Crustless Pumpkin Pie

Okay so Pumpkin Pie isn’t really a ‘Thing’ in Australia. But when you’ve bought a butternut at the farmers markets that’s the size of a human baby, finding ways to use it all becomes a challenge. Especially when you discover that the one kilogram you require for a hefty batch of Thai red curry pumpkin soup leaves you still with two thirds of said vegetable to demolish!

Food Fervour

yep, that’s my big butternut!

A friend once told me that pumpkin should only ever be roasted because “it brings out the flavour”. I discovered he’s dead right: the natural sugars caramelise and boost the veggie’s flavour incredibly. So I always roast it now, and often in quantities over and above anything I happen to be making at the time. That is to say, I roast extra so I’m prepared.

So, with a decent quantity of ready-roasted pumpkin chillin’ in the fridge, I ruminated upon its sweetness and wondered, “Could I successfully make a no added sugar dessert with it?” I considered how sweet the frittatas I made with it were. Could I make a kind of pumpkin ‘dessert’ frittata? That’s when I really began thinking about pumpkin pie… but I certainly didn’t want to have to make pastry for a pie crust. (Hell no! That’s way too much work!) Surely a blend of eggs, cream, some spices & that sweet roasted pumpkin could work?

A Google search for ‘crustless pumpkin pie recipes’ revealed (apart from all of the results being American websites) that their ingredients were pretty much as simple as I’d envisioned. Most of them however use (ugh!) evaporated milk, egg ‘replacer’ or ‘substitute’ and of course, added sugar. God Bless America!

Except for the cooking times (roasting the pumpkin & the final bake) this recipe is ridiculously simple and very time efficient. If you pre-cook the pumpkin as I did, you’ll save even more time. (Really, roasting excess vege is a great, healthy habit to get into; it helps you to stay ‘prepared’. You can save time and expand your meals options for salads, frittatas, risottos …but they also make a better choice of snack if you’re a regular ‘fridge visitor’ like me!)

Now, if you haven’t pre-roasted your pumpkin, the basic method is to preheat your oven to 200ºC, line a tray with baking paper then arrange skinned and roughly cut chunks of lightly oiled pumpkin (EVOO is fine even though you’ll be making a dessert… you won’t even notice the flavour after the roasting) and bake them for 20-30 minutes (depending upon the speed of your oven). Don’t burn them! If a skewer slides in easily & the centre feels soft, you’re done. It’s probably a good idea to let it cool a bit before moving onto the pie recipe.Food Fervour

Here’s what I used for my pie:

430gms of roast pumpkin, 2 eggs, 200gm pure cream, the following spices: 1 teaspoon vanilla paste, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves & a pinch of salt, plus 50gm pecans (optional). What’s also optional is to keep some maple syrup handy to add later if you don’t think the batter is sweet enough for you. (But don’t go overboard; the more you add, the runnier the mix will be…)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and grease & line a baking dish/casserole dish or round cake tin with baking paper, then simply throw all of the ingredients into a food processor or high-powered blender and mix well. (Thermies: a couple of 10-20 second rounds on Speed 5-6, with some scrape-downs, should suffice.) Pour the ‘batter’ into your prepared receptacle and sprinkle with extra cinnamon, then cook for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Food FervourNB: Because I used a smaller (16x16cm) dish, my pie was thicker so I let it cook for almost an hour. Bear in mind that a thinner pie = potentially less cooking time.

Allow to cool a little before trying to remove from the dish. Slice and serve up with more cream …or just enjoy it undressed. 😛

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Slow Cooker Ratatouille

It was one of those days. I had no ideas, no incentive to cook, but I had heaps of veggies I felt compelled to use up.

Nothing even remotely appealed to me in the pages of recipes I scrolled through on the net. All I knew was that I couldn’t use the oven because it was just waaaaay too hot. I vacillated between Thermomix and slow cooker recipes but the slow cooker won in the end, simply because I knew I could leave it on overnight.

A lot of slow cooker recipes are deceiving in that they’re not just one-pot: many require you to pre-cook some of the ingredients. To a lazy cook like me that just doesn’t make sense. I want to throw everything into the crockpot at once, put the lid on and walk away.

So when I found a recipe that fit the bill on Voracious Veggie‘s website (direct link below) I proceeded to adapt it… just by adding more stuff, really.

Slow Cooker Moroccan Eggplant

Food FervourHere’s what I used:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), 1 diced onion, 1 finely chopped garlic clove, 1 small diced carrot, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon chili powder (double this if you actually want to taste it!), ½ teaspoon paprika, ½ cup tomato paste, 1 cup vegetable stock, 8 mushrooms sliced, 1 small eggplant (cubed), ¼ butternut pumpkin (peeled & cubed), salt & pepper.

And this is all I did:

Pour the oil into the slow cooker, adding the onion, garlic and carrot, followed by the rest of the herbs & spices. Mix in the tomato paste & stock next, then add the mushrooms, eggplant & finally the pumpkin. Season with salt and pepper. Cook on low for at least 8 hours (I left mine on overnight… a total of 14 hours!) You can stir it up every now & then if you like.

Food FervourFor my first meal, I mixed through fresh basil leaves, then topped the lot with chopped kalamata olives and crumbled feta (see left). Deeelish. For the next serve, I popped a piece of grilled wild salmon on top of a plateful.

There are so many ways you could serve it up. Super simply, with bread or on toast (mmm, melt some parmesan in or over it!) or as a pasta ‘sauce’. The point is, it’s dead easy, it’s packed with micronutrients and fibre, low in fat & complex carbs (for those concerned about them) and …..it’s just EASY!!! (Yes, I repeated myself.)

Don’t despair if you don’t have all of the veggies I used… the following will substitute perfectly : capsicum, zucchini, actual tomatoes (this will significantly increase fluid content FYI) …even cauliflower and broccoli (just don’t expect the broccoli to hold its colour) The more the merrier! Let me know what you use. 🙂

Veggie Stack

When you’re not particularly hungry, nor inclined to spend a heap of time cooking, but you’re aware that you need to eat some veggies, know that vegetable stacks are pretty easy… and are a relatively easy clean up! Here’s one I threw together a few nights ago:

Food FervourExcuse my (lack of) modesty but damn, it looks kinda good! 😛 And it definitely hit the spot, to boot.

I’m going to describe what I did to create this delicious dish, but bear in mind my directions may be a little askew …not just because I’m a bit hopeless at recording what I do, but also because every grill is different: you’re best off keeping a keen eye on it, checking the contents regularly.

Firstly, I cut 3 slices of eggplant (about 1-1½cm thickness), salting them (both sides) and leaving them to rest, then I switched on the grill (high) and filled a small saucepan about 1cm deep with water, over high heat on the stove. While it was coming to a boil, I cut a 1-1½cm thick slice of butternut pumpkin (from the top end, where it’s solid fruit flesh, not the seed cavity) and trimmed off the thin skin, then popped it in the saucepan. Once boiling, I turned the heat down to low, so the pumpkin could simmer.

I next cut 2 quarters of a red capsicum (trimming the ends and removing seeds and veins), rubbed them with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and placed them skin-side up under the grill.  Waiting for the skins to blacken, I grabbed haloumi and baby spinach leaves from the fridge and pine nuts & my beloved caramelised balsamic vinegar from the pantry. Then I cut 3 (approx 5mm thick) slices of the cheese.

Turning the pumpkin slice over in the saucepan, I checked the capsicum: it was charring nicely. I washed the salt from the eggplant slices, patted them dry with paper towel then rubbed them with EVOO as well. The capsicum was ready to turn under the grill so I made room for the eggplant slices too.

Fishing the pumpkin out of the saucepan (it was just softened; not all the way through) I dried it off with some paper towel then oiled it with the EVOO (yeah, it was still pretty warm but I have pretty tough, heat-resilient finger pads!) so it was ready to take the place of the capsicum under the grill. When it seemed soft enough, I made the swap – turning the eggplant over at the same time – and let the capsicum rest skin side up on the chopping board. Unlike me, it’s best to exercise patience if you can and wait for the capsicum to cool before you try to remove the burnt skin. The common way to do this is with clingwrap but I use a small paring knife and my fingers to lift, peel and cut off the stubborn bits. Apart from impatience and/or laziness, I prefer not to use the clingwrap method for environmental and health reasons.

When the eggplant was ready to remove, the haloumi slices took their place and I turned over the pumpkin. From here on in, it was a waiting game, by the grill, knowing the cheese wouldn’t need too long under the heat. I took the pumpkin and haloumi out at the same time, but when I turned off the grill I popped the pine nuts under it. You see, I always burn pine nuts …because I forget about them. So under a cooling grill they’re more likely to end up lightly toasted than charred.

Food fervourI started assembling the stack with some baby spinach leaves on the plate, underneath the pumpkin (but I’ve also thrown them in between layers (see pic right) then laid down an eggplant slice, followed by haloumi and then the capsicum, repeating again and finishing with the last eggplant and haloumi slices. I drizzled my caramelised balsamic vinegar over the top (if you can’t get your hands on this delicacy simply add 1 tablespoon of EVOO and 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar to a small jar, tighten the cap and shake vigorously) then sprinkled the pine nuts over the top.

It can prove interesting trying to cut into the stack in a way that allows you to get all of the layers in one fork-full but that should be the least of your worries. A ‘deconstructed’ stack tastes just as good. 😉