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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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My all time, very favourite, can’t be beaten dinner is a plate of roast root vegetables.  On their own. Little crispy caramelised bits on the edges and each individual vegetable a star in its own right. With home grown, very fresh vegetables it’s amazing.  But even with bought vegetables it’s pretty good.

It really should be done long and slow in a hot wood oven.  But this half-hour midweek version is nearly as good, and it meets the rules of the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge.

The Recipe:

It’s not as easy as it might sound to get perfect roast vegetables fast. It’s all in cutting things small and the right size in relation to each other, having the pan hot before you put them in, not crowding the pan too much, and keeping the moisture level down.

Put the oven on high to heat up with a big heavy roasting pan in it.  You want a hot oven and a hot pan.

While the pan is heating up, put a swig of olive oil in a big bowl.  Peel and cut some pumpkin and/or sweet potato into medium-small chunks,  and some onions into quarters or eighths, depending on how big they are.  If you leave the root end on the onions, they will fan out a bit but hold together. Toss in the olive oil, and quickly, so as not to let the heat out, put into the roasting pan in the oven.

Now put a pressure cooker with a very little bit of water on to heat up. (You can use a pot and steamer – it will just take 5 minutes longer.)

While it is heating, scrub, peel if you need to, and chop some carrots, parsnips and beetroot.   You need them fairly small with a big surface area.  I chop them lengthways rather than into chunks – small carrots into quarters, parsnips into 10 cm lengths then into eighths, and beetroot into quarters or eighths depending on how big they are. You could add some turnips or swedes too, or celeriac. If parsnips aren’t a regular for you, now is the time to try them. Parsnips this time of year are very delicious.

Cook for just a minute or two in a pressure cooker or about 5 minutes in a steamer. You are looking to just heat them all the way through, not actually cook them.

While they are steaming, add to the olive oil in the bowl:

For each person:

  • half a teaspoon of fresh thyme finely chopped
  • half a teaspoon of fresh rosemary finely chopped
  • two cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • a teaspoon of lemon zest
  • good pinch of salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

You want enough herby oil to coat the vegetables.

Drain the vegetables well and allow the steam to evaporate off, then toss in the herby garlicy oil.

Quickly, so as not to let the heat out, add the vegetables to the pumpkin and onions in the baking tray, giving them a bit of a toss to turn.

Bake for 20 minutes on high.

While they are baking, make the caper mayo, for which you need an egg, lemon juice, capers, and a neutral oil like grapeseed oil.  I use my Two Minute Mayonnaise recipe, but leave out the mustard and garlic and put in extra capers – about 3 teaspoons of them.  If you have a sweet tooth, you could add just a touch of honey. This will make more mayo than you need, but it keeps in the fridge for a week or so and you’ll find plenty of uses for it.

Serve the vegetables with mayo on the side.

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I’m not a very authentic cook.  I cook by feel, working from the base of what I have in the garden and what is in season rather than from a recipe.  With the result that I often have to do the research afterwards to find out what to call it!  I think this is a Balti style of curry, because it has the sweet spices – cinnamon and cardamom and garam masala – and not much of the hot spices – in a yoghurt creamy tomato base.

Anyway, whatever you call it, this is a mild and a bit sweet curry. If you keep the chili level down kids are likely to enjoy it.  It doesn’t need rice to mellow it out like hot curries.  I like it best with garlic Naan bread to scoop it up.  It’s a great dish for using the last of the season pumpkin for a cold, wet winter night dinner.

There’s a little Tuesday Night Vego Challenge cheat in it: making it in half an hour requires cooked chickpeas (garbanzos).  You can use tinned ones, but that always seems like such a huge waste of energy to me – mining, smelting and manufacturing tins, cooking the peas, labelling, transporting, retailing – just so you can throw out the tin, which then becomes a problem to recycle or house in landfill.  So much easier and cheaper to buy (or grow your own) chickpeas and cook them.  If you soak them overnight, they cook in less than half an hour in a pressure cooker, or an hour and a half or so simmering. I often cook a batch of dried peas or beans of an evening, while I have the wood fired slow combustion stove going anyway to heat the house and the hot water, to use for dinner later in the week.

The Recipe:

Makes three adult serves.  Leftovers are even better the next day.

Soak ¹/3 cup chickpeas (garbanzos) overnight or for the day, then simmer or pressure cook them till they are quite soft.  This can take anything from 20 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on how old and dry your peas are, and whether you use a pressure cooker or not. It will yield about a cup of cooked peas.

In a big, heavy based pot, saute a chopped onion in a good swig of olive oil.

As it cooks, add (more or less in this order)

  • 500 grams of diced pumpkin
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • the seeds from 2 cardamom pods
  • ½ teaspoon (more or less to taste) chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • good grating of black pepper (or, if you have them, substitute nigella seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
  • 2.5 cm (1 inch) of cinnamon stick

Keep stirring till the onions are softened and the spices fragrant and coating everything.  Then add

  • ½ cup tomato passata
  • water – about 1 ½  cups but it will depend on how liquid your passata is, and what kind of pumpkin you use
  • pinch salt
  • the cup of cooked chickpeas
Simmer for about 10 minutes until the pumpkin is very soft.  Add a tablespoon of lemon juice and stir it vigorously, till the pumpkin semi-breaks-up. Then take the pot off the heat and stir in a couple of big spoonfuls of Greek yoghurt (low fat is fine).
Serve in bowls with a dollop of yoghurt and a sprinkle of chopped coriander if you like as garnish, and naan bread to scoop with.
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Pumpkin season.  Infinite number of pumpkin recipes required. This one has used up several of our pumpkins, and will use up several more before the season ends.

This is one of the dips I made for our Halloween progressive dinner (southern hemisphere Halloween, last weekend).  The kids got into it and made a very big dent in it before the adults even got a go.  Sadly I didn’t get any left over to bring home.  So I just had to make another batch for spreading on my lunch sandwiches.

(You could probably substitute cashews or almonds for the macadamias if you live outside maca growing country).

The Recipe:

Chop 500 grams of pumpkin into bite sized pieces and spread them on an oiled baking tray.

Add 3 cloves of garlic (skin on) and roast for 10 minutes or so  in a medium oven until the pumpkin is tender to a fork.

Spread ½ cup roughly chopped macadamias on another  baking tray, and roast for about the same time until they are just starting to brown.  (Best to do them on separate trays though, so you can avoid overcooking either part).

Tip into a food processor with

  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • scant ½ teaspoonground cumin
  • scant ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • good pinch of chili powder
  • good pinch of salt

Blend until chopped fine but not smooth – you want a bit of texture left in the nuts. Taste and adjust the chili, salt and lemon juice levels to your liking.

Best the next day, if you can wait that long.

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It is Halloween in Australia, and peak of the pumpkin season.  Roasted pumpkin seeds are a hugely healthy and totally addictive snack.  And they are so easy.

Halloween, or Samhain, marks the midpoint between autumn equinox and the mid-winter solstice. It is the last of the three traditional harvest seasons, marking the real last this-is-it end of summer – and it feels like it.  The weather has turned here. As far as day length goes, it is now officially winter – the season of the shortest days, and though, because the earth has lots of thermal mass the temperature drop lags by a few weeks, it really feels like winter today.

We celebrate with a progressive dinner, and this year due to my current obsession with sourdough, I’m starting off the feast with breads and dips.  On my kitchen bench I currently have rising a loaf of rye and caraway, one of olive and thyme, one of semi-sundried tomato, garlic and basil pesto, and one of pumpkin and sunflower seeds.  Here’s hoping they turn out!

But meanwhile, I’ve roasted the pumpkin seeds to snack on.

The Recipe:

Scoop the seeds out of the pumkin and into a bowl.  Fill the bowl with cold water and roughly wash the seeds.  Much of the pulp will float and can be scooped out.

Tip into a colander and wash a bit more.  Much of the rest of the pulp will wash through. Then it is very easy to pick out the last bits of pulp. Don’t worry if you miss some – it adds to the flavour.

Let the seeds dry in the colander for a little while.  They don’t have to be quite dry, just not sopping.  Tip them into a bowl with a teaspoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of soy sauce and a half a teaspoon of honey.

Stir this to coat the seeds, then tip them onto a baking tray and spread them so they are a single layer.

Bake in a moderate oven for around 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are well browned.  (I like them a bit darker than golden).  Watch them at the end as they turn quickly.

Try to at least let them cool before eating them all!

 

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Picked the first pumpkin of the season today. Pumpkins are wild in my garden.  These Japs plant themselves every year, rambling over fences and down banks, unruly and disobedient.  The vines are too rampant for my intensive, fortress fenced beds so the bush turkeys get most of them, wastefully pecking holes randomly.  Occasionally I try planting another variety.  I had high hopes that Queensland Blues with their very tough shells might slow the turkeys down, but they just go for the young ones.

But by curbing my neat impulse and letting the vines climb and ramble, a percentage of the pumpkins grow in places that are less convenient for turkeys, and I get to pick enough to be over pumpkin by the time the season ends in early winter. They get absolutely no attention, no mulch, water, fertiliser, not even kind words when I come out to find one trying to climb a coffee tree or smother the mint patch.

But right now, I’m going to make Moroccan Pumpkin Salad with this one, and maybe Pumpkin Scones as well.

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One has to love a bloke who can bake, especially when he’s your son!

Hola mama,
I’m pretty sure everything is about right on this recipe. I made it by feel but I tried to measure stuff, wasn’t entirely successful with the measuring but the muffins are good.

Makes about 12

  • 1 ¾ cups wholemeal SR Flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup mixed veg (I used roast pumpkin chopped in small cubes, finely chopped zucchini and some sundried tomatoes)
  • 100 g Feta
  • ¼ cup Pine nuts
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ cup butter, melted

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C .

2. Mix the flour, baking powder and nutmeg in a bowl.

3. Add the veg, feta and pine nuts and mix well.

4. In another bowl combine the egg, milk and butter and mix this well.

5. Add the egg mix to the flour mix all at once. Using a fork, stir and fold the ingredients together only until it is all moist. Do not over mix, this is the main secret of good muffins!

6. Spoon the mixture into muffin tins, filling them about two-thirds full and bake for approximately 20 -25 minutes. They are ready when golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.

7. Place muffins on a wire rack to cool. These are best warm.

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The Recipe:

The Base:

There are a million recipes for pizza bases on the internet.  Making your own base is easy and pretty foolproof, (much more forgiving than making bread) but it does need an hour and a half or so for the yeast to work.

Basically, for one pizza you need to dissolve a scant teaspoon of dried yeast in half a cup of warm water in a bowl.  Add a dessertspoon of olive oil and a dessertspoon of plain flour, cover and put it in a warm spot for 10 minutes until it goes frothy. Then add a cup of plain flour and half a teaspoon of salt.   Tip the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead for a few minutes, incorporating more flour as needed, until the dough feels smooth.  Oil the inside of your bowl and roll the dough ball around in it to coat, then cover with a damp tea towel and put the bowl in a warm spot to rise for about an hour.  It should double in size and feel springy.

Knead the dough again briefly then roll it out.  Put it on your pizza tray and back in your warm spot to rise again for about 15 to 20 minutes.

The Topping:

There are lots of substitutions possible, but the basic idea is something sweet, something acid,  something salty, and something bitter. For one pizza:

  • The Sweet: Caramelized Pumpkin and Onion:  Chop about 2 cups of pumpkin into dice, and an onion into fine slices.  Put them in a heavy pan with a lid, with a little olive oil, 2 dessertspoons of balsamic vinegar, and a good teaspoon of brown sugar.  Cook on a low heat for about 15 minutes until the pumpkin is al dente and the onion is caramelized.  You can add some chopped oregano and/or basil at the end as well. Then sprinkle over your base.
  • The Acid:  Roasted Tomatoes and Capsicum: Slice about 10 cherry or grape tomatoes in half.  Sprinkle them with salt and put them skin side down on a baking tray.  Slice a capsicum (or a few mild chillies)  in strips and put them on the tray too.  Roast them for a few minutes (as your oven warms up is fine), then scatter amongst the pumpkin.
  • The Salty:  Anchovies or Olives, and Feta Cheese: Scatter a few anchovies or olives, and crumble low  fat fetta cheese over the top.  (I’ve tried it with ricotta cheese too, but to my taste it really needs the saltiness of feta).
  • Bake the pizza for 10 minutes or so in a hot oven until the crust and the tips of the feta are browned.
  • The Bitter:  Scatter liberally with torn rocket and serve.
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This is the last of the Muesli Bar Challenge recipes based on pumpkin. I still have a couple of other recipes to post, but the brush turkeys have got the last of our pumpkins. It was good while it lasted!

The pumpkin recipes have gone over well with the kids so far, in fact all the vegetable based lunch box baking recipes have done well. And the rules of the Muesli Bar Challenge prevent cheating by smothering them in sugar or fat. Proves kids do have taste.

This one is an adaption of an old dessert favourite – pumpkin pie. I have made it a bit more robust to survive the bouncing around in a school bag. It needs very little sugar – pumpkins are naturally sweet – and the only fat is a little butter in the pastry. Pumpkins are loaded with beta -carotenes which are important for protection against a whole range of chronic diseases. This recipe also has a decent amount of protein in the eggs, and eggs also contain lots of choline, which is important for memory.

The Recipe

Makes 12 muffin-sized tarts.

The Pastry

It is really worth making your own pastry. Shortcrust is easy peasy, and you can make homemade with organic wholemeal flour,  egg yolk and real butter rather than “hyrogenated vegetable oils” with their nasty trans fats.

Separate an egg. Put the yolk in the food processor, along with

  • a good cup of wholemeal plain flour,
  • a teaspoon of ginger powder, and
  • a good dessertspoon of butter.

Blend for a minute until it resembles breadcrumbs.  (Or you can just rub the butter and egg yolk into the flour with your finger tips). Add just enough cold water to make a soft dough. Sprinkle flour on your benchtop and roll it out. I use a saucer to cut 10 cm circles and put each in a cup of a greased 12 cup muffin tray.

Bake the shells in a moderate oven for 10 minutes till the pastry is starting to firm but not browning. Meanwhile make the filling.

The Filling

You don’t need to wash the food processor. Just add

  • the egg white and two whole eggs,
  • the juice and rind of a small lemon (or half a large one)
  • a cup of cooked pumpkin,
  • 2  dessertspoons of brown sugar (level ones unless you have a real sweet tooth),
  • a level teaspoon of spices. I use a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger with just a touch of cloves.

Fill each shell with the mixture. You can fill quite full – they puff up but don’t overflow. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes in a moderate oven until the pastry is brown and the filling is set. They will deflate a bit and firm up more as they cool.

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