In a pumpkin pickle

The whole world is carving pumpkins – or so it seems. Nothing wrong with that , except the staggering amount of pumpkin pulp that ends up in landfill every year. That makes me sad when there is absolutely NO NEED for it. So how do we deal with this little pickle?

Teach your children to be responsible. At the very least pop your pulp on the compost heap. If you don’t have one, start one. You’ll find plenty if advice here.

Just one postscript to the ideas above – if you’re leaving it as a snack for squirrels or birds, pop it off the ground. Hedgehogs will suffer if they munch on it. And if you’re lucky enough to have a hedgehog visit your garden, you’ll want to look after him or her.

We usually make pumpkin soup with plenty of ginger and chilli to cut through the gloopiness of the pumpkin. A warming treat on a dreary day and uber-freezable too. Recipe below.

You’ll need
1 tablespoon olive oil, 50g butter a small pumpkin, peeled, de-seeded and diced, 2 onions, diced, 3 cloves garlic, crushed, 1 red chilli, finely chopped, a thumb-sized piece root ginger, grated, 900ml vegetable stock, 50g coconut cream, pinch coriander leaves to garnish.

  1. Heat the oil and butter in a pan, then over a medium heat sweat the pumpkin, onion and garlic for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chilli and ginger, then cook for a further 5 minutes.
  3. Add the hot stock, bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the butternut squash is soft.
  4. Blend in batches until smooth.
  5. Reheat gently before adding the coconut cream. Season to taste and serve garnished with a few coriander leaves.

Delicious.

Here comes Winter – Calan Gaeaf

November 1st is the first day of Winter if you are a Celt, not that you’d know it from the oh so mild weather. On the other hand, walking to Brownies with my daughter last night in the dark for the first time in months, past windows adorned with pumpkin lanterns and flickering candles did make it feel like we’re heading towards the end of the year.

To the Welsh today is known as Calan Gaeaf and is a time of reflection, slowing down and holding onto what’s important. It’s a time for moving inside after months spent almost entirely out of doors. It’s about bonfires and comfort food and sitting round the hearth with those you hold dear. And if you’ve had enough of the Halloween tat that has swamped the shops this year more than ever, it has a lot to offer to the soul.

We don’t need much of an excuse for a party here but we like to do things our own way. Here’s how we do it.

  • Decorate the house with flickering candles, pumpkin lanterns, wreaths of leaves, and garlands of chinese gooseberries.
  • Light a fire. We’re opting for a bonfire on the allotment – as we had a pile of hedge clippings and brambles to dispose of but you could just as easily keep it indoors and sit round the hearth.
  • Cook something special. Soup served in a hollowed out pumpkin is good, baked potatoes cooked on the bonfire, toffee apples, marshmallows, apple cake. You get the idea. It’s warming, wholesome, seasonal and easy.
  • Play games together. Apple bobbing, conkers, eating marshmallows from bits of string with your hands tied behind your back. Read or tell stories by firelight.
  • Try to find a time to be reflective about what’s past and to plan for the future as you move into the dark days of Winter. Just as important for children as well as adults and it’s highly revealing to hear what your children really think, when given space and a special opportunity. We sometimes write messages on paper fire lanterns, light them and let them go. Whenwe were at Stourhead last week a ‘reflection tree’ had been set up for visitors. It was made from hazel prunings, small brown envelopes and bits of garden twine. Visitors could write messages to hang on the tree and leave them there for others to see. What a great idea, and so easily adapted for use at home.

It doesn’t have to be today, of course. Don’t get stressed. This is a celebration just as easily adapted for Bonfire Night, Halloween or in fact any evening round about this time of year when the nights get dark early and you want to spend a special time with your nearest and dearest.

Calan Gaeaf Hapus ……..have a happy start to the wintery season.

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