Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The Great Pumpkin

Carve up a Halloween face and then enjoy the autumn taste

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Pumpkins and Halloween go together like candy and apples, and this orangey globe can light up this frighteningly fun occasion three ways.

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(DARREN STONE / TIMES COLONIST)

The first, of course, is by carving and displaying it, and today, I offer tips on efficiently doing that. The second is to not waste the seeds you pull out of the pumpkin, but instead, turn them into a tasty snack, such as my addictive spice-roasted pumpkin-seed recipe to follow.

Pumpkin carving tips

Picking your pumpkins

If you're planning to carve more than one pumpkin and want to give each one its own personality, purchase those with different characteristics. At the farmer's field, farm market or supermarket, you'll have lots of options, such as pumpkins that are short and stout, tall and lean, and bumpy and not so pretty.

When to carve

Halloween is on Monday night this year, so if you're working and if you have kids, you likely won't have much time to carve a pumpkin or two that day. So, plan ahead and carve them a day or two before. Once done, loosely cover with a large plastic bag and store in a cool (not freezing) place, such as a garage or covered patio, until needed.

Setting up to carve

Pumpkin carving can be messy, so the last few years, my wife and I have come up with a strategy to get the job done more neatly. We hollow out the pumpkins in the kitchen, save the seeds, and then tidy things up. When cutting out the lid, angle the cut inward to form a natural ledge for it to rest on. Hands are the best tools for removing most of the seeds. A long metal spoon is best for scraping out the stringy bits.

Pat the outside of the pumpkin dry with paper towel, then move to an area where it can be comfortably carved. In our house, that's the dining room table lined with a protective layer of newspaper. Make sure you have all the tools you'll need for carving, and, if kids are involved, be sure an adult is there to supervise.

What to carve

Some people are just naturally creative and can carve a neat-looking pumpkin in no time flat. Others need help. If the latter is you, check the Internet for design ideas. I went to Google images and entered "pumpkin carving" and hundreds of coolly carved pumpkins appeared.

Lighting the pumpkin

Place the candle you'll use to light up the pumpkin in a heat-proof dish or metal jar lid. Make sure the dish or metal jar lid nestles and sits evenly on the bottom of pumpkin. Use a long match or long-reaching lighter to light candle.

 

The last way the pumpkin can be enjoyed is by using its flesh in a tasty recipe, such as my pumpkin and apple soup with curry and ginger.

To get enough pumpkin for that recipe, I simply peeled the pieces I removed when carving it, cubed them, then added them to the pot. If you didn't have enough pumpkin to do that after carving, retrieve it from the pumpkin the day after Halloween.

To do so, set your pumpkin on a well-secured cutting board. With a long, sharp knife, carefully cut the pumpkin in half. Cut each half into several smaller, easier-to-peel wedges. Examine the wedges, and if some are from areas overly affected by the pumpkin being lit up, peel away the darks spots, or compost those wedges if they're too far gone.

Now peel the wedges of pumpkin you will use for cooking. Those peeled wedges could be used to make my, or another, soup. Those wedges could also be cubed and used in another dish, such as roasted pumpkin, to a serve as a side dish, risotto, vegetable stew, vegetarian chili, or other dish you think this squash would work in. The flesh could also be steamed, puréed in a food processor, cooled and frozen to use at another time.

If you plan to use that frozen purée in a muffin or other baked good, remember that frozen, fresh pumpkin purée, once thawed, can be quite a bit thinner than the canned pumpkin usually called for in baking recipes. If that's the case with yours, you can thicken it by placing it in a wide, non-stick skillet over moderate heat. Cook and stir the pumpkin until the excess water evaporates and the purée appears as thick as canned. Cool to room temperature before using.

 

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(ADRIAN LAM / POSTMEDIA NEWS ARCHIVES)

Spice-roasted pumpkin seeds

A medium to large pumpkin should yield about 11/2 cup of seeds, the amount called for in this recipe. If you're carving more than one pumpkin, this recipe could easily be expanded. Before using, be sure the seeds are cleaned in cold water, are free of any stringy bits, and are thoroughly dried.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 15 to 20 minutes

Makes: 11/2 cups

 

11/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds

11/2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp Cajun spice or mild or medium curry powder, or to taste (see Note)

Salt to taste (optional; see Note)

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place seeds, oil and Cajun spice or curry powder in a bowl and toss to combine. Spread the seeds out in a single layer on the baking sheet; sprinkle with salt, if desired. Roast, stirring once or twice, for 15 to 20 minutes (or a little longer if you like yours quite crispy), until nicely toasted.

Note: Cajun spice is sold in the bottled spice and herb aisle of most supermarkets. It sometimes contains salt. If it does, you won't have to add salt to the pumpkin seeds.

 

Spice roasted pumpkin seeds

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Spice roasted pumpkin seeds (POSTMEDIA TIMES COLONIST)

Pumpkin and apple soup with curry and ginger

This earthy soup is seasonally flavoured with pumpkin and apple. Curry powder warms up both of those ingredients. This recipe can be doubled. Once the soup is made and cooled, it will freeze well.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

 

3 tbsp butter or vegetable oil

1 small onion, halved and sliced

1 small carrot, halved and sliced

2 tsp chopped fresh ginger

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

2 to 3 tsp mild or medium curry powder

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

4 cups peeled and cubed fresh pumpkin (the cubes were about 2.5-cm)

1 large apple, peeled, cored and sliced

salt and white pepper to taste

light cream to taste (optional)

chopped fresh parsley or thinly sliced green onion to taste

 

Melt the butter or heat the oil in a pot set over medium, to medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot and ginger and cook 5 minutes. Mix in the flour and curry powder and cook 2 minutes more. While stirring, slowly pour in the stock. Mix in the pumpkin and apple. Bring to a gentle simmer, and simmer 20 minutes, or until the pumpkin is very tender. Purée the soup in a food processor or blender, or in the pot with a hand (immersion) blender. Thin the soup with a bit more stock if you find it too thick. Return the soup to a simmer and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle with cream, if desired. Sprinkle with parsley or green onion and serve.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 26, 2011 D1

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Updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 8:21 AM CDT: Formats text, adds photos, links

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