It might be Halloween but you won’t find a pumpkin on my porch. I’ve never been one for arts and crafts. For me, it’s too fiddly and anyone who knows me would readily agree that (Im)Patience should be my middle name. Anyway, a glowing jack-o-lantern only encourages trick or treaters and according to a Waitrose survey, 46% of us turn off the lights and pretend no one’s home to avoid the little buggers. I prefer my pumpkin in a pie – or anything that’ll cheer me up when it’s cold and dark outside.
Now that the clocks have gone back, I feel that it’s time to embrace another ‘h’: hygge. I thought that everyone had heard of this (relatively) new buzzword but when I mentioned it to some friends at the pub last night, they thought I was talking about picking up younger men (the correct way to pronounce this Danish word is so that it rhymes with cougar). Hygge, in a nutshell, is the Scandinavian art of making your home cosy and comfortable in a bid to banish the winter blues. You can listen to a really interesting discussion about hygge, the home and what it means to us in this episode of Late Night Woman’s Hour.
Pumpkins are plentiful at this time of year (and cheap too) so I’ve stocked up on them to make warming winter soups, stews and salads – oh, and cake. This weekend, I cooked up a storm in the kitchen (I’m not kidding, there were pumpkin seeds everywhere) and made pumpkin soup and smoky squash houmous. These are, of course, great for a little Halloween supper but will also fare well for Bonfire Night next weekend. The houmous will be lovely dolloped onto a steaming baked potato and a thermos of soup will warm your hands when they’re not holding sparklers. Just remember to wear gloves, kids.
Punchy pumpkin soup
This works just as well with butternut squash, although you’ll probably need to use two of them – if it’s easier, buy the pre-chopped stuff in bags. The split peas make this quite a hearty soup (in fact, it has an almost dhal-like consistency) and they have a robust, almost chewy texture, so use red lentils if you prefer. You don’t have to blend it but doing so will give you a smoother soup. Oh, and you can peel the carrot and potato but a lot of their nutrients are in the skin so a quick scrub should suffice.
1 large pumpkin (about 500g), roasted and cut into small cubes
150g yellow split peas or red lentils
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 carrot, scrubbed and diced
1 small sweet potato, scrubbed and diced
1 litre vegetable stock
2 inches fresh ginger
2 inches fresh turmeric (or 2 teaspoons turmeric powder)
1 red chilli
1 tsp cumin powder
1 orange (zest and juice)
Salt and pepper, to season
Preheat the oven to 200C (gas mark 6). Slice the pumpkin or squash into wedges (it’s easier to peel and deseed once it’s cooked) and spread across two baking sheets. Drizzle each batch with 1-2 tablespoons of olive and a tablespoon of water. Place on the top shelf of the oven and cook for about 35 minutes, or until soft.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion, carrot, sweet potato, cumin and salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. Then, add the lentils and the stock, plus the ginger, chilli and turmeric and stir. Place a lid on the pan and simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes.
When the pumpkin is cooked, allow to cool, remove the skin and seeds, and chop into small chunks. Stir through the soup mixture, along with the orange zest and juice and cook for another 30 minutes. Let the soup cool and then blend in batches. You can use a hand-held blender for this but it’ll require more elbow grease. Once blended, return the mixture to the pan and add 500ml of boiling water (more if you’d like a less thick consistency), stir through until warm, and serve.
Smoky squash houmous
This houmous combines sweet and spicy flavours thanks to the addition of ras el hanout (if you don’t have any, use one teaspoon of cinnamon and one teaspoon of cumin) and my secret weapon: maple syrup. Tahini makes it creamier but don’t worry if you can’t get hold of it.
Makes one big bowlful
100g squash, peeled and deseeded and chopped into small pieces
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ras el hanout (or one teaspoon of cinnamon and one of cumin)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 clove garlic, peeled
Salt and pepper, to season
Slice the pumpkin or squash into wedges (it’s easier to peel and deseed once it’s cooked) and place in an oven-proof dish with 2 tablespoons of water. Cook for about 30 minutes, and once cooled, peel and remove seeds. Place in a blender with the chickpeas, garlic, tahini, ras el hanout, cinnamon, olive oil, and maple syrup, and blend. Add a tablespoon of water if you think it’s too thick but it should have quite a chunky texture. Season with salt and pepper and serve on toast, baked potatoes or in salads.
If you can’t be bothered to cook, check out my Wriggle Cardiff feature which is all about vegan and vegetarian comfort food.