Pumpkin recipes in October, especially one for pumpkin pie; a cliche’ for sure. This one is my own invention. Not a sweet dessert pie American style, nor a totally savoury one with tuna and olives like trad Maltese ones. A pie made from the ingredients I usually whip up into pumpkin..err…squash in this case…soup.
I planned this a week ago when I thought the weather was finally on the change. But that’s not been the case. As we edge past mid October and are within days of the dreaded ‘putting the clocks back an hour’, the daylight hours are hotting up. Blisteringly hot at times this week and not weather for soups nor baking. Autumn arrives in name only some years in Malta. Mind you, the dark morning wake-ups at 0615 – the only vestige of autumn – have not been palatable.
We’re still basking compared to northern European climates but while weather isn’t shared, pumpkins as icons of the season are. Autumn to my mind means scents and flavours that call for heart-warming dishes. I think of the Leitmotifs that recall childhood autumns past: kicking golden leaves on a brisk walk; bonfires on damp evenings; and the mustiness of the garden shed in which I used to play while my dad did his pre-winter tidy up of herbaceous borders and rose trellises and turned over the veggie plot for planting spuds and winter greens.
It’s illegal to burn domestic refuse or garden waste in urban Malta, although the elderly man who owns the place next door decided to spend five days hacking and chopping in a slash and burn frenzy! I found out only after retrieving washing that smelled of a BBQ or a kipper smoke house rather than line drying on a fine autumnal Mediterranean day. The damper morning air saw the heavy smoke seep in the house. Even with windows closed and wedged with towels, the tarry smell entered.
The idea of smokiness in my pumpkin pie is more appealing though…
Pumpkins are not just for halloween; they are for all winter long in numerous incarnations. The flesh itself can be very mild and even insipid unless pepped up with something like chili, herbs and a robust, quality olive oil. I’ve had to lace pumpkin soups in the past to make them interesting. This time, however, my squash needed no more than oven roasting in its skin. I’ve often left out that stage in recipes. But, I have to say that this time the 40 minutes extra made a huge difference to the taste. Roasty smokiness permeated the flesh and meant the pie practically made itself, without added extras, so robust were the flavours. This is still a quick dish for weekday suppers – just pour a glass of a deep autumnal berry-red vino while the pumpkin roasts and the pastry chills.
All images © Liz Ayling 2013
- 1 medium butternut squash or small pumpkin (around 1 kilo)print button transparent
- 3 tbsp marscapone or thick double cream
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- handful of grated Parmesan
- 1 tbsp finely-chopped fresh rosemary
- sage, a few fresh leaves chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, in their skin
- fresh ground sea salt and black pepper
- 6 rashers of smoked, streaky bacon or pancetta
- 200g plain flour
- 100g unsalted butter
- pinch of salt
- handful of finely-grated Parmesan
- 1 egg yolk mixed with juice of half a lemon + 2 or 3 tbsp ice-cold water
- Pre-heat oven to 200°C (fan oven). Cut the squash in half across the diameter and place cut side up on a baking tray. Rub the cut sides with some finely-chopped fresh rosemary and sage, sea salt and some fresh-ground black pepper, then drizzle over a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Pop two whole garlic cloves in their skins on a baking tray along with the pumpkin, then bake for around 30-45 minutes until the flesh is tender to a knife point. Remove, and leave to cool while you make the pastry.
- For the pastry, place the flour, grated Parmesan, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse until fine bread crumb stage. Add the egg yolk and with the processor on speed one, pour in the lemon & water mix slowly until a dough starts to form. You may not need all the liquid. Tip out on a floured surface and knead gently to form a smooth ball of dough. Wrap in parchment paper or a poly bag and chill for around 45 mins in the fridge.
- When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the seeds and discard, then scoop out the flesh and place it in the cleaned food processor bowl. Squeeze out the garlic flesh and add to the pumpkin. Add 2 beaten eggs, some of the marscapone, seasoning and all the Parmesan. Whiz up til the flesh is smooth and you have a medium-thick puree’ – add more marscapone to get the right thickness.
- Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out to around 3mm thick and line a 24cm metal pie dish. Brush gently with some milk, then bake blind (use parchment and baking beans if you like) at 180°C for around 10 mins til the pastry is lightly baked on the outside.
- Meanwhile, dice up the bacon / pancetta strips or use lardons, and fry til nice and crispy. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
- Remove the pastry case in its tin, sprinkle over the bacon and pour over the pumpkin mixture, spreading it out evenly. Sprinkle over the roasted pumpkin seeds, grate over some more Parmesan and bake the pie for 30 minutes at 180° or until risen, light gold colour and just firm to touch (it will firm more on cooling).
- Serve hot immediately from the oven along with salad or baked beans (homemade coming up soon on Red Bistro, but tinned – no salt or extra additives – makes a quick nutritious weekday accompaniment).