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The Whole Pumpkin (October 13, 2011)

A glorious fall day had us in the country, where we found a farmer's market bursting with plump, orange-gold pumpkins! Not even trying to resist, we bought two for Halloween jack-o-lanterns... but after the carving and all, what to do with the leftover? Several of our favourite cookbooks came to the rescue and the answers will have you wanting pumpkins most of the year! Read on...

Englishman Nigel Slater is the author of a collection of bestselling books, including the classics Appetite and The Kitchen Diaries, plus a much-loved column in The Observer for 17 years. His memoir, Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger, has won six major awards, including British Biography of the Year, and was made into a film starring Helena Bonham Carter. Wow!

His latest, Tender, Volume 1, is described best by the frontispiece quote: "Tender: adj, soft enough for the teeth to go through easily; the point at which something is ready to eat; the leaves of a bunch of spinach, a ripe fig..." Seductive and sensuous, with great readable recipes, this book is subtitled simply A Cook and His Vegetable Patch; where better to look for pumpkin recipes! If you haven't met Nigel Slater yet, get started at right now!

The Saveur Magazine series of cookbooks is, just like the publication, first class, with collections of timeless recipes matched with gorgeous photographs. Our dog-eared copies of Saveur Cooks Authentic Italian, Authentic French and Authentic American live in the kitchen for ideas and reference, or just browsing over an afternoon cup of tea. Sure enough, we found wonderful recipes and ideas with all that pumpkin and a whole lot of other members of the squash family as well. Take a look at their excellent web site for much, much more:

The Winemaker Cooks: Menus, Parties and Parings author Christine Hanna is a food writer, cooking teacher and president of Hanna Winery and Vineyards in Sonoma County. Encouraged by Chronicle Books editor Bill LeBlond, Hanna put together a splendid collection of her favourite seasonal recipes plus her crackerjack tips for perfect entertaining! Christine's recipes have also appeared in Food & Wine, Savor Magazine, The Tasting Panel, Imbibe and California Home+Design and on the syndicated television show In Wine Country; not stopping there, she runs cooking classes around the country.

We're not the only ones who love pumpkins; take time out to watch this delightful YouTube featuring very large pussycats!

But first...

Pumpkins... You've got 'em, now what?

We checked on line, and found this clear and simple set of instructions at

Below are general cooking and preparation instructions, and you don't have to use the mashed pumpkin right away. Pumpkin purée can be frozen in portions. Spoon cooled, mashed pumpkin into freezer containers, leaving ½-inch headspace.

To steam: Halve the pumpkin; remove seeds, pulp, and stringy portion. Cut into small pieces and peel. Place in a steamer or metal colander which will fit in a covered pot. Put over boiling water, cover, and steam for about 50 minutes, or until tender. Mash, purée in a blender or food processor, or put through a food mill. Use in any recipe calling for pumpkin purée.

To boil: Halve the pumpkin; remove seeds, pulp, and stringy portion. Cut into small pieces and peel. Cover with lightly salted water; boil for about 25 minutes, or until tender. Mash, purée in a blender or food processor, or put through a food mill. Use in any recipe calling for pumpkin purée.

A 5-pound pumpkin will yield about 4½ cups of mashed, cooked pumpkin. One can of pumpkin, 15 to 16 ounces, yields about 2 cups of mashed pumpkin.

On today's menu:

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Pumpkin Soup with Sage

Putting pumpkins in pie, however traditional and satisfying, isn't the only good thing to do with them, as this autumnal soup from Saveur Cooks Authentic American tells us. It's rich and yummy, and will deliciously ease that transition into cooler weather. Look for small, sweet pumpkins like the jack-be-little or delicate – or substitute butternut squash. Makes a perfect seasonal lunch or dinner party starter.

Serves 6

  • 1 small pie pumpkin, about 5 pounds
  • 4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 4–6 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil
  • 18 fresh sage leaves
  • 9 shallots peeled and halved lengthwise
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Quarter and seed pumpkin, rub flesh with olive oil, and bake on a baking sheet until tender, about 30 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.
  2. Melt 4 Tbsp butter in a heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, scrape flesh from the pumpkin. Add to onions and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add 4 cups stock to pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Purée soup in a food processor until smooth, then return it to pot. If necessary, thin with additional stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then cover soup and keep warm over lowest heat.
  4. Meanwhile, heat about 1 cup vegetable oil in a small pan over medium heat. When oil is hot, fry sage leaves until crisp. Drain leaves on paper towels. Discard oil or reserve for another use.
  5. In the same pan, melt remaining 2 Tbsp butter over medium heat and cook shallows until soft and golden, about 15 minutes. To serve, ladle soup into individual bowls and garnish each serving with 3 shallot halves and 3 fried sage leaves.

Tony's wine recommendation:
oak-aged New World Chardonnay or Viognier



Pumpkin Gratin with Crispy Rosemary-Parmesan Topping

We've got the new Weight Watchers Cookbook, which we love; it's a collection of our most favourite recipes, all lightened up yet full of flavour. Their tasty web site ( gave us a lighter version of this gratin, loaded with caramelized onions and creamy pumpkin, and then nestled under a rosemary-Parmesan crust. So go ahead, have a second helping!

Serves 6

  • 2 sprays cooking spray
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 1 pound canned pumpkin
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cups fat-free evaporated milk
  • 2 Tbsp rosemary, fresh, leaves, chopped, divided
  • 3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 Tbsp dried bread crumbs, or fresh (fresh preferred)
  • 1 spray cooking spray
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 9×9-inch pan with cooking spray.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onion until soft and caramelized, stirring to prevent sticking, about 9 to 11 minutes; allow to cool.
  3. Place cooled onion, pumpkin, eggs and milk in a large bowl; mix to combine. Add 1 tablespoon of rosemary and pour into prepared pan.
  4. Combine remaining tablespoon of rosemary, cheese and bread crumbs in a small bowl; mix and sprinkle over pumpkin mixture. Lightly coat with cooking spray. Bake until firm and heated through, about 35 to 40 minutes. Slice into 6 pieces and serve.

Tony's wine recommendation:
dry Rosé, chilled Beaujolais



Pan-cooked Pumpkin with Duck Fat and Garlic

Nigel Slater is a cook after our own hearts... and stomachs. We adore his recipes and love his attitude towards food, he's practical and direct and his recipes are divine. Can't ask for more...

From Tender, Volume 1.

Enough for 4 as an accompaniment

  • 4 medium sized potatoes, floury or waxy
  • 1 pumpkin, 600 g
  • 1 lightly heaped tablespoon of duck fat
  • A few sprigs of thyme or rosemary
  • A single clove of garlic, chopped
  • (Leftover duck leg and thigh, roast chicken or pork)

Peel the potatoes and pumpkin and slice them no thicker than a two-pound coin (about 1/8th inch or so). Melt the duck fat in a shallow, non-stick pan (I chose a cast-iron one, so well used it barely needs oiling), add the potatoes and pumpkin slices, neatly or hugger-mugger, seasoning them with salt, black pepper, thyme or rosemary leaves and a little chopped garlic as you go. Turn the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid. Let the slices cook for about 25 to 30 minutes. As they start to soften, press them down with a spatula so they form a sort of cake that will be golden on the bottom, with slices of potato that are soft right through. I check them for tenderness by inserting a skewer right down through the centre. If it goes in effortlessly, then they are done. Serve straight from the pan.

Tony's wine recommendation:
New Zealand or Oregon Pinot Noir or red Burgundy



A Warm Pumpkin Scone for a Winter's Afternoon

Abandon all thoughts of calorie counting with Nigel Slater, and who cares. He says "A warm scone is an object of extraordinary comfort, bet even more so when it has potato in it. The farl, a slim scone... is rarely seen these days, and more of a treat when it is. I have taken the idea and run with it, mashing steamed pumpkin into the hand-worked crumbs... to make a bread that glows orange when you break it. I love this with grilled Orkney bacon and slices of Cheddar sharp enough to make my lips smart..."

And we add, or slathered with fresh butter!

Nigel, how about coming over for a cup of tea? And bring the scones...

Enough for 4

  • 300 g peeled and seeded pumpkin
  • 140 g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 70 g butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 90 mL warm milk
  • 2 tsp thyme leaves
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • A little oil or butter

Cut the pumpkin into large chunks and steam until tender enough to mash. Set the oven to 200°C/Gas 6 (390°F)

Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small chunks and rub it in with your fingertips. You could do this in a food processor, but it hardly seems worth the washing up.

Crush the pumpkin with a potato masher, then beat in the egg, followed by the milk and thyme leaves. Scoop this into the flour mixture and mix well. Season with black pepper.

Warm a heavy, non-stick frying pan with a metal handle over a low to moderate heat. Melt a little oil or butter in it, then pile in the dough and smooth it flat. Leave to cook over a low heat 'til the underside is pale gold.

Lightly oil a dinner plate. Loosen the underside of the scone with the help of a palette knife. Put the plate over the top of the pan, then, holding the plate in place, tip the pan so that the scone falls on to the plate. Slide the scone back into the frying pan and cook the other side for four to five minutes. Put the pan in the oven for seven minutes or until the scone is lightly set in the middle.

Turn the scone out of the pan and slice into thick wedges. Serve warm, with cheese or some grilled bacon.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Prosecco, Spanish Cava or white Zinfandel



Winter Trifle with Cranberries and Tangerines

In The Winemaker Cooks, Christine Hanna says, "Imagine my dismay when I asked my soon to be husband to name his favourite dessert, and he responded 'Trifle! My mother makes a great one!'" Undaunted, Hanna invented her own version which she says "speaks to the Winter season" with pumpkin bread, custard and gingered cranberries. All the ingredients are do-ahead and can be assembled at the last minute. And don't forget the Grand Marnier in the whipped cream!

Bonus: This recipe makes two loaves of pumpkin bread; use one here and freeze the other for later.

PLAN AHEAD: At least a couple of days; this recipe has several major steps. It's so worth it at the end!

Serves 8–9

    Pumpkin Bread
  • 2½ cups all-purpose/plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • One 14 oz can solid pack pumpkin (2½ cups fresh pumpkin, drained)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
    Vanilla Custard
  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean split lengthwise
  • 5 large egg yolks at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp sifted cornstarch
    Gingered Cranberries
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Grated zest of 1 tangerine
  • 1/4 cup fresh tangerine juice
  • 1 Tbsp grated peeled fresh ginger
    Whipped Cream
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp Grand Marnier
  • Ground cloves for dusting

For the pumpkin bread:
Adjust an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter and flour two 9×4-inch tins, knock out the excess flour.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cloves and cinnamon into a large bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, sugars, pumpkin and eggs. Gradually beat in the four mixtures just until combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice.

Divide between the prepared pans/tins and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of leach loaf comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer to wire racks/cake cookers to cool completely. Use now, or wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 1 day. Wrap the other loaf in plastic wrap, place in a re-sealable plastic bag, and freeze for up to 3 months.

For the custard:
Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and scrape in the vanilla seeds. Add the bean/pod halves and cook over medium heat until bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Remove from heat.

In a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed until combined, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Strain the milk mixture. On low speed, add one ladleful milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture to temper. Continue, adding one ladleful at a time, until blended. Return to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the back of a spoon, 5 to 7 minutes, do not boil.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard and let cook; refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 day.

For the cranberries:
In a medium saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, tangerine zest, juice and ginger. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cranberries have popped and are softened. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Use now or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Cut the pumpkin bread; break into 1/2-inch slices. Place a layer of bread slices in the bottom of a trifle or other deep glass bowl, cutting the pieces to fit. Evenly spoon gingered cranberries over the slices. Add a layer of vanilla custard. Repeat the layers of pumpkin bread, cranberries and vanilla custard, ending with the custard. You should have four or five layers, depending on the width of the bowl you're using. Spread the whipped cream garnish, and store in the refrigerator. Just before serving add the whipped cream and dust with ground cloves.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Muscat Beaume-de-Venise, Vidal Icewine, Sauternes



We wish to thank the following for permission to publish material and photographs:

Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver and Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA for:

  • Saveur Cooks Authentic American, by the editors of Saveur Magazine. © 1998 Meigher Communications, L.P.
  • A Winemaker Cooks by Christine Hanna. Text © 2010 Christine Hanna; photographs © 2010 Sheri Giblin.


Harper Collins Canada and HarperCollins Publishers London (Fourth Estate Division) for Tender, Volume 1, A Cook and His Vegetable Patch. Text © Nigel Slater 2009. Photographs © Jonathan Lovekin 2009.


Weight Watchers on line:


Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (119 KB)




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