Pumpkins are not just for lanterns!

I have long been fascinated by and addicted to pumpkins and squashes. In fact, Cucurbita excite me Full Stop. (Should I get out more?!)

My pumpkin book was published in the UK and around the world in 1998 (this really is a long term thing) and I am constantly amazed by how many people who have the book use it as their greatest inspiration in the autumn. There are, of course, lots of summer recipes for melons, cues, courgettes and summer squash in there too! This book has taken me onto the radio, TV and even to cook with Matt Baker on BBC1’s Countryfile - but more of that in a day or two.

Since writing the book I have continued to make up new recipes for pumpkins and squash and here are some of my current favourites - some old, some new and some with a tweak! I shall be adding to this post during the week as we approach Hallowe’en, so no throwing away the centre of your lanterns this year please - cook with it! You might like to try a little nip of The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14yo single malt whisky with these recipes - I think their Master Blender must be a pumpkin addict as the spirit is just made for them!

To print or download the recipes below, just click on the photo or the link.

Smokey pumpkin soup

Serves 6-8

Thick and warming and also a great way of using up the flesh from pumpkins hollowed out for lanterns. Of course you can make the soup without the bacon, but it does add a smokiness which is great around a bonfire.

  • 1 onion
  • 4 rashers smoked streaky bacon
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 500g pumpkin flesh, roughly chopped
  • 100g red lentils
  • 750ml well flavoured stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 300ml milk
  • Freshly chopped parsley and pumpkin seeds to garnish
  1. Prepare and dice the onion and bacon. Cook them slowly in the oil in a large saucepan until the onion is softened but not browned.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and seasonings and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and simmer the soup for 30-40 minutes, until both the pumpkin and the lentils are tender. Remove the bay leaves before blending the soup until smooth.
  3. Stir in the milk to give a gloriously creamy soup. Reheat gently and season to taste with salt and pepper. Scatter with chopped parsley and a few pumpkin seeds before serving.

Squash paté

Serves 6-8

This recipe always raises an eyebrow or two in terms of concept - a vegetable paté?! Think thick humus meets dip or spread and join the throng of people who have loved this at demonstrations over many years - it really is a favourite. Try it on toast, stirred into freshly cooked pasta or in baked potatoes with a crunchy winter salad.

  • 1kg squash e.g Crown Prince, Kabocha or Butternut
  • Oil
  • 1 chilli, green or red
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 50g nut kernels, cobnuts, hazel nuts or pistachios
  • 5cm piece fresh root ginger
  • 200g tub cream or soft cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 7, 220℃, 425℉. Cut the squash into 5cm slices and discard the seeds. Roast in a tin, sprinkled with salt, pepper and oil, for 45 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Allow to cool completely.
  2. De-seed the chilli then chop it finely with the garlic. Roughly chop the nuts, leaving some texture in them. Coarsely grate the ginger, skin on. Scoop the cooled squash from the skins.
  3. Beat the cream cheese until soft in a bowl, then add the garlic and chilli. Gather up the ginger in your hand and squeeze the juice from it into the bowl, discarding the rest. Beat well, then add the squash with some seasonings. Beat together until the squash is blended into the cheese mix and the texture is fairly smooth. Season again.
  4. Pile into a serving dish. Chill lightly if you wish before serving.

Pumpkin, rum and raisin ice cream

Serves 6-8

Quick, easy and very different. This does work best in an ice cream maker. Use rum, or a rum cask finish whisky in the recipe: The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14yo makes a great change from straight rum. Evaporated milk can sizes seem to have changed since I wrote this recipe: a little more or less will not matter. It's a bad picture - but it is a picture: sorry!

  • 225g thick pumpkin purée, fresh or canned
  • 100g icing sugar, sieved
  • 1 tsp each ground cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg
  • grated zest and juice of half a lemon
  • 250ml evaporated milk
  • 300ml pot double cream
  • 50ml rum or rum cask finished whisky
  • 75g raisins
  1. Beat the pumpkin with the sugar, spices, lemon juice and evaporated milk.  Whisk the cream until thick and floppy but not stiff, then fold it into the pumpkin mixture with the rum or whisky.
  2. Freeze churn the mixture until ready to serve in an ice cream maker, adding the raisins as the mixture becomes very thick. If you do not have an ice cream maker, freeze the ice cream in a suitable plastic container, beating it two or three times whilst freezing. An ice cream maker gives a smoother texture.

Autumn harvest chutney

Makes about 4 x 500g jars

This chutney is a wonderful mix of fresh and sweet, dried fruits. I always add lots of ginger and dates and semi-soft figs are good in it too. Autumn Fruits Chutney is always guaranteed to sell well at our Community Garden fund-raising events.

  • 2 kilos mixed autumn fruits; pumpkin or squash, apples, pears, rhubarb
  • 1 kilo onions
  • 500g mixed dried fruits; stoned dates, crystallised ginger, sultanas
  • 50g fine sea salt
  • 1kg demerara sugar
  • 568ml bottle distilled malt vinegar
  1. Prepare the fruits and onions, then roughly chop or slice them. Finely chop the dates and ginger.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a large preserving pan and heat until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 1 hour, until reduced to a thick pulp.
  3. Pour into clean warm jars. Push the mixture down to ensure there are no air gaps for the best possible storage. Seal with vinegar-proof lids and label. Try to keep this for a month before eating, to allow the flavours to blend and mature.

Click here to print or download this recipe.

Thai-style prawn and butternut salad

Serves 4-6

Pumpkins and squash are widely eaten in Pacific Rim countries. Use an onion squash or baby kabocha in place of the butternut if you wish.

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2-3 sticks celery
  • 150g mushrooms
  • 150g shelled cooked prawns
  • Dressing:
  • 5cm fresh root ginger
  • 1 red chilli
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 60ml fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  1. Quarter the squash and remove the seeds with a spoon. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil, then roast in a hot oven at gas mark 7, 225℃, 425°F for 40-45 minutes until tender. Allow to cool, then scoop the flesh off the skin and dice or shape with a melon baller.
  2. Seed and dice the cucumber and pepper, slice the celery and the mushrooms, if they are large.
  3. Grate the unpeeled ginger coarsely, gather it in your hand and squeeze the juice into a bowl. Seed and finely chop the chilli, add it with the remaining dressing ingredients to the ginger juice and whisk together. Toss the salad ingredients and the prawns together in the dressing before serving.

Pumpkin flapjack

Makes 16 pieces

A variation on a classic bake filled with dates, but the pumpkin purée is much less sweet. I always add raisins - you can add some rum or whisky too if you wish.

  • 250g butter
  • 250g rolled oats
  • 250g demerara sugar
  • 250g plain flour
  • 425g thick pumpkin purée, fresh or canned
  • 100g raisins
  • 3 tbsp rum or whisky (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 6, 200°C, 425°F.
  2. Melt the butter in a large pan, then add the oats, sugar and flour and mix well. Pile half the mixture into a 20cm square baking tin and press it down firmly and evenly with the back of a metal spoon.
  3. Briefly beat the pumpkin purée with the raisins, rum and cinnamon to mix, then spread over the pumpkin base. Scatter or crumble the remaining oat mix over the filling and press down lightly.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes. Mark into squares with a knife when cooked, then leave to cool in the tin before cutting. Store in an air-tight tin or jar. I usually store bakes made with fresh fruit or veg in the fridge so that they keep for longer.

American hot pumpkin pizza

Serves 2-3

I love pizza and I think this is my very favourite one! The pumpkin makes a good and welcome change from a tomato topping and you can make it as hot as you like with the jalapeños. Cooked chicken is great in the topping too. Use a prepared pizza base and a tomato sauce if you prefer.

  • 250g white bread dough mix OR
  • 250g strong white bread flour plus 1 tsp fast acting dried yeast
  • 425g thick pumpkin purée, fresh or canned
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra
  • 75ml warm water
  • 160g marinated artichoke hearts (280g jar, drained)
  • 1-2 tbsp capers, drained
  • 10-12 black olives
  • Jalapeño slices
  • 125g mozzarella
  1. Place the dough mix, a pinch of salt, one third of the pumpkin and 1 tbsp olive oil in a bowl and start to mix together. Gradually add the water and mix until the ingredients form a ball of dough which looks a bit dry - this is better than sticky! Turn onto a worktop sprinkled with flour and knead thoroughly. The dough will become smoother but will be soft, because of the pumpkin in the mixture. Knead it for 3-4 minutes, then roll out into a circle approx 25-30cm in diameter, which will fit on your baking sheet. Cover with plastic film or a clean damp teatowel and leave in a warm place for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to gas mark 7, 225°C, 425°F.
  2. Spread the remaining pumpkin purée over the pizza base, then top with the artichokes, capers, olives and as many jalapeños as you like. Tear the mozzarella into 8-10 pieces - or use ciliegine - dot over the pizza, then season with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little extra olive oil.
  3. Bake in the hot oven for 25 minutes, until the base is crisp and the mozzarella has browned.