Saturday, 22 February 2014

A Pumpkin kind of Sunday

 A Pumpkin kind of Sunday

Flo Bjelke Petersen may have been ideologically unsound, but she sure knew her way around a pumpkin! Today I made her Pumpkin Tea Cake for the birthday celebration of a workmate (Mary) tomorrow. It's a simple yet deliciously light recipe, with a hint of orange, cinnamon icing and toasted coconut. I have made this recipe many times over the years, and it's always perfect! Like all food, it brought back memories. I recalled my mum making Flo's fabulous pumpkin scones for a party I held back around 1984. I was given to hosting crazy fancy dress parties in those days. This one was an ethnic food and dress party at which people came in dress from a variety of lands and brought a variety of  exotic food and drink. Apart from dressing as a gypsy and drinking sake (big mistake), all I can recall is my mum and dad and them showing us how to jitterbug to Glenn Miller while the floor of my grandma's old house (where I was living at the time) nearly gave way under the booming music and weight of the crowd. Ever the comedians, they had come dressed as Flo and Joh, Mum  bearing a tray of freshly baked pumpkin scones, while Dad was adorned with a giant peanut he had chiselled out of wood for the occasion! After all, they said, Queenslanders are a race apart! I have a photo somewhere, but could only find this one of Mum in her Flo outfit including the obligatory apron and clutching copies of the pumpkin scone recipe for anyone who wanted one.

I like to use butternut pumpkin in my cooking as I like the flavour, but any pumpkin would be fine. The other note I make is about herbs and spices.  I have to say I prefer fresh herbs and have a reasonable herb garden. You can't under-rate the  excellence of grinding your own or buying upmarket dried herbs and spices. The cinnamon I used today is Sri Lankan Cinnamon from Phillipa's in Armadale, one of my favourite providores. I also have some amazing sweet paprika a friend brought back from Hungary!

Flo's Pumpkin Tea Cake
250g butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
11 teaspoon grated orange rind
2 eggs
1/2 cup mashed pumpkin (about 100g raw)
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
2 cups self raising flour
3/4 cup milk
60g butter
1 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Beat butter and sugar together. Add orange rind. Add eggs one at a time. Add mashed pumpkin and coconut. Stir in sifted flour alternately with milk. Grease a deep 20cm round pan and line with greased baking paper in the bottom. Pour mixture into prepared pan and cook in moderate oven (180c - 200C) for about 1 1/4 hours. (My oven is quite hot and I only cooked for 50 minutes).

While I was at it with the pumpkin, I decided to make some Roast Pumpkin pasta sauce for Meg. This is a fairly easy and yummy sauce. It uses chicken stock but I substitute vegetable stock to make it vegetarian. I use fresh thyme from my garden, you can't beat it! My son also likes this one. It can be served with any pasta, but I use pappardelle.

Roasted Butternut sauce on Pappardelle
1.4kg pumpkin, cut into 2cn pieces
4 garlic cloves
3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
100ml olive oil
2 tablespoons cream
1/4 cup hot chicken (or vegetable) stock
500g pappardelle
shaved parmesan and fresh thyme leaves
Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the pumpkin, garlic, thyme and 1/4 cup (60ml) of the oil in a bowl and toss together.
Season with salt, transfer to a baking tray and cook for 30 minutes until golden and tender. Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large saucepan until al dente. Drain and return to the pan. Toss through the remaining oil and keep warm.
Place the cooked pumpkin and the cream in a processor and blend till smooth. Add the hot stock and process again till smooth. Season with salt and black pepper and gently toss through the warm pasta. Divide into 4 servings and top with parmesan  and thyme. Serve immediately.

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