Challenge No. 43 – Pumpkin Pie

Yep, I know, this post is a whole week late! And do you know what?  I’m so frustrated about it as this is one of the few recipes I knew exactly when I wanted to be posted 😦 However, life has unfortunately got in the way of my blog just recently.  Anyway, better late than never, this is my attempt at Challenge No. 43 and making pumpkin pie.

This challenge was suggested by one of my oldest friends.  Alex and I went to primary school and ballet classes together.  My parents and Alex’s parents soon became friends and still often go on holiday together.  Alex and I don’t speak very often anymore but I have great memories of our early years together.  And thanks to my trigger happy mum, many of those memories have been documented in embarrassing photographs like these…

aVPAlexDec93aVPballetAlexJul96 aVPballetAlexJul99 aVPNewYearJan01 copy

P.s. sorry to Alex for posting these but I couldn’t resist!

So Alex suggested I have a go at making pumpkin pie.  I’ve never had pumpkin pie and it was one of the recipes I was really looking forward to trying.  It seemed right to wait until Halloween though (and then I went and missed the planned post date)!

I had a little look online and decided to use this recipe from The Guardian’s Felicity Cloake.  Throughout Challenge 52 I have quite often read articles by Felicity and I thought it was about time I tried one of the recipes. 

For the recipe you will need the following ingredients:-

  • For the pastry:
    • 170g plain flour
    • Pinch of salt
    • 100g cold butter
    • 2tbsp caster sugar
    • 1 egg yolk
  • For the pie filling:
    • 1 small culinary pumpkin or medium butternut squash
    • 145g maple syrup
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp ground ginger
    • ¼ tsp ground cloves (or 5 cloves, ground)
    • 3 tbsp golden rum (optional)
    • 2 large eggs, beaten
    • 150ml evaporated milk

Ed - ingredients

The recipe is for a 20cm tart tin.  I think my tin is actually larger than this but it worked out fine in the end 🙂

I started by making the pumpkin puree.  Part of the reason I used Felicity’s recipe was her useful guide on buying the right pumpkin.  I didn’t know the big ones you use to carve aren’t very good for cooking and that there are specialist culinary pumpkins!  I was therefore really surprised to find one so easily in my local supermarket.  It was a sign that I should use the recipe.

I sharpened my knife before I got started to make sure it was going to cut through the pumpkin with ease.  I sliced off the top part of the pumpkin and then inserted the tip of the knife into the middle of the base before pulling down to one side.  I inserted the knife back into the middle of the base and pulled down the other side to separate the two halves.

Ed - pumpkin Ed - pumpkin chopped

I then used a tablespoon to scoop out all the seeds and flesh.  I put the two halves, skin side up, onto a roasting tin with 2 tablespoons of water.  I then popped it into the oven on 200 degrees celsius for 35 minutes (checking it after 30).

Ed - on the tin Ed - cooked

I left the roasted pumpkin on the tin to cool for 5 minutes before peeling off the skin.  Once the flesh had cooled further, I put it in my mini blender until it was nice and smooth.  I then put the puree into my fine sieve over a bowl.  The recipe says to leave it for at least an hour.  I actually made this dish over 2 nights so I left the puree in the sieve until it was time for bed.  I then put it in some tupperware in the fridge.

 Ed - fleshEd - in the blenderEd - sieved puree

Practical tip: pumpkin puree will keep for approximately a week in an airtight container, stored in the fridge.

So the next night when I was home, I got on with the rest of the recipe.  I put the puree back into the sieve as some liquid had gathered in the bottom of the tupperware.

I sieved the flour into a large bowl, added the salt and then grated in the butter.  I rubbed the butter into the flour until it resembled breadcrumbs and then stirred through the caster sugar.

Ed - grated butterEd - breadcrumbs

Practical trip: warm hands will begin to melt the butter and the mix will become too wet.  If, like me, your hands are prone to being warm, run them under a cold tap for a while and dry them thoroughly before you get started.  Repeat this cooling process periodically to make sure your hands don’t warm up too much.

The next bit of the recipe threw me slightly.  It instructs to mix the egg yolk with 2 tablespoons of iced water and then to sprinkle half over the mixture.  I therefore whisked the egg yolk in my mini jug, added water which I had in the fridge and then used a tablespoon to put around half into the dry ingredients.  I used knife to mix it altogether and added a little bit more liquid until it came together, finishing it by hand.

Ed - dough

I then rolled it out onto a floured surface.  Unfortunately when I tried to lift the pastry into the tin it kept splitting.  So in the end I took the base out of my tin and rolled the pastry directly onto this until it was nearly to the edges; I put this back in the tin and then used my fingers to work the pastry up the sides of the tin.  I used my small rolling pin to smooth out the middle as best as possible.  I then put it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Ed - in the tin

I covered the pastry with baking paper and filled the dish with my baking rice before putting it in the oven on 200 degrees celsius for 15 minutes.  I then removed the rice and baking paper and returned to the oven for around 8 minutes until it was a light golden brown.

Ed - blind baked

I let the pastry cool slightly whilst I made the filling.  To do this I mixed together 250g of the pumpkin puree with the maple syrup, rum and spices. I stirred through the eggs before slowly adding the evaporated milk.

Ed - filling

I poured the filling into the blind baked pastry and then popped it in the oven on 180 degrees celsius. I initially set the timer for 30 minutes and then checked it regularly until it was “set, but still slightly wobbly in the centre”.  This ended up being about 37 minutes.

Ed - cooked1

Once the timer went off, I removed the pie from the oven and let it cool for around 10 minutes before removing the outer ring.  I then placed it on a cooling rack for an hour before trying a slice.

Ed - cooked2  Ed - sliced

Dave and I have never had pumpkin pie before and we were both a bit sceptical.  I was unsure at first but it definitely grew on me.  Dave however said “it is perfectly executed and it’s not bad but its also not good”! So I decided to take the rest into work and I bought some cream for people to have.  When I had my second slice with some cream, I decided I REALLY liked this!  It was different but yummy.  And the general verdict from my colleagues was great.  Even those who didn’t like the pumpkin filling due to personal taste, said the base was amazing! I have to admit, it was the best shortcrust I’ve made 🙂

Coming up soon, Challenge No. 44 – potato bombs.

Challenge No. 42 – Lamb Boulangere

This challenge was suggested by my mum who makes the nicest lamb boulangere.  I didn’t plan this post very well and kind of decided very last minute that I would be making this one.  Unfortunately, my mum was off exploring Hamburg with some friends and I therefore couldn’t ask her for the recipe she uses.  So instead, I used this one by Tom Kerridge.

The recipe used a whole lamb shoulder, however, given that there was only Dave and I to eat it, I decided to half the recipe.  I therefore used the following ingredients:-

  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and thinly slices
  • 1 bunch thyme, leaves picked
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 lamb shoulder
  • 1/2 garlic bulb, peeled and separated into cloves
  • 1/2 pint chicken stock

Ed - ingredients

The recipe suggests serving this dish with french beans or other green vegetables.  I decided to do honey roasted carrots and parsnips with some savoy cabbage.

I started off by thinly slicing the onions and potatoes.  I remember my mum saying, the key to this dish is to get the onions and potato sliced as thinly as possible.  She actually uses a mandolin slicer but I don’t have one of these so I just took my time!  I didn’t do too badly but it did take ages!

The recipe says to combine the onions, potato and thyme in a bowl before seasoning it with salt and pepper.  I then placed the mixture into the bottom of my roasting tin.

Ed - potato:onion

I was a little surprised by this as I had always remember my mums dish having neatly layered potato and onions.  In fact, once the dish was in the oven, I found a video of Tom Kerridge making this dish and he didn’t mix these elements together.  He simply layered them into the roasting tin.  He put a layer of onions, then a layer of potatoes and then sprinkled with thyme and salt and pepper; repeating this until he was left with a neat top layer of potatoes.   Oh well, one to remember for next time.

Anyway, with the potato/onion layer done, I placed the lamb on top with the skin-side up.  I cut small incisions in the lamb to place in the garlic cloves. I poured over the chicken stock and placed the lamb in the oven on 130 degrees celsius. 

Practical tip: push the garlic cloves as far under the skin as possible to avoid them burning in the over.

Ed - oven ready

The recipe says to cook the whole shoulder for 4 to 5 hours and I therefore adjusted the cooking time to around 2 and a half hours.

After the 2 and a half hours were I up, I tested the lamb and it wasn’t very tender.  I therefore decided to let it cook for another 15 minutes at 130 degrees and then turned the oven up to 200 degrees for a further 15 minutes.  I then covered the lamb with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes whilst I prepared the vegetables.

Ed - restingEd - cooked

The lamb still wasn’t as tender as I would have hoped but it was getting quite late so I had to serve up.

Ed - served up1

The taste was really nice but the lamb was not very tender and was really fatty.  Perhaps it was just a bad cut of meat or perhaps I shouldn’t have adjusted the cooking time.  Either way, this just didn’t live up to the one my mum makes and next time, I will definitely be asking for her recipe!

Coming up next, Challenge No. 43 – pumpkin pie.

Challenge No. 40 – Tomato Soup

This challenge was suggested by my lovely mum, who as it turns out got to be in Manchester to try this one!  I have made tomato soup before, however, I don’t remember it being particularly nice and I’ve always stuck to my tinned favourite.  Nevertheless, for the purposes of Challenge 52, I went back on the hunt for a lovely cream of tomato soup recipe.

I eventually settled on a recipe posted by Lacey on her blog, A Sweet Pea Chef.   Be sure to go and check out this blog…there are some really yummy looking recipes!

So for this recipe, you will need:-

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 8 fresh basil leaves
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • ¾ cup milk 

Ed -ingredients

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while, may remember that I try to stay clear of ‘cups’ recipes!  Well after discussing this with some friends who were visiting from Canada, Linda very kindly bought me a couple of gifts…

Ed - cups

Amazing!  I can now measure in cups ☺

Anyway, on with the recipe.  I started by peeling and then dicing my onions and carrots before adding them to the hot oil in my GIANT saucepan. 

Ed - chopped veg

Whilst the onions and carrots were cooking, I roughly diced up the tomatoes and got my stock ready.  I cheated and used instant stock but I have added this to my post Challenge 52 list of things to try – homemade stock! So watch this space for a post about how I get on.

*It would have been good to have a picture of my chopped up tomatoes here, however, apparently I forgot to take one!  You would have thought that by Challenge No. 40, I would have the hang of this but evidently not.  Whoops! You’ll just have to use your imagination*

Once the vegetables had been cooking for around 10 minutes, I added the crushed garlic.  I let this cook for around a minute and then I added the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil and chicken stock.  I seasoned it with salt and pepper, mixing it all up before letting it come up to a boil.  I then reduced the heat and left it to simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

Ed - all in the pan

Time to blend it all together into a nice smooth soup.  I decided to use my handheld electric blender and did it in 2 batches in a jug.  The recipe then says to pour it back into the pan to reheat, however, I added in a little extra step here.  I don’t like soup with too much texture and it wasn’t quite going smooth enough with the blender.  So I decided to strain the blended soup through a sieve before returning it to the pan.  It worked a treat!

Ed - blending Ed - sieve

I added my milk but then portioned the soup up to reheat the next day.  We’d already been naughty and eaten left over Chinese food for dinner 🙂

So the next night, when my mum was visiting, I put two portions of the soup into a pan and heated it up over a medium to low heat.  The other two portions have gone into the freezer for another day. 

Ed - served up1

This soup was delicious!  Mum and I both agreed that the sieve hadn’t got rid of all the ‘grainy’ texture but it was close enough and we thoroughly enjoyed this lovely smooth and rich tomato soup.  Dave (who had KFC whilst we ate this!), tried a spoonful and said it was great…and that is coming from someone who doesn’t really like soup. So Lacey can now a third ‘tomato soup’ convert to her list!

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 41 – Zebra Cake.  Hope to see you then.