The October allotment and garden: pumpkins

 

a whole pumpkinhalf a pumpkin

 

The idea with all these recipes is to use whatever works as a substitute in the event of your veg getting consumed by various pests, fungi or disease; when I came to pick my two treasured pumpkins, the super giant one was looking good but my smaller model (which I was expecting to be the tastier of the two) had been half eaten by slugs!

So, for this recipe I’ve used half a pumpkin the slugs kindly left me plus half a round courgette left over from the summer…

 

Pumpkin soup with crispy sage

pumpkin soup

Fry an onion, a carrot and a clove of garlic in a little butter and olive oil until soft.  Add roughly 1kg of chopped pumpkin, squash or marrow, a squeeze of honey and a few sage leaves, stir, cover and cook for about 10 minutes.  Add 750ml vegetable stock (you can make this with vegetable peelings), bring to the boil and simmer for another 10 minutes.  When the vegetables are soft take out the sage and transfer to a blender or use a hand held one and blitz until the soup is the consistency you prefer.

In a frying pan heat some more oil and butter and when it is hot add a few sage leaves and fry until crispy.  I use the ones I’ve taken out of the soup as well!  Return the soup to the pan, heat, season and serve with a swirl of cream and some crispy sage on top.

Now you can enjoy the rewards of your hard work!

Pumpkin cupcakes

Pumpkin cupcakes

I made a batch of these last spring with some pumpkin from my Dads allotment that had lasted all through the autumn, winter and well into March!  They feel a bit more seasonal in October though…

Heat the oven to 190°C and line 2 muffin tins with 12 cases each (this mixture makes 24 cakes, so you can do it in batches if you only have 1 tin).  Cut a pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and roast whole until it is soft and a little bit charred.  Once it is cooked, scoop into a blender and puree until smooth.

Into a large bowl sift 280g plain flour, a pinch each of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice, a teaspoon of baking powder, half a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.

In another bowl beat 250g of brown sugar into 250ml rapeseed oil (I use this because I like the texture oil gives to cupcakes & it is a lovely orange colour).  Add 2 beaten eggs, one at a time and at room temperature to prevent curdling.  Add 250g of the pureed pumpkin to the oil mixture, along with 180ml milk and then stir in the flour mixture.  Pour into the muffin cases and bake for about 25 minutes until golden.  Cool on a wire rack.

Make the topping by beating together about 200g of any cream cheese (I used fridge leftovers of cheese triangles and ricotta!), 50g soft butter and 350g icing sugar, a little at a time until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.  Spread onto the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with a dusting of cinnamon, cloves and grated nutmeg.

 

September fruits

Tomatoes

Tomato

Lots of Tomatoes from August onwards but on returning from 10 days in Spain we discovered the dreaded blight had made the most of the damp late summer weather!  However, being someone who can’t throw anything away (even if it is going in the compost) I picked all the tomatoes, cut off the blighty brown bits, used what I could fresh in salads and then cooked, pureed, chutneyed and pickled everything else.  Here’s what I got!

Tomato passata

Passata

This is not true passata as I had lots and lots of very small cherry and cherry plum tomatoes, which were way too fiddly to skin.  If you want a cheats way and you’re not bothered about the seeds just put all your tomatoes in a blender and puree to a nice pulp.  Then cook for about half an hour or until the passata is as thick as you like it.  For storing purposes I added a few teaspoons of balsamic vinegar to my cooked passata (giving higher acidity levels), and then filled sterilised jars and waterbathed them for about 40 minutes.  This is designed to increase shelf life and prevent botulism but I think the jury is out on whether both are necessary for cooked tomatoes.  I have read lots of contradictory information, so I tend to do both anyway using a teaspoon of vinegar per bottle of passata and I don’t tend to store it for longer than 6 months – it gets eaten pretty quickly anyway!

Preserved green tomatoes

Preserved green tomatoes

Although I picked loads of green tomatoes in September I left them to see if they would ripen, which some did completely, some a bit and some not at all!  As a result this is officially an October recipe, but with a September harvest

Cut up the green or unripe tomatoes into quarters or eighths depending on how large they are and how big you want your pickle.  Put in a colander and cover with sea or rock salt (I used an amazing black lava salt I bought in Iceland).  Make sure the tomatoes are coated in the salt by rubbing it into them with your hands.  Leave for 24 hours with a saucer underneath them to drain.  After 24 hours place the tomatoes in a bowl, cover with white or red wine or cider vinegar, stir them around and leave to marinate for another 24 hours.   Drain the vinegar off (I keep it to use in other pickling recipes although it will be quite salty) then add olive oil, garlic and a couple of bay leaves to the tomatoes and mix in with your hands.  Fill sterilised and cooled jars with the tomato and oil mixture and top the jars up with more oil if necessary to cover the tomatoes.  Turn the jars upside down to vacuum seal the jars.

Tomato and apple chutney

Tomato & apple chutney4

The apple tree in the garden seems to be having a super energetic year so there is an abundance of Bramley’s (see Apple post for what else I’ve done with them).  Great for combining with the tomatoes and making chutney – I used mostly red tomatoes for this but green are fine too.  I also got to use my allotment onions from July’s storage

Into a large pan add 1.5 kilos of chopped tomatoes (skinned if you prefer and have the time) and about a third the same amount again of peeled, cored and chopped apples.  The more apples the browner the chutney tends to be.  Add some chopped onions, crushed garlic and peeled & grated ginger to taste.  You can also add dried fruits but I omitted them in this recipe, used crystallised ginger and cooked the chutney down for longer.  Add spices to taste, 750ml red or white wine vinegar (or cider vinegar), a pinch of salt and 600g sugar.  Cook on a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil.  You will need to simmer the chutney for anything from 40 minutes to a couple of hours, and as dried fruit absorbs some of the liquid if you leave it out the chutney tends to take longer and is generally of a looser consistency.  You will know when the chutney is ready as it will be thick but still with some juices, if you run a spoon across the bottom of the pan it will part but immediately fill back up with liquid.  Pot the chutney into hot sterilised jars.

Oven dried tomatoes

oven-dried tomatoes

When I still had loads of tomatoes and had made pasta sauces, soups and the above passata’s, pickles and chutneys, I oven dried what was left.  As I mostly had cherry tomatoes I left them whole, put them directly onto the oven rack and they took about 12 hours at 60-70°C to dry enough to then freeze.  I don’t think you need to freeze them if you are going to use them within a couple of months but I want mine for a bleak January lunchtime