So Halloween is upon us; fright night, the festival of the dead or Oiche Shamhna if you like. It’s a Celtic festival that marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of Winter. Shops have been selling pumpkins by the shed load for the last few weeks and while many say this is an indictment of how Americanised Halloween has become, many would argue that this tradition originated in Ireland. For centuries, we would have carved out turnips and placed candles inside to ward way evil spirits but when the Irish landed in the U.S. the availability of pumpkin meant they could supersize their lanterns. Pumpkins are technically a fruit with an inherent sweetness so it’s not so much of a stretch for it to be used in a dessert. This pie is lucious and comforting and your perfect Wintertime sweet treat. This serves 6 to 8 people.
For the shortcrust pastry:
300g plain flour, pinch of salt, 170g cold butter or margarine, cubed (plus a little extra for greasing the pie dish) and about half a glass of water.
To make the pastry, place the flour and salt in a large bowl and rub in the butter/margarine until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Slowly add some water and bring the pastry together using a cold knife. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
For the filling:
750g pumpkin flesh. The easiest way to prepare it is to cut a circle around the stalk on the top and remove it’s “cap”. Cut the pumpkin lengthways into wedges and then cut off the stringy, seedy parts and the tough skin, then cut the flesh into chunks.
100g caster sugar
40mls maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
half teaspoon mixed spice
half teaspoon salt
25g melted butter
2 large eggs, beaten
1. Place the pumpkin flesh in a large pan covered in cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. Drain off the water and using a blender, pulverise into a smoothie purée.
2. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Grease a pie dish with a little butter. On a floured surface, roll out your pastry and then carefully place in the pie dish, tucking in the edges and grooves. Trim off the excess pastry hanging over the sides. Line with grease proof paper and place baking beads on the paper to blind bake. Stick it in the oven for about 10 minutes then remove the paper and baking beads. Bake for another 7 or 8 minutes or until the pastry in the centre is dry looking. Don’t be tempted to leave it in for longer, it still has to go in again with it’s filling and you don’t want it to burn as you’re waiting for the filling to cook through!
3. Crank up your oven to 220 degrees after you’ve taken out the pastry as you prepare the filling. Place the sugar, salt, cinnamon and mixed spice in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk the eggs lightly, then add the melted butter, maple syrup and milk and mix until well combined. Add this to the sugar, salt and spices and then pour into the pastry. Place in the oven and after 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 180 degrees. Bake for another 20 minutes or until the centre of the pie is just set.
4. Allow the pie to cool and adorn with a little saved icing sugar. Serve with whipped cream, laced with a little maple syrup if you’re feeling indulgent. Add a sprinkling of crushed pecan nuts if you’re feeling even more indulgent.