Part one: Pumpkin patch
Disclaimer: I have a terrible cold this week and it’s dark outside ALL THE TIME, please ignore my face.
We were walking down Bethnal Green Road a couple of months ago, on our way to the fun spoken-word night Homework (we’re pretty cultured and intellectual when we’re not taking selfies with fruit). As it was the end of summer, we began looking ahead to the delights of autumn to make ourselves feel better – and the topic of Halloween came up.
“Remember when I handmade my own zombie sheep costume with cotton wool and a crocheted headband?” I said.
“I hate Halloween,” said Hattie.
That’s when my inescapable fate washed over me with a spooky chill. Like a ghost or a witch or something, if we’re sticking with the season.
“Oh, hell,” I said. “I’m going to have to do an Amy vs Fruit about pumpkins, aren’t I?”
“Amy…” began Hattie, looking at me like I’d grown another head, or summoned the devil in a ritual sacrifice or whatever spooky synonym you’d prefer. “Pumpkins aren’t fruit.”
Readers, I know I’m a fruit novice and prone to spout nonsense a lot of the time. But I swear I 100% believed that pumpkins were fruit. They’re so orange! They grow in the ground! Just like, um, carrots.
So we decided that, as punishment, I should do a Halloween Amy vs Fruit special about a vegetable – admittedly, one that I’d never tried before. Because I had assumed it was a fruit. And I didn’t eat fruit until a few months ago.
Of course, you can’t really just munch away at raw pumpkin (right?) so instead I decided to roast it.
I bought a couple of miniature pumpkins, because I thought the giant ones would probably taste gross. There’s no real evidence for this, obviously, except that they always look kind of patchy in the supermarket, and weren’t they bred to become lanterns? Like how some sheep are bred for wool and others for meat? You know?
When I got home, the challenge was how to prepare it. Even when I put all of my weight behind the knife, I still couldn’t cut it in half. Eventually Hattie managed it (always coming to my rescue) and then I gutted out all the seeds and sloppy flesh from the middle. From here I was able to cut it into quarters, and then nice manageable slices.
Then I peeled each slice – this sounds ridiculous, but because of the grooves in the pumpkin shape, it was only way I could get it to work. Then I placed them in a pan, drizzled with oil, seasoned with salt, pepper and cumin, and roasted for half an hour.
They were incredible. Like a combination of butternut squash and sweet potato, soft on the inside and crispy on the outside (as all the best roasted vegetables are).
As you can see, Hattie made garlic pork chops and cauliflower cheese to go with it. Her tip is to put a pinch of tumeric into the cheese sauce. I can confirm that it is amazing.
Part two: Trick or treat
Now that you’re feeling all spooky, it is time to make pumpkin passion cupcakes from BBC Good Food – just like the pagans did in ancient times to honour the thinning veil between life and death.
Step one: I’m delighted to discover that this is one of those fun recipes which is basically like ‘just bung it all in together and stir’. Start with sunflower oil, light brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Stir.
Step two: Add the grated pumpkin, raisins and orange zest. Stir. We have an electric food processor, which is good because it allowed Hattie to quickly grate the pumpkin for me while I was messing about with all the measuring. (What a dame.) If you don’t have a food processor, then hopefully you have a really sharp grater, and strong arms.
Step three: Add cinnamon, flour and bicarbonate of soda (or baking powder in my case – is there really a difference?) and stir again.
Step four: The mixture looks completely disgusting. Don’t be disheartened. Spoon it into your cases and bake. The recipe says 25 minutes but this was definitely too long, because they came out a bit hard and burnt on top. Luckily I covered it with the icing.
Step five: Make the icing! Beat together cream cheese and icing sugar. Spoon onto the cakes once they’ve cooled. It would probably be nice to pipe them or something, but unfortunately I don’t have the right equipment, so I just kind of spooned it on. My stepsisters, who are all ridiculously talented at making and decorating cupcakes, would probably be appalled. Ladies, I’m sorry that I let the side down in front of the entire internet. I hope one day you can forgive me.
Despite their unappealing look, these were pretty good. I mean, they were all fruity and ‘healthy’ tasting, despite all of the sugar. And let’s be honest, we’d all much rather they were chocolate flavoured, like the ones Tanya Burr made. (Let’s all take a moment to think about how everything would be better if we were Tanya Burr.) But if you like carrot cake, you will probably like these too.