PUMPKINS and apples are seasonal staples for the autumn months that are as underrated as they are flexible, pumpkin in particular. Filling and delicious recipes from food writers Claire MacDonald and Tom Kitchin show you how to make the best use of both this Halloween
PUMPKIN AND PECORINO CHEESE RISOTTO
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
3 onions, skinned, halved and diced finely
3 sticks of celery, wiped clean and each peeled with a potato peeler, to remove the stringy bits, then each stalk sliced finely
1lb/450g risotto rice
¼ pint/145ml fairly dry white wine
2 ½ pints/1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock
approximately 1lb/450g pumpkin flesh, cut into cubes about 1cm in size
4oz/110g pecorino cheese, coarsely grated
2 tablespoons chopped parsley - to add just before serving
In a large saute pan heat the olive oil and fry the diced onions and sliced celery, stirring occasionally, until they are soft but not turning colour, about 5-7 minutes over a moderate heat.
Stir in the rice, stirring for a couple of minutes - the aim is to coat each grain of rice with oil. Then add the white wine, stir well and leave till it evaporates. Stir in some of the stock and add the cubes of pumpkin flesh. Stir and add the stock in stages until it is almost all incorporated. Test the rice, it should be just slightly firm, then add the remainder of the stock, and, just before serving stir in the grated pecorino and the finely chopped parsley, and season well with black pepper, but there is no need for salt because the pecorino will add sufficient saltiness.
This makes such a good accompaniment, to everything I can think of. The dash of balsamic is essential, to just cut through the sweet denseness of the roasted vegetables.
ROASTED PUMPKIN, PARSNIP AND CARROTT
6 oz/170g pumpkin flesh cut into cubes about 2cms in size
2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
4 parsnips, peeled and sliced into little finger-thick strips
4 carrots peeled and sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, about 20 grinds of black pepper
2 teaspoons of the best balsamic vinegar you can buy
Mix the vegetables with the olive oil, salt and pepper and spread them in an even layer on an oven-proof roasting tin. Roast in a hot oven, 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes, then shuffle them around and spread them evenly again. Continue roasting for a further 30 minutes. Stir the balsamic through the vegetables, and serve.
MINI PUMPKIN PIES
MAKES 24 PIES
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
150g brown sugar
100g icing sugar
350g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
To make the pastry
Sift the flour and sugar together, then pulse with the butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the egg and knead gently until the dough clings together.
Flatten to a round, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.
Roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 4mm, then use a pastry cutter to cut out circles of pastry.
Line a 24-cup baking tray with the pastry, trimming the edges and adding parchment paper and baking beans to each individual case.
Blind-bake in a preheated oven for ten minutes, then remove the paper and beans and cook for another ten to 12 minutes, until golden.
When the pastry is still warm, brush the inside with a beaten egg. This helps to seal the pastry from the filling, ensuring a crispy base.
To make the filling
Peel the pumpkin and cut into small dice.
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan and add the butter, spices, honey and then the pumpkin. Cook together for 20 to 25 minutes, until soft.
Place the pumpkin cubes in the blender to make a puree. Add two eggs and blend again.
Then divide the mixture between the pastry cases and cook in the oven for five to six minutes.
Remove the pies from the oven and allow to cool. Dust with icing sugar and serve.
2 Granny Smith apples
500ml vegetable oil (for frying)
5 egg yolks
130g caster sugar
250ml whipping cream
1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise
3 egg yolks
8 egg yolks
8 egg whites
100g icing sugar
To make the ice-cream
Using a whisk, beat the egg yolks with the sugar in a bowl until pale and slightly thickened. Meanwhile, heat the milk, cream and vanilla to a simmer and set aside.
In a heavy-bottomed pan, warm the beaten eggs and sugar over a very low heat, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in the hot milk mix, then cook over a very low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens just enough to coat the back of the spoon. Take off the heat and discard the vanilla pod.
Strain the custard through a sieve into a large bowl and set over a larger bowl of ice water to cool. Pour into an ice-cream machine and churn until just frozen, then place into an airtight plastic container and freeze for at least three hours before serving.
To make the sabayon
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until the mixture becomes slightly frothy, then slowly pour in the cider. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens - this will take at least ten minutes.
The sabayon can be served at this stage but if you would like to serve it cool, take the pan off the heat and whisk until it reaches room temperature. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the dish.
To make the beignets
Whisk the yolks with the cider and slowly add the flour until completely mixed. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to firm peaks and fold into the cider mix.
Peel and core the apples, keeping them whole. Cut each apple into four doughnut-shaped slices, about 0.5cm thick. Pour the vegetable oil into a large pan and heat to 170-180C.
Dust the apple pieces with flour to coat and dip them into the batter. Cook the dipped apple pieces in oil until golden brown on each side. Use a wooden skewer to help with the flipping and removing of the finished beignets.
Drain the apple beignets on paper towels to remove any excess fat and dust them with icing sugar.
Serve with vanilla ice-cream and a generous spoon of the cider sabayon.