Take a look outside your window, dearest reader.
Do you see that?
Fall has arrived.
The foliage is changing colours, the sun is standing incredibly low on the horizon- transforming the air in a parade of golden sunbeams- and Christmas decorations are starting to pop up in shopping windows everywhere. Although I think that the latter is the epitome of bad taste and dreadful commercialism, I do love every little thing about this season. (yes, even the freezing toes and bloody rain showers)
But if there is one thing about the fall that I truly and utterly adore, it most definitely is the great… the humble…the magnificent… pumpkin! These strange looking fellas have the brightest orange hue –it would even make Tan Mom blush!- and their taste is just a heavenly combination of sweet, slightly honeyed bliss and earthy, fiber goodness.
Besides the obvious health benefits ( say hello to lots of vitamins and minerals!), this humble winter squash is also incredibly versatile! Yes, I’m not joking! There is actually more to pumpkins than velvety pumpkin soup or –the horror!- Halloween lanterns.
In order to prove my point, I conjured up a two-course meal for 4 that truly captures its unique and yummy character. Enjoy!
Asian curried pumpkin soba noodles
This is the ultimate vegetarian comfort food dish. Creamy coconut milk, sweet pumpkin, aromatic spices and –last but not least-very slurpable noodles!
• 250gr soba noodles
• 300gr pumpkin, cut into 1cm dices
• 1 can of chickpeas
• 200gr cherry tomatoes, halved
• 500gr spinach
• 3 cloves of garlic, minced
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 5cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
• ½ tsp chilli powder
• ¼ tsp nigella seeds
• ¼ tsp cinnamon
• ¼ tsp fenugreek
• ¼ tsp mustard seeds
• 2 tbsp garam massala
• 2 tbsp ground turmeric
• 400ml coconut milk
1. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a heavy-based cooking pot and add all the spices, garlic, onion and ginger. Sauté for a couple of minutes until your kitchen smells like an Indian take away (in a good way, of course)
2. Add the diced pumpkin and fry for a couple of minutes before adding the coconut milk. Let it simmer for 15 minutes until the pumpkin is soft but not mushy. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Meanwhile cook your noodles according to the instruction on the packet and blanche the spinach.
4. Add the tomatoes, drained chickpeas, blanched spinach and cooked noodles to the pumpkin curry and season with salt if necessary.
5. Dig in!
Spiced pumpkin cake with soft nougat and nuts
(I repeat: pumpkin! Spice! Nuts! SOFT NOUGAT!!) This cake has the rare quality of being both incredibly light and airy, and at the same time staying lusciously moist and fudgy. The soft nougat turns into a sticky chunk of sugary honey and makes this already yummy cake a one-in-a-million showstopper! Don’t say I haven’t warned you!
Ingredients (makes 6 really big squares, or 8 regular ones)
• 2 eggs
• 125ml sunflower oil
• 100gr caster sugar
• 80gr muscovado sugar
• 275gr pumpkin, cut into small chunks
• 170gr plain flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
• ½ tsp cinnamon
• ¼ tsp nutmeg
• 100gr soft nougat, cut into chunks
• 50gr of nuts, roughly chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a flat cake tin with baking parchment.
2. Cook the pumpkin in some boiling water until it starts to fall apart (Add a cinnamon stick, a star anise and some crushed cardamom pods to the water to give extra flavour.)
3. Drain the pumpkin and mash it all up until you get a smooth puree. Let the puree cool slightly.
4. Add the oil and sugar to the pumpkin puree and mix well. Stir in the eggs and whisk until combined.
5. Sift in the dry ingredients until you get a smooth batter and finally stir in the chopped nougat and nuts.
6. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
7. Get ready to go to warm, gooey and fuzzy pumpkin heaven !