It’s October and the countdown to Halloween is on. So, obviously I’m going to be talking about pumpkins.
Before I get going, please allow me a small, but important digression away from the ‘what we can do with our pumpkins’ section of the article.
It’s no news that we need a total shift in the way that we value food.
Why do I think it’s so important to remind ourselves of this?
I believe it’s something we need to kick into action before prices increase any further, and before our food system (and all creatures and peoples within it) suffers any more. The notion that an estimated 22 million pumpkins will go to waste this year is simply not okay and it is reflective of a much broader issue over lack of education and awareness.
We have stopped placing value on food as a vital resource, and rather look at it with a level of regard that allows it to go to waste.
So, before we purchase our pumpkins this year, let’s plan what we can cook with them.
First and most importantly, carving your pumpkin the day before putting it on display guarantees the best chance of keeping it fresh before using it in your chosen recipe, but it’s usually cold this time of year anyway, so a good inspection and subsequent rinse should be absolutely fine.
The typical carving pumpkins they sell at supermarkets – I won’t lie – are a bit bland. Good news is they can still be used as a base for curries, soups, pasta sauces, pie fillings, etc. To take a gander at other varieties I came across a good pumpkin list here.
What can I actually do with my pumpkin?
You can eat pumpkins raw or cooked (and of course pickled or fermented), but you can also utilise the seeds, and in some varieties, roast the skins until they are caramelly and delicious.
Pumpkin seeds in particular can easily be made into a delicious snack and are full of Vitamin K, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, and Omega-6.
Chaat Masala pumpkin seeds:
Rinse under cold water to remove the last pieces of flesh and place in a bowl.
Poor over enough oil to just about coat them and sprinkle over some chaat masala, salt and a little brown sugar.
Spread out evenly on a baking tray and roast for around 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5, in a 180°c oven to crisp up.
Pumpkin flesh is very high in vitamin A and is high in antioxidants helping us stay healthy in the colder months – using up your pumpkins isn’t only good for the soul.
My favourite pumpkin Katsu curry:
Cook in very much the same way you would your usual carrot katsu (see my own recipe at the bottom of the page) but use grated pumpkin instead. For me this is nicer than its famous predecessor and I would highly recommend batch cooking it, so you have quick homemade suppers at the end of knackering days.
Side tip – I really love using Quorn chicken crispy fillets for this when I’m in too much of a rush to bread tofu.
Warming pickled pumpkin:
I like to do this with smaller, sweeter varieties but it would still work well with your typical carving pumpkin as all the flavours would saturate into the flesh.
Add together in a saucepan an equal quantity of cider vinegar and water, nigella seeds, mustard seeds, garlic, fresh chili, fresh ginger and bring to the boil (use enough vinegar and water to cover your pumpkin and fill your chosen jar) then turn off the heat and let cool.
Finely slice your pumpkin, place in a sterilised jar, pour over your vinegar mixture and place in the fridge to maximise its shelf life – it will be ready to eat the next day but will get more delicious with time (it can be stored for around 3 months!).
These are just some of my go-to recipes, but there are thousands of recipes out there to try and pull inspiration from. If you live in a large household, Andrew Ilnyckyj has a great series on Youtube where he cooks loads of the same ingredient and luckily for us, he’s done an episode on pumpkins!
Finely dice the onions and garlic and place into a pan with a tbsp of veg oil to sauté until light brown and almost caramelised. Then add in your grated pumpkin and cook for around 5 minutes.
Next add all the spices and cook for around 30 seconds before adding in the flour – do this little by little.
Poor over the veg stock and oat milk, with the maple syrup and honey and let bubble away and thicken. Stirring occassionally.
Meanwhile, cut the tofu into 1inch thick slabs and place the flour, aquafaba and breadcrumbs into separate bowls. Dredge the cubes of tofu in the flour, then the aquafaba, then the breadcrumbs. The wet will stick to the dry, and then the dry to wet. So make sure to alternate your hands, one for holding it at the wet stage and one for the dry. Otherwise you’ll be left with gooey globs on your fingers.
Next heat up enough veg or sunflower oil to shallow fry your tofu in a frying pan, you want just enough to come half way up the slabs of tofu. To test if the oil is hot enough carefully place some bread crumbs in the oil, if they start to sizzle quickly the oil is ready.
Turn your tofu over when it becomes golden brown and try the other side. When both sides are done place on a wire rack or a j-cloth to remove excess oil.
You should now have a lovely thick Katsu sauce – to ensure I get all the goodness from the vegetables I opt for blending into a smooth sauce or simply leaving it a bit lumpy.
Serve with fluffy rice, tofu and the delicious sauce on top.