Remember, pumpkins are not just for Halloween! This time of year tends to have them in the forefront of our minds.
Most people associate carving pumpkins and celebrating Halloween with America, but in actual fact Jack-o-Lanterns derived from an old Irish legend. The first Jack-o-Lanterns where actually turnips, and were said to guide a wayward man and ward off evil. But when Irish settlers came to America, they soon found that pumpkins were a much better suited vessel for their lanterns, as they were larger and more malleable.
But pumpkins are not just for carving! They are a great source of potassium and vitamin A and can be used in a plethora of dishes ranging from soups to Risotto. Here we've highlighted our favourite things to do with pumpkin, for Halloween and the rest of the year.
If you want to impress your children with a few amazing facts about pumpkins, how about this: Pumpkins can range in size, the largest one on record weighs 1818.5 pounds! And apparently, the only place you can't grow pumpkins is in Antarctica!
So this Halloween let's do more than just carve a pumpkin with the children, let's go pumpkin crazy! Let us know what you've tried and how it turns out!
This age old tradition is fun for young and old. And it's something that needs to be done together. Requiring creative genius and a steady hand there's a job for everyone and the finished product is one to be proud of. Most of you will know how to do this, but if you haven't done it before, here goes!
All you need to get started is:
• A pumpkin
• A carving knife
• A pencil
• A piece of paper
• A cutting board
• A metal spoon
• A tea light candle
Step by Step:
1. Wash and dry the outside of your pumpkin to remove the dirt or pesticides depending on where you've bought your pumpkin from!
2. Take the pencil and draw a hexagon around the stem at the top of the pumpkin.
3. Take the carving knife and insert it into the pumpkin on your pencil line. Make sure to cut on an angle so the point of the knife is toward the middle of the pumpkin.
4. Once you have cut all the way around, remove the top. Turn the piece you have removed on its side and cut across so that it has a flat bottom. Rest the flat bottom on the cutting board, and cut a triangular piece out of the "lid" so that the smoke will be able to rise out of the pumpkin. This is important so that your pumpkin doesn't catch fire!
5. Take the metal spoon and scoop out all of the pumpkin guts. Separate out the seeds and try roasting them like suggested below! If you plan to make soup, scoop out some of the flesh, but be careful not to pierce the skin as this will make it harder to carve!
6. Once you have hollowed out the pumpkin together, have your child design the face or pattern on the piece of paper first, and then either trace it on to the pumpkin or draw it again.
7. Cut out the pattern with the carving knife. Always carve on an outwards angle to allow more space for the light to filter through.
8. Place a tea light candle in the bottom of the pumpkin and place the lid back on.
9. Light the tea light when it's dark outside and see what a scary job you've done!
When you scoop out all of the guts from a pumpkin for carving, or for cooking, don't just dispose of it! Collect the seeds, wash them and spread them over a baking tray one seed deep. Slowly roast these in the oven at a low temperature until they go a nice golden brown colour. Keep an eye on them as they can go from golden to burnt in 0.1 seconds!
Before roasting them you can add different seasonings like chilli, cumin or just plain salt to give you a yummy flavour! Why not try a few!
Not only are these a great healthy snack for the kids, they add flavour and crunch to a salad as well!
Spicy Pumpkin Nibbles
What you'll need:
• Pumpkin seeds, washed and towel dried
• Olive oil (or vegetable oil)
• Chilli Flakes
• Garlic Buds
• Grease Proof Paper
• Baking tray
1. Spread a piece of grease proof paper onto a baking tray.
2. Spread your pumpkin seeds out so that they cover the tray and are not stacked on top of each other. You may find that you have enough seeds to do two trays depending on how seedy your pumpkin was!
3. In a bowl, mix olive oil and chilli flakes and crushed garlic. The amounts depend on how many seeds you need to cover. Mix a bit, and then make more if need be! Remember to add chilli flakes to taste!
4. Drizzle the olive oil mix over your pumpkin seeds, so that they are all coated.
5. Sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt!
6. Place in the preheated oven at a medium heat, and check regularly, turning over, until the seeds turn a golden brown
Other delicious options: Exchange the chilli flakes for cumin, rosemary or any other spice you think your children would like, or just stick with salt!
Can't get the children to try new vegetables, well pumpkin has a hidden secret . . . While it's low in calories and high in fibre, it also has a natural sweetness which comes out in full force when you make pumpkin soup.
This nutritious option is great on a cold autumn night and it's rather filling. And remember, children are far more likely to try something new if they have helped you make it!
Why not try one of these recipes? Let us know how it turns out!
Creamy Pumpkin Soup
What you'll need:
• 1 to 1.5 kg cooking pumpkin
• 2 tsp. butter
• 2 potatoes
• 1 to 1.5 litres Vegetable broth
• 2 medium sized white onions
• Crème Fresh
1. Chop your onions, pumpkin and potatoes into small pieces. The smaller the pumpkin pieces the faster they will cook!
2. Melt butter in the bottom of your sauce pan and brown the chopped onion.
3. Add the Vegetable broth and bring it to a boil. If you like your soup to be thicker, only add 1 litre.
4. Once the broth is boiling, add the cubes of pumpkin and potato and boil until both are fully cooked (approx. 30-40 minutes)
5. Blend the mixture with a hand mixer or blender until smooth.
6. Divide the soup into bowls. Add finely chopped coriander (optional) and a dollop of crème fresh to each bowl and enjoy!
Some other child-friendly recipes to try:
• Simple Pumpkin Soup
• Curried Pumpkin Soup
• Kitchen Monsters Pumpkin Soup
Need a sweeter option? One that can be served up with a dollop of cream, but still seems relatively healthy? Why not make pumpkin pie? This is a treat for both young and old and even those without a sweet tooth claim to appreciate a slice or two!
Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie
What you'll need:
• 1 sugar pumpkin or 500ml canned pumpkin puree
• 500ml double cream
• 75g dark brown sugar
• 50g white sugar
• ½ tsp. salt
• 2 eggs (if you want the pie to be fluffier, add the whites of 2 more eggs)
• 2 tsp. cinnamon
• 2 tsp. nutmeg
• 1 pie crust (you can make your own or buy a ready-made shell)
1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.
2. If you are making your own puree: Peel the pumpkin and cut the flesh into cubes Boil the cubes until they are soft. This can take a while so give yourself time! (usually 40-60 minutes depending on how large the cubes are.) Once cooked mash the pumpkin and strain off any extra water, or use a hand mixer.
3. You can be preparing your pie shell while the pumpkin is softening.
4. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, spices and pumpkin puree.
5. In a bowl, whisk the eggs until fluffy. Now fold the eggs into the other mixture.
6. Once everything is mixed in, pour the mixture into your pie shell and bake for 15 minutes then turn the temperature down to 180 degrees and bake for another 40-50 minutes (or until a knife can be inserted into the centre and removed cleanly).
7. Let the pie cool for 2 hours before serving.
Note: this dish is lovely on its own or served with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Some other Kid friendly choices:
• No Bake Pumpkin Pie (this one has a twist)
• Kid Friendly Pumpkin Pie
• Pumpkin Pie Turkeys (this is definitely an advanced version, but fun!)
Carved too many pumpkins? Can't handle any more pumpkin soup this side of Christmas? Pop the pumpkin flesh into a freezer bag and save it for a rainy day! Because Pumpkins contain such a high percentage of water (90%), they freeze well and retain their flavour. Which means you can make soup or pie even when pumpkins are not in season.
Compost your Pumpkin
After Halloween has come and gone, we are left with a slightly baked outer shell! If you have a composter, this is easily composted, but it is also something you can bury in the garden. The pumpkin will decompose and make the soil in your garden a more hospitable place for any plants you decide to grow next year!