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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My Sugar Reset

Last week I had a rough week. It was rough enough to affect my appetite… I didn’t eat much at all. Not that that’s a problem. Fasting is valid, after all. But it also gave my body a chance to ‘re-set’ (that’s part of the fasting science too, btw).

What happened is that I somehow grew some Willpower. Now, I know what’s good for me when it comes to food and I eat extremely well most of the time… I’ll hardly ever part with my hard earned cash for junk food. But in my hospitality job, I’ve found it much harder to stop myself. I’ve analysed the potential reasons and have come up with two: I hate waste, so throwing out the amounts of food we have to ‘by law’ (food hygiene regulations… which really stem from the litigious fears) bothers me enough to stuff a piece of something in my mouth as I tip an untouched foodstuff into the bin (like, I’m eating this for all the Starving out there who can’t). And then there’s the much more intangible, abstract and highly subjective reason: reaction to dissatisfaction & fatigue. That is, “I’m over today and I wanna go home so I’m going to eat this food I don’t need” because ….just because. There’s really no excuse. (I developed a personal theory that ‘Time at Work’ and Willpower are inversely proportional: that is to say, my Willpower decreases the further into a shift I get.)

But really, it all boils down to Self Control. And I have that in large doses in some ways, and not – it would seem – in others.

Food Fervour

veggie-dense salad

But when I lost my appetite last week, something clicked. I’ve no doubt it was borne of my negative state and my innate tendency to be “hard on myself” but I ordered myself to do that which I always want to, and try to do: cut added sweeteners from my diet. (Not that I have many anyway: only raw honey, organic maple syrup & rapadura sugar live in my house) I decided if I wanted anything sweet (and I am the biggest Sweet Tooth ever) I was only going to allow myself fruit (I am a fruit bat after all). That’s it. So the meals I ate for the couple of days were simple veggie-packed dishes – literally salads – anyway. (This was a crucial element to my ‘success’.)

I wasn’t sure how I’d go back at work. But fortunately, I was stationed on an espresso machine, so there was no direct temptation. On my lunch break however, I didn’t go anywhere near the refrigerated cabinet in the dining room: I simply pulled my homemade fare from the communal fridge and ate my healthy stuff. This was the third day since my ‘meltdown’. The next day was significantly more challenging, since I was stationed in a food outlet. Chocolate, cookies, chips staring at me all day. But….. NUH! My Willpower had well & truly kicked in. I was not going to have (added) sugars. And I have stuck to this. I knew, I know, if I make one slip, it will open the floodgates… and there’ll be no turning back.

Sugar really is addictive, science has proven this numerous times now. The Sugar v Cocaine experiment with rats is the most well-known: the rodents were allowed to self administer both sugar or cocaine from dispensers in their pens ….and they all opted for the sugar. That’s how powerful it is. (Link to PLOS source here.)

I recall one particular experience that really rammed this home to me: a friend had given me a block of Cadbury chocolate as a gift, even though I had some of my homemade raw dark chocolate in the fridge. Deciding to have “just one” row of the Cadbury, I returned to my desk. But within 3 or 4 minutes, I was back at the fridge & into the block again. This happened 3 more times. On my fourth visit to the fridge, I opted for a piece of MY chocolate (I usually make it with a very small amount of organic maple syrup)… and the craving instantly ceased. There were no more trips to the fridge.

Food Fervour

salted caramel choccies

The biggest surprise – which is not really a surprise at all – in this ‘Sugar Reset’ I’ve experienced, is the sudden and obvious aversion I now have to sugary foods. In just 3 to 4 days, I have re-sensitised my tastebuds to Sweetness. I’ve had this experience before, but each time it happens it blows you away at how intense the changes are. The first moment I noticed it this time around was when I made some ….chocolate.

I have a favourite recipe for Salted Caramel chocolate that’s sweetened only with dates (it’s a Thermomix recipe by Jo Whitton, the link to her blog Quirky Cooking is here) so I figured I’d allow myself to make some of that if I was permitting myself to eat whole fruits. But for a little variety, I also made some totally sugar free dark chocolate (literally just cacao powder & cacao butter) and created some chocolates that combined both of the flavours …like Cadbury’s ‘Top Deck’. The ‘shock’ came when I ate one of the plain Salted Caramel choccies, followed by a combined one. I preferred the latter. I preferred less sugar.

Food Fervour

a roasted pumpkin salad I found quite sweet

I noticed it in more subtle ways as well: I made vanilla custard minus the maple syrup I usually add on top of the sugar-laden vanilla paste, and it tasted just fine. I actually felt a little ill when I made roasted pumpkin soup because the sugars caramelised in that naturally sweet veggie during the cooking process, then intensified in the thick, creamy soup. I’m even eating less whole fruit. Now that’s saying something!

The truth is, to truly give up sugar, we really need to discipline ourselves and restrict ….just for a very short period of time. Your body needs the chance to de-sensitise (and you will notice the difference). Think of your body as a spoilt child… when is the right time to finally say No?

 

Chicken Massaman

So I had a few chicken tenderloins left in the fridge that HAD to be used, and I realised I hadn’t made a curry in awhile…and not at all in my Thermomix as yet. So I ‘tweaked’ the Red Thai Chicken Curry recipe in the Everyday Cookbook to suit what I had available. Hmmm, only Massaman curry paste in the fridge? Ok!

Now I could bang on about how much time I saved using my Thermomix (literally 20 minutes in total, including most of the washing up done too) but I know this is going to wear thin pretty quickly, so I’m going to provide the recipe for those who sadly don’t have one.Food Fervour

Curries are REALLY easy if you are a lazy twat like me and buy your curry pastes ready-made. No, I have not actually ever made my own, but I know this won’t be the way forever. In the meantime, I choose carefully when I am buying them pre-made: scouring the ingredient lists for sugars, certain oils and of course additives.

This recipe will only feed one (hungry) person without rice, but may satisfy two if you add that. Remember, I’m not a specific cook so you’ll have to pay attention to the state of your food as it’s cooking.

You will need:

50gm massaman curry paste, 200ml coconut cream/milk, 1-2 kaffir lime leaves, 250-300gm chicken tenderloins (thinly sliced) 1tbspn fish sauce, 60gm roughly chopped snow peas, 80-100gms broccoli florets, 1 zucchini (chopped), 50gms peanuts, 10-15 fresh basil leaves

Grab a large saucepan, and mix the curry paste with about 60mls of the coconut cream/milk over a medium heat, stirring for about 1 minute. Add the remainder of the coconut cream/milk and the lime leaves and bring to a boil. Add the chicken strips and reduce the heat to simmer, stirring occasionally for 5-6 minutes. Stir in the fish sauce & vegetables then cover and let simmer for approximately 8 minutes. Add the peanuts & basil, stir and cover again for about 2 minutes, then serve immediately.