All things Fall: Autumnally Creative with Pumpkins
Updated: Oct 14
So here we are, my first blog post. You've found me, you've clicked read and I'd like to thank you for doing so. The Noo Noo Project - what is it, you ask. Well let me enlighten you! Growing up, I was nicknamed "Noo Noo", much like the hoover in Teletubbies, I hoovered up any food in sight. I have worked in supermarkets, retail, cafes; I am a trained professional chef and have worked in hospitality for 6 years. All that said, I have witnessed a fair amount of wastage. And it is food wastage that really baffles me. So this here, is my way of trying to help in my corner of the world; to raise awareness and encourage a more mindful approach when it comes to consumption - and it'll be fun, I promise. I feel like at this point, I've plastered it all over the place but if you are new here my point is simply this: be spontaneously creative with what you already have! If you haven't checked out my first e-book, take a moment to have a look on the website!
October! What springs to mind? Bobble hats, falling leaves, cinnamon spice ... pumpkins! Pumpkin spiced lattes, candles, pies, decor and the pumpkins themselves.The autumn season is upon us and what better time to kickstart this blog than to talk about pumpkins! Yes, they are the perfect aesthetic for making your fireplace appear cosy and seasonal, and that warm welcoming feeling when you walk up to your neighbour's house and they have pumpkins of every shape and size going up the steps - perhaps even painted in decorative autumnal tones. And lets not forget Halloween itself! House after house with a glowing pumpkin outside, carved intricately to lure the trick or treaters in (or to scare them away!). But each year, as autumn becomes more and more "instagram-able" pumpkin wastage is at an all time high. We aspire to those fantastically seasonal American houses that greets every season and festivity with the ultimate decoration and celebration. However sadly in doing so, these beautiful and delicious fruits (yes, pumpkins are fruits) are rotting on our doorsteps and inevitably placed in the bin.
Ok, brace yourselves. I'm going in with hard facts. In the UK alone, last year we grew 10 million pumpkins. During Halloween, 95% of those were purchased to carve and then thrown away, creating a troublesome 18,000 tonnes worth of food wastage. The UK and US combined deliver concerning statistics - it was also recorded that of 2 billion pounds of pumpkin grown, it was estimated that 1.3 billion tonnes were thrown to waste in landfills! No consumption, no food recycling, no compost - just straight to landfill. It is a shame that food wastage gets overlooked as a major contributor to global warming.
How can we help this, you might ask. It is simple: get creative! By all means decorate your houses, your doorsteps, your windows. But might I suggest we take them down before they are inedible and use them to make something delicious to eat? Its a win-win!
Baking pumpkin pie has grown to be a warming tradition with my children each year, but don't stop at pumpkin pie! Below are just 3 of thousands of delicious recipes you can try!
1. Pumpkin-spiced Nutty Granola
2. Mini Pumpkin Pastel de Natas
3. Roasted Pumpkin and Chickpea Dhal
PUMPKIN-SPICED NUTTY GRANOLA
Granola is fast becoming one of my favourite cupboard essentials. Sprinkle it on your smoothie bowls, add milk or yogurt, snack on it during netflix and chill. This granola recipe is subtly sweet as I try to keep the sugars low when granola is used to top smoothie bowls that are naturally high in sugars! I just can't really get enough of it and this recipe is vegan, easy and a delicious, fun way to use up your pumpkins!
- 1 cup puréed pumpkin, peeled/boiled/blended (approx 1/4 medium pumpkin)
- 1/2 cup honey/maple syrup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar/coconut sugar (optional for those who prefer something sweeter)
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 tbsp smooth peanut butter or almond butter
- 4 cups oats
- 2 cups rice crispies
- 1/2 cup chia seeds
- 2 tsp of each: cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and ginger
- 1 tsp salt
- pumpkin seeds, pecans, almonds - whatever tickles your fancy!
First start by preparing your pumpkin puree. Peel and roughly chop the flesh of your pumpkin and boil in salted water for 15 minutes. Drain and allow to cool before pulsing through the blender. Blend to a puree (you may need a dash of water to get the pumpkin moving, depending on the quality of your blender).
Once you have your puree, take 1 cup and in a bowl, mix with the sugar syrup and coconut oil. Whisk until fully combined.
In a large mixing bowl, combine your oats, rice crispies, spices, chia seeds and salt. Once evenly distributed, pour in your pumpkin mixture. Using a flexible spatula (this is most convenient but a spoon will do) gently fold and stir the mixture to fully incorporate.
Transfer your oat mixture to a baking sheet laid with baking parchment and spread out to enable the oats to bake evenly. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees celsius for 35-40 mins, stirring and chopping it up every 10 minutes. With 15 mins left of your baking time, take out the oats and sprinkle with your selection of chopped nuts and seeds! Bake for the remaining 15 mins and store in an airtight container once cooled. Enjoy!
TIP: save the seeds aside from your pumpkins, clean away any flesh, dry and roast to add your own pumpkin seeds to the granola! You needn't waste what you already have! You can also add any dried fruit you may have; cranberries, apricots, sultanas, apple, banana chips all would be great!
MINI PUMPKIN PASTEL DE NATAS
These little Portuguese egg-custard tarts are quite perfect for that light dessert after a warm Sunday roast at the in-laws. Or an afternoon delight when its pouring outside with rain and there's nothing much better to do than to eat pastry!
- 250g pureed pumpkin
- 150g caster sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 120ml milk
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 25g butter, melted
- 1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry
- icing sugar to dust
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees celsius and have ready a cupcake/muffin tray (I used a silicone tray). In a bowl, whisk together your pureed pumpkin, sugar, eggs, spices, milk and melted butter until fully combined.
Roll out your pastry and cut out circles that are big enough to fill your cupcake/muffin tray. Arrange your pastry into their moulds. You will need to make sure your tarts aren't too shallow. Ladle in your pumpkin mixture to fill your pastry cases 2/3 full. I don't advise filling to the brim as the puff pastry will expand during baking and the pumpkin mixture is likely to overflow.
Place on the middle shelf of your preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. Once the filling is firm, take the tarts out of the oven and carefully spoon the tarts out onto a baking sheet to put back in the oven for a golden crisp finish on the pastries. This step isn't essential but I find the pastry gets a much nicer finish. Bake for a further 7-9 minutes. And voila! Simply dust with icing sugar to serve.
ROASTED PUMPKIN AND CHICKPEA DHAL
We are approaching the colder months, and with that comes warmer food. The warmth of the spices and the thick, indulgent texture of the lentil base is perfect for the soggy weather that lies ahead. Suitable for vegans, gluten free and a brilliantly simple dish to serve.
- 1 small pumpkin, peeled and chopped
- 1x 400g tinned chickpeas, drained
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- a knob of ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
- 2x 400g canned coconut milk (full fat)
- 2 cups dried red split lentils
- 1tsp cumin
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp paprika
- basmati rice, cooked
- coconut yogurt
- chilli flakes
- spring onions,finely chopped
First begin by preparing your pumpkin. Pumpkin skin is too thick to peel using a peeler so using a knife, carve the skin away, similarly as you would with butternut squash. Cut the pumpkin into bitesize chunks that would suit your curry dish. Add your drained chickpeas. Rub the pieces in coconut oil, or drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, garam masala, paprika and brown sugar. Roast in an oven preheated at 200 degrees celsius for 25-30 mins.
Whilst the pumpkin and chickpeas are roasting, get a pan on a medium heat and add a little swig of oil along with your ginger and garlic. Add your tomatoes and spices, and stir to cook for a 2-3 minutes. Then add your lentils and coconut milk. Give it a good stir to loosen the lentils. Turn the heat down a medium to low heat and simmer gently for half an hour. Be sure to give your lentils a stir every 7-10 mins to avoid the pan burning on the bottom. Take a fork and taste-test the lentils to make sure they are cooked. If, at any point it begins to get dry and clumpy, add a little water as you go to maintain a creamy texture. Once you have seasoned to taste and the lentils are cooked, remove from the heat.
Serve with basmati rice, spring onion, chilli flakes and your roasties sprinkled on top - a squeeze of lemon and some sprigs of fresh coriander would be perfect!
Like I said before, these recipes just scratch the surface with what you can do with pumpkins. Overtime, they seemed to have developed a reputation of being bland but we have since discovered that it's what you do with food, how you flavour it, that counts. Above are three recipes that are full of flavour; that uses pumpkins in very different ways, and I hope that this has sparked that little creativity bulb in you to create something exciting with your pumpkins. So get yourselves to the field, fill your barrows up with pumpkins, decorate your fireplaces, your doorsteps, your window sills. But please, cook up a treat and eat your delicious pumpkins. And if you really can’t find the time to cook them up into a tasty treat, at the very least let’s all try to put our pumpkins into food recycling and avoid general waste. Landfills are the last places we want our wasted pumpkins ending up. Please visit your local council website to find out more about food recycling in your area if you don’t already use food recycling.
Go have some fun with your pumpkins,
Gina ~ The Noo Noo Project