Maggie Cooper

Classic autumn pumpkin pie recipe

HANDS up all those who have a pumpkin vine running wild in the back yard or vegie patch.

If you don’t, despair not. At this time of year, pumpkins are plentiful and cheap.

Delicious in soups or roasted in wedges to serve with a baked dinner, the versatile Cucurbit maxima is a member of the family that includes cucumbers, melons, and zucchini.

My favourite pumpkin is the traditional Australian Queensland Blue; it has a big hearty flavour and can be used in most pumpkin recipes.

Another favourite is the sweeter Butternut that makes great soup. Strictly speaking the butternut is not a pumpkin, but a gourd belonging to the Cucurbit moschata subgroup.

One of my favourite desserts is a Thai recipe for coconut custard in individual pumpkins. The tiny Golden Nugget is an ideal choice for the dessert. Individual miniature pumpkins have the tops cut off and the seeds scooped out; the hollow is then filled with a coconut custard mixture, lids replaced then the whole lot is steamed until the pumpkin is tender and the custard set.

However, probably the most famous pumpkin dessert would have to be pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving Day, which is celebrated in America on the fourth Thursday in November, celebrates the first meals made from the harvest by the early pilgrims. The meal traditionally includes ingredients native to the continent, such as corn, pumpkin and turkey. The Yanks must consider jelly to be native to their land; they never fail to serve a salad or vegetable encased in ‘jello’.

Pumpkin pie is a simple and substantial dessert, and ideal for our cooler autumn evenings. My mother used to bake a version with a gramma ‘pumpkin’, also a member of the gourd family. The whole house would fill with the warm welcoming fragrance of pumpkin and spices. She served it once to visitors just out from England. They were quietly horrified, as the Brits use pumpkin as cattle fodder. They politely ate the pie anyway!

For this version you can use any type of pumpkin you have on hand.

Recipe:

you will need:

pastry:

• 1 1/2 cups plain flour, sifted

• 100g unsalted butter, cubed

• 1/2 cup ice water

• 1 tblspn icing sugar

filling:

• 800g pumpkin, peeled and cubed

• 1/2 tsp each nutmeg, ground ginger and cinnamon

• 1 1/2 tspn pure vanilla extract

• 2 tblspn dark rum

• 1/2 cup pure cream

• 2 eggs

• 1 cup tightly packed brown sugar

to serve:

• 200ml double cream

method:

Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease a 23cm pie dish.

Place the flour, butter and icing sugar in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add enough ice water for the pastry to form a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roast pumpkin on a baking tray for 40 minutes or until tender. Set aside to cool, then process in a food processor with the spices, vanilla, rum and cream to combine.

Beat together the eggs and sugar in a small bowl, then stir into the pumpkin mixture.

Roll out the pastry and line the pie dish. Trim excess pastry.

Line the pie dish and pastry with non-stick baking paper, then fill with pastry weights, rice or lentils and blind bake for 10 minutes.

Remove paper and weights, then pour in the pumpkin mixture. If you use rice or lentils, they can be reused as weights, but are not suitable to eat.

Reduce the oven temperature to 170°C and bake for a further hour until the filling is set. Serve warm with double cream.

Serves 6-8.



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