It is October, one of the most beautiful months in the Autumn, when we think of comfort food, woodland walks, log fires, pumpkins and quinces. The pumpkin season is incredibly scenic: there are amazing shades of orange and yellow dotted around the fields, where farmers organise pick-your-own.
This is a wonder-fruit, and I am glad to see it on restaurant and pub menus, and in bistros and cafes, as a healthier version to potatoes, with its sweet mild flavour.
Back home in Romania, we make a delicious walnut and sultana pumpkin/squash strudel. In my parent’s house, this strudel didn’t use to make it on to the cooling rack. As soon as it was ready to cut, we were gathering around the table in the kitchen eating it slice by slice.
We also bake slices of pumping in the oven, just as they are, skin on! The charred skin gives a delicious bitterness to the sweet, stringy flesh.
However, on this occasion I’ve decided to make a little unusual creme caramel using squash. On the top, I sprinkled a layer of walnuts and coconut, ground together to give a bit of crunchiness to the dish. The result is a refreshing dessert, bitter-sweet (just like the old times baked pumpkin), nutty, but still mild and light.
For the caramel;
150g caster sugar
100 ml water
For the creme:
500g pre-boiled squash (just softened)
6 whole eggs
150g caster sugar
400 ml milk (hot, but not boiled)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Make the caramel: Take a 22/23 cm diameter ceramic pan and bring the sugar and the water to the boil. Keep an eye on it (aprox 10 minutes) until the sugar starts to get a golden colour. Immediately take the pan off the heat and leave it to cool completely.
In the meantime, prepare the rest:
In a blender, mash the pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, sugar, hot milk and vanilla essence. Mix together and pour over the caramel.
Put in the oven: find a roasting tray big enough to accommodate your pan. Fill it with water, half way up. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes at 180C. Take the pan out of the water and cool in the fridge overnight.
The following day, put a plate on top of the pan, and quickly turn it upside down. Sprinkle with the coconut and walnut mix.
We ate this after a spicy vegetable curry, it worked perfectly.