Autumn. Bright golden leaves tumbling from the trees to form a wondrously thick carpet that crackles under foot as November’s low golden sun beats warmly upon your exposed face.
Soggy masses of rotten leaves blocking my gutters that I messily scoop into a bucket while perched precariously atop a ladder in the freezing damp greyness that will block out all light, warmth and joy until some time next year.
The earlier part of Autumn may be with us all too fleetingly but as the alchemy outdoors dilutes into memory we can at least retire to the kitchen to enjoy the comforting fruits of the season. On Sunday, after cleaning out the gutters and in need of a seasonal pick-me-up, I made a thick moreish spicy parsnip soup with colombo powder – so good! This day was made for cooking and eating so needless to say my pudding whiskers were aroused, but how do you follow this without straying from the season?
The strangest thing. I had this craving for pumpkin pie – something I have never previously consumed let alone made. Where did this flash of inspiration come from?
I cobbled together three different recipes to come up with my take on pumpkin and pecan pie. Only later did I deduce the origins of this craving. All will be explained after the recipe…
1 butternut squash
Pecans – let’s say 100g
100ml double cream
250g plain flour
100g butter at room temperature
Make the pastry – or buy it if you are a cheat
1) Cream the butter and around 70g of sugar with a hand blender. As usual I had forgotten to remove the butter from the fridge so the microwave came to the rescue.
2) Add an egg and blend that into the mix.
3) Pastry recipes always talk about sieving in the flour at this point. I’ve never seen the point in creating the extra washing up so DUMP the flour into the bowl and then mix it with a spatula. Once a dough is formed work it with your hands adding a little water if it’s too firm. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Prepare the squash
4) Halve the squash, remove the seeds and score the flesh with a knife and microwave for around 8 minutes.
5) The texture should be soft. Pour off any liquid and leave to cool. My squash tasted so rich and sweet at this point – it bodes well.
Caramelise the nuts
6) Pour a couple of tablespoons of sugar into a pan and gently heat until melted. I added a few drops of water to accelerate the process.
7) Chops the pecans roughly in half
8) Add half a teaspoon of ground ginger to the melted sugar and then scatter the pecans into the pan. Stir until coated and then leave to cool.
Blind bake the pastry case
9) Remove the pastry dough from the fridge and roll out to a circle wide enough to comfortably line your dish. My dish was 24cm in diameter so I rolled the pastry to around 30cm diameter.
10) Tuck the pastry into the dish and press it against the sides before prodding the base with a fork. Now overlay some baking paper and weight down. You can buy baking beads but I always use dried beans which work perfectly.
11) Bake for around 25 minutes at 180 degrees
Bring it all together
12) We have done all the hard work so now it’s just a case of assembly and cooking. Scrape the squash away from the skin and mash it in a bowl.
13) Add one whisked egg plus the yolk of another. I added 30g of grated jaggery instead of refined sugar because I felt the flavour would be well suited to this recipe. Finally I added a little vanilla essence, half a teaspoon of ground allspice and half a teaspoon of ground ginger. Mix
14) Scatter the caramelised pecans over the pastry base.
15) Pour the filling into the base and grate over some nutmeg
16) Bake for around 40 minutes at 180 degrees until firmish. Admire the results.
Enjoy with some maple syrup and Greek yoghurt. This looks and tastes of autumn!
They say that smell and taste are strong memory triggers. Shortly after demolishing the first slice of pie my subconscious decided to let me into its secret. This is how pumpkin pie had flashed into my mind…
Having made spicy parsnip soup with colombo curry powder it reminded me that I had recently flicked through the TV channels and settled upon an episode of Columbo called “A stitch in crime”. The only reason I watched awhile was because there was Will Geer sat up in a hospital bed and I it couldn’t remember where I knew him from – until I recognised him as Grandpa Walton. The Waltons epitomised wholesome country living and I recall watching an episode (it must have been years ago) in which pumpkins were being prepared. I’ve now googled it and sure enough a giant pumpkin features in a thanksgiving episode.
Nothing says autumn (or Fall) like pumpkin pie on Walton Mountain. And that my friends is a fleeting glimpse into the workings of my mind.