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Sunday, 6 November 2016

The Pumpkin Festival

Hubbub tells us that "18,000 tonnes of edible pumpkin ends up in the bin each year. That's the same weight as 1,500 double-decker buses!"  Back in 2014, Hubbub held their first Pumpkin Rescue to raise awareness of this scary statistic and to encourage people to rethink their attitude to pumpkin waste.  Each year since then I have been invited to be park of the"Great Pumpkin Rescue" helping people learn ways to make the most of their pumpkins and understand that pumpkins are food.

This year, I was invited to put on my Love Food Hate Waste apron and help out at the pumpkin day at Cogges Manor Farm in Witney to help them make the most of the pumpkins the children were carving to take on their lantern walk.

Pumpkin Day was a lovely family event that I hope will be repeated.  Here's a taste of the day in a lovely video from Box Cottage Photography.

I was making pumpkin soup from the flesh of the pumpkins the children were carving and I toasted the pumpkin seeds. We warmed the soup on the lovely fire in the Victorian kitchen of the manor house.  Lots of people had a cup of the pumpkin soup, sampled pumpkin tray bake cakes and toasted pumpkin seeds and lots of people went away with new ideas about how to make the most of their pumpkins as food.

Plenty of people said they didn't realise that  carving pumpkins were edible. Plenty siad they had no idea that you could toast and eat the seeds.

I was dismayed to hear the culinary experts on Jay Rayner's The Kitchen Cabinet saying that carving pumpkins are for carving not for eating and that they don't taste good.  I disagree.  It is not hard to make a tasty pumpkin soup. Here's my method used at Cogges.

I peeled some onions.  I put the onion skin into a big pan and added a couple of litres of water and brought that to the boil then turned it down to simmer gently while I went foraging in the Cogges walled vegetable garden to see what herbs I could find.  I picked rosemary, thyme, lovage and fennel.  Jess was making mulled cider and so I added the cores from the apples she was peeling into my stock pot of onion skin and added the apple peel to the bowl of pumpkin flesh.

I sweated down the chopped onions in another big pan, and once my stock had taken on a good flavour and lovely reddish brown colour, I added the pumpkin flesh and the herbs into the sweated onions and then poured on some of the stock.  Before whizzing up the soup in a liquidiser I removed the herbs. I often don't do that at home, but you know that thing about mixing colours that you learn in pre-school, it shouldn't be forgotten.  Orange and green make brown. By removing the green herbs, you will get a nicer orange colour when you blend your soup.  Keeping the herbs in there will make the soup turn brown.  However, they will have done their job and added flavour whether you keep them in or take them out.  Once liquidised, I tasted the soup ready to season it.  I added a little sea salt, black pepper and a small quantity of chili powder.

The toasted pumpkin seeds were also sprinkled with a bit of sea salt, black pepper and chili powder.

I was pleasantly surprised how many children liked the pumpkin soup and the toasted seeds. Hopefully next year they will be making the most of their own pumpkins.