Pumpkin Mania

Pumpkin Mania


Pumpkins are plentiful, reasonably priced and come in an assortment of varieties, that make this cheap, and nutritious vegetable handy for everyone to cook, freeze and share.

My favourite is always the pumpkin soup, and everyone can make this so easily, from very basic, which is pumpkin steamed or boiled, and mashed with seasoning and some form of liquid to make it soupy. The taste depends on the pumpkin. If you have a rich deep coloured, flavoursome pumpkin, you only need water or milk added to the mashed pulp to make a great soup. Serve with toast or garlic bread and everyone thinks you are a genius. Extra soup can be frozen easily in zip lock sandwich bags in single serving proportion, and you take from freezer, thaw and you have dinner.

You change the flavour of the soups by what you add with the pumpkin. Onions are always popular, so is carrots and celery. I always add garlic and ginger to the soup, and some bay leaves, a few cloves and sometimes curry powder or turmeric for extra flavour. You can also make the soup using stock made from a stock cube, or just water from boiling or steaming other vegetables or meat.

You can thicken the soup by adding some cornflour or flour mixed in water to stretch it out, and serve with garlic croutons made by buttering toast with minced garlic and adding some herbs and then chopping it into small pieces. You can top with a handful of grated cheese, and my favourite is sour cream or yogurt. A generous dollop changes the soup from ordinary to special, when also sprinkled with fresh herbs.

Everybody knows pumpkin soup, but not everybody knows Pumpkin dip, made by mashing the pumpkin and adding ginger, garlic and either sour cream or yogurt to make a tasty dip. You can also add a tin of mashed chick peas and beat it into the pumpkin with oil. Tahini can also be mixed with the pumpkin for a richer flavour and Tahini is highly nutritious as well as delicious. I add lemon juice or lime juice, or cider vinegar as well as salt and pepper, sometimes chilli powder as well. Experiment with what you add once you master the basic recipe which is pumpkin with seasonings.

Always when making a baked dinner, I bake the pumpkin whole. I cut it in half, horizontal slice, trim the bottom for stability, sit it in a sheet of foil, place it in a baking dish, add what I want onto the pumpkin…herbs, mixed vegetables, mince, bacon, potato, left over casserole or curry…and fold foil over and bake until the pumpkin is cooked. I check with a skewer. Then I fold back the foil and let the pumpkin brown before serving by cutting it into slices. Once I cooked the whole pumpkin as is, after Halloween in Korea, because the pumpkin was too expensive to throw away, and we all enjoyed generous slices of delicious baked pumpkin. I removed all the shelves except the lowest one and a whole pumpkin fitted happily into the oven.

Pumpkin scones are so easy to make. I grate the pumpkin and add the grated pumpkin to a scone recipe. The easiest recipe I know is mixing self-raising flour with cream, teaspoon of baking powder, add the grated pumpkin, some sugar and roll flat, and using a knife, cut into squares, arrange on tray, paint some milk on top before baking, and 220 degrees about 20 minutes or until done.  Damper recipe works well too. Flour and milk, add grated or mashed pumpkin, knead well and bake. Fried scones were very popular in the mines. It’s basically the scone recipe but instead of baking, put into hot oil and they will float when ready. Fried scones have a different flavour because of the oil and they are ultra-delicious hot or cold and were popular for smokos in the Aussie bush. Make sure the oil is hot, or the scones will go soggy. Cook just a couple first to get the oil right.

Pumpkin curry was my mother’s favourite. Add pumpkin chunks to fried onions and tomatoes, then the curry powder, with mustard seeds. You can buy a ready-made curry mix if you choose, or add curry powder with coconut milk to the pumpkins and fried onions. It cooks quickly and is ready to serve with steamed rice.

Americans love their pumpkin pie. It is so easy to make. Beat eggs in milk, add mashed pumpkin and pour into a pie dish or pie case. Using a slice of frozen pastry, I place it on a buttered pie dish, trim off the overhanging ends, and fill with the pumpkin mixture to which I have added sugar to taste, some cinnamon and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake 180 degrees until the custard sets. If you wish, add another slice of pastry over and trim down for a closed pie. Decorate with a fork or pinching the pastry ends together. Glaze with beaten egg for a golden finish and serve with cream whipped with icing sugar and cinnamon for a delicious flavour.

Lately I have been eating chunks of delicious baked pumpkin. I cut the vegetables into chunks, potato into 4 pieces, carrot into circles, and yams and pumpkin into chunks. All unpeeled as the peel is nutritious. I put them in a bowl, generously add olive oil over, then a spoonful of Italian or mixed herbs, a spoon of garlic salt, half a cup of flour and I shake the bowl until the mixture has evenly coated the vegetables, adding more oil, flour or spices as needed.

Carefully place the now coated vegetables into a baking tray or dish, and bake 20 minutes each side. I serve with sour cream and sprinkle of fresh herbs, or mayonnaise or aioli and it’s a meal on its own or a snack. You can use breadcrumbs if you choose instead of the flour, or both flour and breadcrumbs for a different texture. This method is not greasy as the oil is already in the vegetables, and placing them on a sheet of foil makes it even cleaner cooking.

Pumpkins are cheap and plentiful and delicious and so easy to cook. They are also quick cooking. Try pumpkin chips instead or as well as potato chips, remembering that pumpkin chips cook faster, so either take them out when cooked or cook them separately.


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Apam Beras (马来蒸米糕·)

Easy recipe for these delightful cakes..




Wait,  if you think this rice cake should have  a flowery shape, you can always refer to this post :: Huat Kueh- Chinese Steamed Rice Flour Cake–A Cake That Brings You Luck And Prosperity


They are essentially the same type of rice flour kuih with different leavening agent. The picture above uses eno and baking powder whereas most Malay style apam beras uses yeast (both commercial or natural yeast (tapai))  and eno was recently added to have a flowery shape ..


I have to be franked that I do not like eno flavoured huat kuih as it tends to change the taste of the this rice flour cake, therefore I have decided not to use eno as a leavening agent for this Malay apam beras. Well, for this recipe, whether it smile or not are not that critical . Chinese insists the flowering of rice cake to get an…

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Turtle on the Rocks….


Turtle dinners are very prized gourmet meals in China, However, I find turtle too rich for my palette.

Turtle on the Rocks

Last night at Dinner the menu was being perused with great attention. They had seen me look at the turtles in the Tank.
As I walked in I had commented on a tank full of turtles. Someone asked me if they were tortoises or turtles, and I said, “turtles”
Then it was pointed out that turtles were from the sea and salt water and tortoises live in fresh water.
Good to know, but whatever they are, I am very happy to keep one as a pet, but not happy to eat one for dinner.

I have a few turtle stories.
I first tasted turtle, or tortoise, in Wuhan in China. I was guest of honor at the table, and they had ordered turtle as a special delicacy. It is considered very valuable for its nutrients and much prized for its rich oil and succulence.
There right in front of me was a turtle on a bed of gleaming hot rocks, and he was as big as my dinner plate. I gazed at him in wonder, and made appropriate comments, then realised everyone was waiting for me to start the meal.
My translator said I should eat some first.
I have never seen a cooked turtle before, and had no idea how to even try it with chopsticks, so Iappealed for help. The Man sitting next to me, who was also my boss, bent over, and tapped the tortoise with a nut cracker, and broke off a chunk of its shell which he proudly placed on my plate.
I lifted it to my lips and it was actually delicious, very rich flavor, very spicy and very velvety. It was like sucking moss from a mossy rock, and I nodded approvingly and everyone started to eat.
Then suddenly I was racked with the most excruciating stomach pains I have ever had, and I knew I had to go find a toilet.
Alas! The restaurant either did not have one or they could not decipher my distress, and I was in a bad way. I ran out of the restaurant and ran back to my apartment, which was about 100 yards down the road, used the facilites in my apartment and returned to the restaurant. I still have no idea if I was even missed. The Chinese have excellent manners.
I refused to eat any more tortoise, and and as I had already had some, that was accepted , and the meal continued.

The next episode was a few weeks later at a function at the Wuhan Cultural centre. We were guests and sitting at the most prominent table in the front of the restaurant. Everyone was looking at our group and we were obviously very important people.
I couldn’t believe my eyes, when we were served individual small tortoises on beautiful white plates.
My turtle sat with his head turned back so his steamed eyes looked into mine.
I carefully fiddled with the turtle, had a small sip of the juices after making approving sounds, and the table started eating blissfully.
Again I got a stomach pain after just the first sip of the tortoise juices. Hastlily I apologised, stood up and and made my way to the restaurant facilities. When I came back, the waiter had carefully covered my tortoise with a cover, and he now took it off so I could resume my meal.
I looked wildly around but no-one could speak English, so what I did was what I have done many other times with food I do not want to eat. I carefully hid it behind the serviette, ignored it, and smiled bravely.
To my horror, the attentive waiter, who was there to serve me, and me only, came back and exposed the tortoise again. I again pushed it to the side, smiling weakly.
He seemed to understand. He took the tortoise and returned it to the kitchen and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Ten minutes later he was back. He had a covered ceremonial looking dish which he placed in front of me. Everyone looked and smiled. I looked at the my plate and nearly screamed. There was a bigger tortoise sitting on black rocks grinning evilly at me.
I said ‘Thank you’ and ignored him.

There was a discussion between my translator and the waiter, but thankfully another turtle was not brought for my approval.

A few months ago I was wandering the outback of Queensland and there hidden in the bushes by a dam was a complete turtle, dried up. I collect odd things and though I do not eat turtle, I do like the shell, so I took him back with me in the utility.
When I had a free day, I placed him in a huge pot and covered him with water and disinfectant and boiled and boiled and boiled.
The entire turtle transformed into what looked like, and smelt like, old dried turtle soup. It smelt like an old boot being boiled with sump oil and unidentified oils. The rich turtle smell was very predominant. I remebered it well.
I considered the fact that it was possibly OK to eat, if you like to eat this sort of thing, but I threw it out and cleaned the shell. I managed to get it perfectly clean after many hours of boiling and scraping, and he is still somewhere amongst my stored belongings wherever they are today.

Last night at dinner, I looked at the tank full of wandering tortoises, or were they turtles, and did not say anything, afraid that any comment I made would be misinterpreted as me saying I would like to eat turtle.
I was asked at the table if I would like to try the turtle, and there was a visible sigh of regret when the reply was ‘positively not..No thank you”
I felt the tiniest bit guilty when I saw their faces, but I just cannot handle another turtle episode, and it was far too cold to go rushing back to my apartment to solve another turtle crises.

Did you know:
Turtles are much prized for their oil. It has been used for face and body creams because of its richness.

Read more at http://www.broowaha.com/articles/8316/turtle-on-the-rocks#fDk4ff4QlOHLl2E6.99