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pumpkin wat

I first had injera at an Ethiopian restaurant in Coffs Harbour, lovely spongy sourdough crepes that are the perfect soaker-upper for spicy stews and curries.  But a little internet research discovered they are made with “teff”, or Ethiopian gluten free flour made from a little grain the size of a poppy seed, and being as how I live near a little country town with an African population you can count on your fingers, the idea of trying to make them disappeared for a while.

Then on a run-out-of-eggs day with mushrooms and cream in the fridge and the idea of mushroom crepes that wouldn’t let go, I decided to have a go at making eggless crepes with sourdough culture, and they turned out pretty much exactly as I remembered injera.

So these very inauthentic teff-less injera have become somewhat of a staple in our house, preferred to chapati for going with curry, preferred to flatbread for going with tagines, preferred to crepes for going with creamy garlic mushrooms.  And all the better because, if you have sourdough starter, they are practically instant.

The pumpkin stew is slightly more authentic but not much. It’s a surprisingly sweet spicy stew that makes a meal that is mostly pumpkin and still desirable, even this close to the end of a long haul pumpkin season.

The Pumpkin Stew:

Makes four serves.  It looks like a lot of ingredients, but like most spice mixes, they are just a sprinkle of this and a dash of that, and everyone no doubt has their own version so if you don’t have an ingredient, you are probably just making a different version.

Pu a heavy pan or pot with a lid on a medium-low heat.   Add a large onion finely diced, then, in more or less this order, stirring as you go and keeping it all moving enough so the seeds pop but don’t burn:

  • ½ teaspoon  cumin seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds (not the pods, just the seeds)
  • Small thumb of ginger, grated (or a scant teaspoon powder)
  • Small thumb of turmeric, grated (or a scant teaspoon powder)
  • Chili – more or less depending on how hot your chilis and how hot your taste.  I use a teaspoon of dried bishops crown chilis.
  • 3 scant teaspoons paprika
  • pinch cinnamon
  • pinch cloves
  • grinding of black pepper and some salt
  • 4 heaped cups of pumpkin, chopped into 3 cm pieces
  • a jar of tomato passata
  • a bit of water, depending on how thick your passata is, just enough to give a nice stew consistency.

Turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for about half an hour till the pumpkin is very soft but not disintegrating. Taste and add salt to taste. Sprinkle with fresh coriander.

Meanwhile, make the injera.

Injera:

My inauthentic injera are just fed sourdough starter, cooked as crepes.  So you need to start ahead by feeding your sourdough starter and keeping it in a warm spot for four or five hours, or overnight, till it is bubbly.  Add a little water if you need to to get a thin crepe batter.

Wipe a large, flat pan with oil and put it on a medium slow heat.

Add a ladle of batter and use the back of the ladle to spread it thin.  Put a lid on the pan and cook slowly till the batter is set but not browning.  You generally only cook injera on one side so it should be set all the way through.  You may need to flip it onto a plate.  They should end up soft and spongy and tender.

Serve under or alongside the pumpkin stew, or any kind of curry or stew really, and break off bits to scoop with.

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pumpkin feta tarts

Basic shortcrust pastry is so so so easy, I don’t get it why people buy frozen?  Puff pastry, ok, that’s  a bit tricky (but still worth making your own).  Phyllo, yep, right, I buy that most of the time.  But shortcrust – nah,  it takes less to make your own than it does to peel off that blue plastic, and you get to use real butter and no nasty transfats.

The recipe quantities and temperatures and times are a bit vague, because it really doesn’t matter too much.  The more butter (and the less water) in your pastry, the more melt-in-the-mouth it is, but also the harder to handle (and the more calories).  If you use lots of butter, you need to get it quite cool, or the butter melts as you are trying to roll it out and it gets sticky.  But it’s very delicious and you can make the pastry quite thick and the star of the dish.  If you are in a hurry, or the pastry is not the star of the dish, you can go light on the butter and roll it out thin for a more cracker-like pastry that is easy to handle.

That’s it really.  All the rest is elaboration on the theme.

You can use cream or sour cream or oil in place of butter, but it works like melted butter and the pastry is harder to handle and might need to be rolled between sheets of greaseproof paper.  If you have an egg white elsewhere in a recipe, you can substitute an egg yolk for part of the butter and it makes it slightly less “short” but still delicious and easier to handle than all butter.  Any saturated fat (that sets solid at room temperature) can be substituted for the butter and you are just thinking about the taste rather than the texture. If you are using a low fat pastry and a low fat filling, a bit of “blind baking” first stops the filling soaking into the pastry and making it soggy.  Blind baking just means covering your pastry with greaseproof paper and filling with uncooked beans, or rice, or chickpeas or something similar, and cooking for 10 minutes or so before filling.  The beans are dry already so it doesn’t hurt them.  If the pastry, or the filling, has a lot of butter, oil, cheese or eggs it, the pastry won’t go soggy and there’s usually no need.

The flour needs to be flour – it is the little grains of starch in it exploding that makes pastry. It can be wholemeal or unbleached, but other flours like besan behave differently.  You can make pastry from them but it is a different story.  Self-raising flour is a different story too.

The recipe makes 12 tartlets. They are perfect for lunch boxes, or party finger food – which is where these went. These are really quick and simple, and they were a party hit.

The Pastry:

You can do this in a food processor, or just cut the butter into tiny cubes and rub it into the flour with your fingertips, till it resembles breadcrumbs. (My nanna used to say that the best pastry makers have cool hands, because the object of the exercise is to have tiny flecks of un-melted butter mixed through the flour.)

  • 1 cup of wholemeal plain flour (wholemeal or unbleached)
  • 2 heaped dessertspoons of cold butter
  • pinch salt

Add just enough cold water to make a soft dough.  Add it  carefully, spoonful at a time.  Put your dough in the fridge to cool down while you start the pumpkin off.

The Filling:

Peel, dice, and roast a cup and a half of pumpkin and one larg-ish red onion.  Dice the pumpkin into 1 to 1.5 cm dice.  You can sprinkle with a bit of fresh thyme if you have some.  It will cook really quickly – you’ll just have time to roll out the  pastry.

Blend together:

  • 2 eggs
  • a big dessertspoon of plain yoghurt (or cream, or sour cream)
  • 100 grams Danish or Greek feta (the smooth kind, preferably)
  • A little grating of parmesan

I use my food processor for the pastry, then without needing to wash it, for the filling.  But you could also just beat them together with an egg beater.

Assembling and baking:

Grease 12 muffin tins or tart cases.

On a floured benchtop, roll the dough out, cut out 12 circles and line the tart cases.  My regular sized muffin tray is perfect for this, and the lid from one of my large storage jars is perfect for cutting the pastry out.

Spoon the pumpkin and onion evenly into the tart cases. Spoon the egg and feta mix evenly over them.

Bake in a medium-hot oven for around 20 to 30 minutes, till the tart cases are crisp and colouring and the egg mix is set.

They are best is you let them cool before eating. No Teo, they aren’t cool yet.

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pumpkin sourdough scrolls

The macadamias are just getting cured enough to start using now, and the pumpkin stack on the verandah shows no signs of going down. This recipe makes 10.  That many is easy to make and they are at their best fresh.  And they are a bit too good.  If you make more everyone will just eat them, and unless you have a big household you really can’t call 20 in a day Witches Kitchen healthy.  Can you now.

The Recipe:

The pumpkin brioche:

It starts with a cup of fed, frothy sourdough starter, so I start the night before by feeding the sourdough culture with a cup of 50/50 by volume bakers flour and water. Then I leave a cup of the fed starter in a mixing bowl with a clean cloth over the top on the kitchen bench overnight.

To the frothy starter, blend together and add:

  • ¾ cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • a dessertspoon of soft butter
  • a dessertspoon of brown sugar
  • a scant teaspoon salt

(I like roast pumpkin better for puree because it is a little bit drier and more intense, but it isn’t worth putting the oven on for just that.  I put a tray in with the dinner the night before, but you could also use steamed pumpkin).

Then add enough baker’s flour to make a sticky dough – around 2 cups but it will vary depending on the pumpkin and the size of your egg and how generous you are with the butter.  Let that sit for half an hour or so, then scrape it out onto a floured benchtop, sprinkle flour on top, and knead briefly.  You will find that half an hour makes a big difference – the dough will still be soft but more springy than sticky and you should be able to knead it into a smooth ball.

Oil a large bowl with melted butter or a nice, mild flavoured oil like macadamia oil.  Swirl the dough ball around in it to coat, cover the bowl with a clean cloth, and leave out on the benchtop to prove. If the day is warm this should take around 6 hours but sourdough has its own temperament.

The macadamia filling:

Blend together

  • ½ cup macadamias
  • 1 egg
  • 1 dessertspoon butter
  • 1 desserspoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

My stick blender will handle macadamias, but you could also just use a mortar and pestle.  You want it the texture of crunchy peanut butter.

Assembling:

On a well floured benchtop, knead the pumpkin dough briefly then roll it out into a rectangle 1 cm thick , 40 cm long and about 25 cm wide.

Spread thinly with the filling leaving 2 cm at the end for sealing the scrolls.

Starting from the short side, roll up the 40 cm to form a log. Wet the end and press to stick.

Cut into 2.5 cm thick slices, and arrange the slices in an oiled baking tin so they are just touching.

Leave to prove for another couple of hours till the scrolls are about double in height.

Bake in a moderate oven for around half an hour till they are just browning and sound a bit hollow when tapped.

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pumpkins verandah stack

I heard a mad story last October about a Northern Territory farmer growing out of season pumpkins for Halloween carving. It isn’t easy growing pumpkins out of season.  No wonder they cost a fortune.

And here, at the moment, the verandah stack grows.  The wheelbarrow in the garden is full.  The ones that the bush turkeys have (wastefully) had a peck at get chucked into the front dam to feed the red claw, or into the garden the chooks are foraging at the moment for wonderful yellow high carotene eggs. And still they come.

Food waste is an odd concept.  I mean, I get it.  Vast quantities of resources are used growing, transporting, packaging, selling, refrigerating food that ends up in landfill so tangled up with plastic tubs and tetra packs that it’s not worth anyone’s while to untangle so the only solution is to put some dirt on top and walk away.  I get it.

It’s just that for every other creature on the planet “food waste” is an oxymoron. If it’s food, something will eat it.   Eventually. Perhaps an earthworm that likes it best when it’s got to the stage of slimy.  Many fruits go in that boom bust cycle.  The plant fruits prolifically all at once, the animals feast, the seeds get distributed, the waste goes back to the earth, life goes on.

It is southern hemisphere Halloween in a week.  It is oh so easy to see where the tradition of carving pumpkin lanterns for Halloween originated.  As the daylength starts to level out into the short days and long nights of winter, as the harvest season ends and the season of storytelling round the fire starts, as we come to terms with the fact that everything living dies, Halloween pumpkins are a celebration of the excess of autumn harvest season, of pumpkins in such abundance that even after the people and the chooks and the wildlife have eaten all they can, there are still pumpkins, not for wasting but for fanciful, ephemeral art.

pumpkins

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pumpkin granola

We have a big and growing stack of pumpkins on the verandah.  A big stack.  This is just the start of the main pumpkin harvesting season and already I am looking for places to store them, feeding them to the chooks and to the redclaw in the front dam, and sending every visitor off with a 10 kg behemoth.

pumpkin stack

And using every pumpkin recipe in the repertoire – pumpkin pasta, pumpkin salad, pumpkin dip, pumpkin balls, pumpkin curry, pumpkin pie, pumpkin scones, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pizza, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cake, pumpkin patties.

So, you can see why my quest was to see just how much pumpkin I could include in a pumpkin granola and have it still crunchy and granola-ish.  The recipes I see have just half a cup or so of pumpkin puree.  Hmfff.  And also maple syrup, which is lovely but so far out of my 100 mile (160 km) zone that I don’t buy it for home.

This recipe uses treacle, which is just as healthy and much more local, and 1½ cups of pumpkin puree.  Which makes no dent at all in the pile but at least makes me feel like I’m trying.

The Recipe:

There are lots of substitutions possible, so this is the basic recipe and you can adjust to your own style.

Blend together:

  • 1½ cups of pumpkin puree – cooked pumpkin blended to smooth.
  • 3 big dessertspoons of treacle
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch cloves
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • Pinch salt

Stir through 1 cup of pecans, and/or your choice of nuts and seeds. I added a handful of pepitas and macadamias.

Stir through 2½ cups of plain rolled oats, and/or your choice of rolled or puffed grains.  I used plain rolled oats, but I would have used rolled barley and triticale if I had any on the shelf.

Oil two large baking dishes really well and spread the mixture out as best you can without pressing down.

Bake in a moderate oven for around 20 minutes, then take out and break up clumps as best you can with a fork.

Bake for another 20 minutes or so and break up and stir again.

Mine took just under an hour to get to a nice roasty-ness.  It will crispen up as it cools.

If you want to add dried fruit, best to add it after it comes out of the oven as it burns too easily when roasted.

It’s great with fruit and yoghurt for breakfast or dessert, or just as is as a snack.

Store in an airtight jar and it will last for ages if you can manage to avoid raiding the jar all the time.  Dare you.

{ 8 comments }

pecan crust pie

My friend Joe is gluten intolerant, and not very dairy tolerant either which makes making dessert for him a pain in the ass but I love him so here is my best, Joe friendly dessert recipe! It uses pecans for the crust and we still have some from last year’s harvest needing to be used up, and we also have some very early pumpkins.  Otherwise the ingredients are all things you are likely to have in the pantry.

The Recipe:

In a food processor, blend together

  • 2 cups pecans
  • 2 big dessertspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
  • 1 egg

Blend till it binds together. I like it a bit textured, not smooth, but if you make it too textured the crust has trouble holding together.  If you look at the picture, the edge of the crust is starting to crack, which means I didn’t blend this one quite enough. Don’t try to reduce the amount of sugar – it turns toffee-ish and helps the crust hold together. It’s not overly sweet anyhow, but if you want less sugar, reduce it from the filling.

Oil a pie dish with a bland tasting oil and press the nut crust mix into it.  Decoratively pinch the edge.

Wide out the food processor and blend together:

  • 1 ½ cups cooked pumpkin
  • 2 dessertspoons brown sugar
  • a little vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • pinch allspice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind

Blend until smooth, then pour into the shell.

Bake in a medium oven for around 45 minutes till the centre is just set and the crust is golden.

It’s good just as it is, but for dairy tolerant people, it’s lovely with  greek yoghurt and strawberries, or glorious warm with  icecream.

{ 3 comments }

creamy pumpkin pasta

It’s the southern hemisphere Halloween, and I totally get it why Halloween features pumpkin lamps.  I have brush turkeys that relieve me of most of my pumpkins, but still I’m fast cycling all the pumpkin recipes and taking pumpkins with me to Bentley regularly.

Halloween is the final harvest festival, and marks the start of the season of gathering in – firewood, mulch, water, pumpkins, passata, preserves, warm clothes, books, tribe and wisdom. Traditionally, it is a time for celebrating all that has been garnered in the long term – a time for appreciating not just this year’s harvest but the harvest of the ages. A time for major feasting, and for remembering and honouring the ancestors.  It’s interesting that in Australia, of all the historical events we could have chosen, we’ve chosen Anzac Day for honouring the heroism and self sacrifice of our ancestors.  It’s almost like the cool, misty, late dawn provokes reflections about loyalty and legacy.

Halloween marks the point where the day length curve flattens out.  The days will continue to get shorter through till the winter solstice on June 21, but only by seconds a day from now on.  They are now pretty near as short as they are going to get. We’re settled in for the night of the year, the season of long evenings in front of the wood fire with a good book and reflections.    And warmly nourishing comfort food.

The Recipe

This recipe makes 2 good serves. You can scale it up easily (though you might want to use a pasta machine if you are making fresh pasta and it’s more than 4 serves).

Tagliatelle

I have just one pasta recipe, and I’ve posted it before, but I’ll repeat it here so you don’t have to click around.  You can just use bought pasta but I’ve become a solid fan of fresh made pasta in the last few years.  It really does take just minutes to make, and besides allowing me to use real free range eggs in it (and thus get all the good stuff in real eggs into the dish) it makes all the difference to the gourmetness.

In the food processor, blend:

  • one large egg (or if your egg is small, add a bit of water too)
  • ½ cup  flour – I use the high gluten unbleached baker’s flour I use for my bread, but you can use any plain flour, including wholemeal or spelt flour.
  • a swig of olive oil
  • good pinch salt

Blend until it comes together into a soft dough.  It needs to be not sticky but soft.

Flour the workbench and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, soft, non-sticky dough. It will look like quite a small dough ball, but a little bit goes a long way.  Let it rest for a few minutes covered with a wet bowl or cup if you have time, then roll it out and cut into noodles.

For this recipe I cut it into thick tagliatelle noodles, but you can go for any shape you like.  You will find that if you flour the benchtop and keep flipping it, you can roll the dough out very fine without it sticking.  The finer the better.  If you go to the effort of rolling it out, then folding it into a block and rolling it out again, you get a denser, more al dente pasta.  But if you are going for quick and easy, rolling it out once is fine.

Sprinkle flour over the top of the rolled out dough, then roll it into a log.  Using a sharp knife, cut into noodles. You will find that if you have floured between the layers well enough, the noodles will separate nicely.

If you put a big pot of water on to boil at the same time you start the sauce, the two should be ready at more or less the same time.

The Pumpkin Sauce

Put a big, heavy fry pan on a medium hot burner with a good swig of olive oil.

Add a diced onion and get it sizzling.

Then add 1½ cups of pumpkin chopped into bite sized pieces.  Don’t dice too fine or it falls to pieces.

Crush in 3 cloves of garlic.

Cook, stirring occasionally, while you shell and chop ¼ to ½ cup of macadamia kernels.  You can substitute pine nuts or cashews, but macas are in season now and if you can get them fresh in shell, they’re so sweet and, well, nutty.  Add the macas just as the pumpkin starts to get a bit of colour.

Cook a little, then add in a handful of chopped fresh herbs.  Oregano, basil and sage all work well in different ways but oregano would be my favourite.  If you use sage, make it a smallish handful.  Grate in a good grating of black pepper.

Cook, stirring occasionally but not so much that the pumpkin breaks up, until the pumpkin is just tender.

Now is a good time to put the pasta on to cook.  It will need just two or three minutes too rise to the top and become tender, then you can drain and serve it into bowls.

While the pasta is cooking, take the pumpkin pan off the heat.  Crumble in about 60 grams of smooth white feta, like goat’s feta or Danish feta.  Stir through gently so it melts.  Don’t put it back on the heat or it might curdle. Add a spoonful of  Greek yoghurt and/or a splash milk  and stir through.  Taste and add salt to taste.  Pile it on top of the noodles and serve with grated parmesan to add to taste.

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It’s glut season for pumpkins, and though the brush turkeys have made a serious dent in them, we have more than I want to try to store.  By the time the season ends we’ll be over pumpkin.

But for now it’s a treat. This is a very fast, healthy, easy, seasonal, meal in a bowl. It will generously serve two on its own, or four as a main side dish. The key ingredient, besides the pumpkin, is a Moroccan spice mix. You can use a ready bought mix but I have fresh turmeric, ginger, and chili in the garden, and besides turning very ordinary ingredients into something special, they also fend off the viruses that change of season can bring.

For this recipe, I use a mortar and pestle to crush together a nut sized knob of fresh turmeric and one of ginger, a fresh chilli and a handful of fresh coriander with teaspoon of mixed dry cumin and cinnamon, a pinch of cardamom and nutmeg and just a whisker of cloves.

Put half a cup of couscous in your serving bowl and cover it with boiling water. Let it absorb the water, topping up as needed until it is a good texture.

Meanwhile, heat a swig of olive oil in a heavy pan. Peel and chop pumpkin into bite sized pieces. This recipe uses about 2 – 3 cups of chopped pumpkin, but as always you can vary. Saute the pumpkin along with a roughly chopped onion, a couple of cloves of chopped garlic, and your spices. If you use dried spice mix, use about two good teaspoons.

When the pumpkin is nearly there, add a handful of sultanas, ½ a capsicum cut into thick strips, and about 2/3 cup of cooked chick peas (garbanzos). Salt to taste.

While all this is happening, roughly chop some parsley, halve some cherry tomatoes and tear up some rocket. Toss the lot together with the juice of half a lemon and serve into bowls.

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pumpkin pecan polenta balls

These are good.  Really good.  Better than they look.  They have the sweetness of pumpkin with a moist cake-y polenta centre.  They’re good hot but specially good cold, which makes them ideal for lunches or for nibbles.  They’re super fast and easy to put together, and these days we have the wood stove going so a hot oven just going to waste unless I find something to put in it.

Pumpkins are my glut crop at the moment.  They’re not exactly a glut – my brush turkeys take care of that – but when you cut just one pumpkin, it becomes a glut.  There’s never enough room in the fridge so it’s a race to use all of it before it goes off.

The Recipe:

This is a bit of a make it up as you go recipe.  The quantities aren’t very exact, because it depends on what kind of pumpkin you are using, and how much of it.

  • You need an oiled baking tray of pumpkin, cut into bite sized pieces.
  • Over the top of the pumpkin, scatter a couple of good handfuls of pecans.  I can’t see why it wouldn’t work just as well with any other kind of nut, but pecans is what I usually have in glut at the same time as pumpkins, so I’ve always used pecans. 
  • Scatter a diced onion and a couple of cloves of roughly chopped garlic over too.  

Bake until the pumpkin is soft. In a medium-hot oven, this will only take 15 minutes or so.

Tip the lot into a food processor. Add

  • an egg,
  • a good pinch of salt,
  • and a couple of big dessertspoons of polenta.

 Pulse the mix.  You are aiming to chop rather than puree it, aiming for a texture like a stiffish cake mix. If your pumpkin is very dry, you will use less polenta, if it is moist you will use more.  

pumpkin pecan polenta balls mix

Mix polenta and sesame seeds 50-50 on a plate.

Drop dessertspoons full of the mixture onto the plate and roll them in in the polenta sesame mix to coat.  Make into nice balls a bit smaller than a golf ball, about two-bite size.  Place them on an oiled baking tray.

Bake for around 40 minutes in a medium oven, till lightly browned.

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