Halloween is one of the world’s oldest holidays, dating back to pagan times. But it is celebrated today by more people in more countries than ever before. And there’s a simple reason: it is fun and it is good, clean and harmless, fun for young and old alike! These days it doesn’t matter where the tradition comes from, as long as one can get together and have an excuse to eat, dance and be merry, all is good.
When you hear Halloween the first thing that comes to your mind is, people dressed in morbid, ghastly costumes, kids running around trick or treating or Jack O-Lanterns and pumpkins. But you will be surprised to know in Ireland, which is considered to be where Halloween begun over a few 100 years ago, people carved out turnips and potatoes and lit candles inside. It was only later that Irish families who migrated to America brought the tradition with them, but they replaced the turnips with pumpkins, which, native to the new world, were plentiful. It didn’t hurt that they are a lot easier to carve than turnips and looked much better.
The word pumpkin originated from the Greek word Pepõn which means large melon. The word gradually morphed by the French, English and then Americans into the word “pumpkin.” Pumpkins and squash are believed to have originated in the ancient Americas. And has been a part of the American table since.
Popular dishes with pumpkin would be pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin scones, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin stews, curries, cakes …pumpkin in practically anything. The most popular still being the pumpkin pie.
Back in the days, however, it wasn’t made the way it is these days, in a pie crust. The pilgrims cut the top off of a pumpkin, scooped the seeds out, and filled the cavity with cream, honey, eggs and spices. They placed the top back on and buried it in hot ashes of a cooking fire. When cooked, they lifted this blackened item from the earth. They scooped the contents out along with the cooked flesh of the shell like a custard. Yumm.
The Modern Day Pie Recipe
200g (1 cups) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1tbsp caster sugar
150g cold unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
1tsp lemon juice
750g pumpkin, cut into wedges, seeded, skin on.( The pumpkin should be as dry as possible to produce a firm, custard-textured filling)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
150g brown sugar
2tbsp maple syrup
1tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
½tsp ground cloves
½tsp ground nutmeg
375ml (1½ cups) evaporated milk
75g brown sugar
60g butter, at room temperature
To make pastry, process flour, sugar, butter and a pinch of salt until mixture resembles crumbs. Add 1 tsp iced water, egg yolk and lemon juice, and pulse until mixture comes together. Turn out onto a lightly-floured work surface, then shape into a disc, wrap in plastic wraps and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Lightly grease a 23cm pie dish. Dust work surface with extra flour, then roll out to a 31cm round. Trim edges, place over pie dish, then press to line base of dish. Fold any overhanging pastry back onto rim to form a double crust and crimp edges using a fork. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to firm.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Line pastry with baking paper and fill with pastry weights or rice. Blind-bake for 15 minutes, then remove weights and paper, cover the edge of pastry shell with foil to prevent browning and bake for a further 10 minutes or until pastry is dry and golden. Remove from oven, remove foil and cool slightly.
To make filling, steam pumpkin, skin-side up, over a pan of simmering water for 30 minutes or until tender. Using a spoon, scoop cooked flesh into a strainer sitting over a bowl and set aside for 15 minutes to drain excess liquid. Discard liquid.
Using an electric mixer, beat eggs with sugar, maple syrup and spices on high speed for 3 minutes or until pale. Add evaporated milk and pumpkin, and beat on low-medium speed until well combined. Pour mixture into pastry case and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 180°C and cook for a further 50 minutes or until almost set in centre. Cover edges with foil if over-browning.
Meanwhile, to make pecan topping, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Remove pie from oven, scatter over pecan topping and bake for a further 10 minutes or until top is caramelised.