When I drifted upon an open sea, Cursing the oppressive heat of my beloved motherland Was it not a rousing welcome that awaited me in the golden arms of autumn? Oh, how she made me feel so new How she made me feel so good Oh how she thrust me into the icy warmth of winter’s waiting bosom And did winter not love me so? Did she not bare her soul to me? Did trees not bow? Nor winds uplift In a bid to welcome me? Yes, winter tried And no Her labour was not lost….on me Ozoz, 1997 (My experiences of living and studying in Merseyside)
Now…the beauty of fall and its welcoming comforts is that this year’s pumpkin discoveries, can’t and will not wait to be blogged about any longer! Carpe diem!
The humble pumpkin and its cousin gourds, available the world over in every recipe from pumpkin bread to spaghetti squash, soups, pancakes, waffles – no meal is out of bounds: breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight feast!
My memories of pumpkin at home in Nigeria are more about pumpkin leaves than the pumpkin itself! Yep, you heard me right. In Nigeria, fresh pumpkin leaves are an essential part of our diet and its traditional name is ‘ugwu’, probably a word that would be difficult to pronounce in English. The dark green leaves are hardy, and taste a bit like curly kale. You’ll always find the leaves fresh in the market (except you’re desperate- like me and dry them so when you move abroad, where you can’t find them, you have a stash). The leaves are often cooked with chopped tomatoes, onions and chillies with some seasoning – great with rice. Sometimes the leaves are juiced and a healthy, green drink appears in its place, full of nutritious vitamins and iron. It is also popular in a variety of African ‘eating’ soups!
It is strange to call them soups because they are not drinking soups like broths….or thick creamy soups. The Congo cookbook describes it perfectly:
In Africa, these stewed meat and vegetable dishes are variously called soups, stews, or sauces (depending where in Africa the cooking is done). None of these appellations seems exactly right. Generally they are the main course, so they are more than typical “soups”. They are not exactly “stews” in the European-American sense because they are usually eaten with starchy staple or Fufu-like dish, such as Baton de Manioc, Fufu, Ugali, or some sort of Rice, millet, sorghum, or Maize (corn). Since they usually are not blended smooth, nor served over other meat or vegetables, thay are not really “sauces” either.
In summary, my previous experiments with the gourd itself have been limited to grilling, roasting and souping…till recipes of pumpkin pie and mousses and smoothies and cakes….appeared every corner I turned.
Never being one to pass up a chance to learn something new, I went to a pumpkin sale….where not long, a patch had been.
I was completely astounded at the variety of pumpkins and squashes there were – edible and not!
Ones for decorating;
And all super cheap…..my 3 gourd selection came to a mere 2.50 Euros
Step one – roasting the pumpkin and that was QED
Top tip – use a serrated knife to tackle the hard skin of gourds!
Cut it open and then place on an oven tray. Sprinkle some salt over the pumpkin bits and some oliv eoil…if you wish. Place in a 200 degree Centigrade (400 degree fahrenheit) oven and roast till the pumpkin flesh is soft, half an hour or longer. When ready, let it cool down and then scoop out flesh with a spoon and use as needed. Alternatively, refigerate or pop in the deep freezer (like I did). If going the frozen route, ensure you defrost it before use!
First I tried some pancakes….with mediocre results. And then knew that I would probably fare better with some pumpkin cake…..so, I roasted some pumpkin, amended my banana bread recipe….and ended up with a pecan studded pumpkin bread, wrapped in coconut flakes.
Soft, moist and tasty….especially the corners….. My son thought the same as he ‘tore’ chunks off….for his good pleasure.
However, if I had to choose between this and banana bread, there would be no struggle, banana bread would win – hands down.
Why? For one the smell. The fragrance banana bread imparts around the house is phenomenal – there’s definitely something about its obvious smell-o-vision inspiring qualities that needs to be bottled up and poured out on a rainy day!
And the texture of the banana bread is nice and soft and finer than the pumpkin bread….sorry for going on and I do know this is not a banana bread post, I’ve done that already!
On the high note for the pumpkin bread, it tasted superb with some caramel curd, especially with the butteriness of the pecans and the tropical flavour of the coconut. Also, I love the taste of roasted pumpkin….a process no banana would survive.
Overall, glad I‘ve gotten this challenge/desire/call-it-what-you-may over and done with.
Life can go on….and I can leave the brave to continue thrilling the world with their pumpkin delights. Recipe does follow!
Ingredients2-3 tablespoons dessicated coconut 1 cup pumpkin puree 1/3 cup (one- third) of butter, melted 3/4 cup (three-quarters) of white granulated sugar 1 egg, lightly beaten 1/4 (one quarter) cup plain/vanilla yoghurt 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda 1 tespoon mixed spice pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups (one and a half) cups of plain white flour
How to make my pumpkin bread
Grease a 4×8 inch loaf tin/pan with butter or baking spray and sprinkle the dessiccated coconut in it, turning round to ensure all sides are coated.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit (about 180 degrees Centigrade) .
Put pumpkin puree in a large bowl and pour the melted butter over it. Mix/whizz in the sugar, egg, yoghurt and vanilla.
Sprinkle the baking soda, mixed spice and salt over the mixture and mix/whizz in.
The flour is the last ingredient to go in – add it now and then mix well. Pour the mixture into your greased pan.
Whatever the case, don’t let it bake longer than an hour. You don’t want it overcooked!
Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Then tip it out of the pan onto a plate and let it cool down further.
Enjoyed on its own. And with caramel curd.
Perfect on Christmas morning….I reckon!
What do you think?