Sunday, 31 October 2010


I just, finally earned a £5/$8 voucher for buying petrol at Morrison ‘s supermarket.  It has taken a year to earn enough points.  I don’t often shop at Morrison’s, except for petrol (gas if you are American) but every so often they have a good value bargain, like the 5p\8c sausages I got late one night…

I decided to spend the voucher immediately and to get some things we would use anyway such as eggs and bananas, which are much the same price in all of our local supermarkets.  I also decided, in true frugal tradition that I would get a small treat with part of the voucher.  It is always a good idea to treat yourself when you earn something extra, as it makes it seem worthwhile.

It being Halloween in a few days’ time, there were lots of pumpkins.  Now in my childhood here in Scotland you hollowed out a large turnip or swede, not a pumpkin to make a Halloween lantern.  We were tough it those days no doubt, but I have to say that hollowing out a pumpkin does not result in a bent spoon and stigmata on the palms of the hands in quite the same way that hollowing out a turnip does.   

My vote therefore goes to the pumpkin every time though I am sure it has more air miles here in Scotland.  We can grow them, it is just that there are not many commercial pumpkin growers here…

The advantage of it being Halloween was that the pumpkins were being sold at £2/$3.00 per pumpkin rather than by weight, so a small one was just as expensive as a large one.  I therefore netted a large mis-shapen one for my £2, and got a great deal of pumpkin for my trouble. 
This is a great indulgence, as not having children in the house, I usually buy pumpkin on the 1st or 2nd of November when it can be had very cheap indeed or even picked up in the street a little charred but otherwise none the worse for wear - and I do hate waste as you have probably gathered. 
We celebrate Valentine’s Day on the 15th of February for the same reason – Last yearI got an enormous bunch of red roses for 50p/80c on the 15th of February in Tesco and was only sorry I didn’t need 50 bunches and a load of pot plants because they were all there for the taking.  Oysters are also worth looking out for on the 15th of Feb.

Anyway, on the way home from the pumpkin trip I just happened to call in at a local shop.  
 I netted 2 cartons of Convent Garden fresh pumpkin and bean soup for 25p/40c each, reduced from £2.25/$3.50 each.  It was to be used that day, so I brought it home and boiled it up vigorously before putting it in the fridge.  We ate it for our dinner last night with a bit of chicken chopped up in it.  The total cost of the dinner was about 40p/60c each and very tasty it was too. 
The chicken had been a bargain earlier in the week.  It had so far done 3 meals and we still had some left.  
(See below!)
Meanwhile, back to the pumpkin.  It is a variety called Crown Prince and a beautiful grey-blue colour, rather like a duck egg. 
I have a great pumpkin recipe, the original version of which comes from the ‘Boxing Clever Cook Book’ by Jacqui Jones and Joan Wilmot.   
They are involved in a CSA scheme, or Community Supported Agriculture.  CSA involves a group of people who pay a ‘share’ to a grower in advance and are promised a share of the produce when it is ready.  People usually help out at the farm or nursery for a day or so, making it a social thing too.  
 The book is about how to use all the vegetables that CSA members get, especially when there is a glut of something (usually cabbage no doubt).  It is therefore a great book for vegetable gardeners, those of us who bulk buys when things are cheap, or for anyone who has too much cabbage.  

I took the parsnips out of the recipe because they are not popular with our kids and added a few other things, including gravy, so here is my version of it.
Cut the top off the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds.  Prick the skin in several places, sprinkle it with salt and olive oil and put some garlic inside it. 
Put the pumpkin and the lid in a baking dish and bake until just tender but still holding its shape.  Or prick it all over, put it on a plate and microwave on medium for as long as it takes.  
(NB if you are going to chop up a  pumpkin for a different recipe, microwave it for a bit first and it will be much easier.)

Meanwhile, cook some potatoes, carrots and swede – or whatever other root vegetabes you have and mash them up with some olive oil and chopped chives.  Cook a handful of brown rice separately and mix it into the mash if desired. Mix in other left overs as you desire eg baked beans, peas, chopped meat or cheese.
Stuff the pumpkin with this mixture and bake until it is hot and tender.  

Mix some gravy by your usual method, or dissolve some miso, Marmite, Bovril or a stock cube in a mug of hot water, with some chopped parsley and chives in it if you have some.  Pour this over the potato mixture in the pumpkin before serving.  Serve with grated cheese on top or with a side serving of home-made tomato sauce. 
For a Halloween dinner it can be brought to the table with a candle stuck in the top of it, and you can hollow out a face before stuffing the pumpkin.
 The recipe can be used with any squash, pumpkin, courgette or marrow and the ingredients adapted to suit what you have in the fridge.

This pumpkin was destined to become other things though, because a whole stuffed pumpkin is a lot for the two of us. 
So half of it became pumpkin, pak choi and left over chicken curry and  pumkin soup.

The other half was cubed and frozen. NB you can freeze most vegetables for a month or so without having to blanche them, (ie scald in hot water for 2-3 minutes to destroy the enzymes).  for longer storage you will need to.  You can easily tell if frozen vegetables have started to deteriorate as they go tough and lose their structure.

Another option for home freezing is to cheat and part-cook the pumpkin (or other vegetables) in the microwave in a covered dish with a little water until hot.  Or just cook it and freeze ready to use.

High acid things like apples and rhubarb can be stored without blanching anyway and will keep for a long time. 
Having cooked the pumpkin then, the seeds were saved.  I looked in my gardening catalogue and seeds for this particular pumkin were £2.76 for ten.  I had about a hundred.  So I saved 20 or so for myself and a friend to plant next year, by rinsing them and putting them on paper towel to dry for 2-3 weeks.

I rinsed the rest and then baked them in the oven to eat.   Don't try this at home I have just had to change this entry - I think being able to bake and eat the pumpkin seeds is a bit like the poodle in the microwave adult fairy story, or the recipe for meadowsweet wine. (The Poodle didn't happen, the meadowsweet wine doesn't work).  I have cookery books that tell you the pumpkin seeds work - and for that matter that the meadowsweet wine does.  My pumpkin seeds stayed firmly stuck to the husk, half on each side when I split them open and were just not worth the bother.

So here is the story about the wine, just to make up for it.  I used to be a keen home wine maker and made many kinds of wine.  it was popular in the 1990's and seems to be making something of a comeback. 
I have just sold my wine making equipment on Cheapcycle (a free site to sell things) and could have sold it 6 times over.  I tried a couple of years ago and no one wanted it.

In the times when I was a keen winemaker,( I may blog about this soon so keep watching) a friend who was equally keen (if not more so) and myself experimented with many different kinds.  Several books had a recipe for wine made from a hedgerow flower called meadowsweet.
It smells divine when you first make the wine, which is a lovely golden shade.  Then it goes dark brown and tastes vile.  We covered it in paper and used dark demi johns and it made no difference.  I thought it was me and my friend thought it was her until we compared notes and found we had both tried everything!  Sometimes one could even suspect that people put recipes in books or, er on blogs without trying them out properly...

PS If you want the Poodle story I'm sure someone will tell you, or try the Internet, but then you probably know it anyway, I think everyone does!
PPS here's a link to the article I just did for Permaculture Magazine about growing winter veg. Pick those pumpkins though, they're not frost proof! 

No comments:

Post a Comment