisk until foamy.
Make your own pumpkin pie spice
Finally, a quick note about how to make your own pumpkin pie spice for some of these recipes. Take 3 tablespoons of ground cinnamon, two of ground ginger and ground nutmeg, 1 ½ teaspoons of ground allspice and the same of ground cloves. Mix together in a bowl then store in a small jar until required.