Halloween is another one of my favourite holidays. Okay, actually the more I think about it, I don’t think there’s a holiday that I dislike. But autumn seems to have a handle on awesome fun holidays. I mean, dressing up in costume and getting free candy? What genius mastermind came up with this plan?
I feel somehow that in Europe, we’re closer to our pagan roots around this time of year. Like, I might peek out of my window tonight and see ritual bonfires being lit, people dancing through the fields and maybe chanting, you know, celebrating in Celtic fashion. This doesn’t actually happen in tightly-wound Switzerland, I’m just saying I feel a little closer to my Gaelic roots here.
While Halloween isn’t a big thing on the Continent, it’s getting bigger, thanks to the huge push from commercialization. Most actual people I talk to don’t do Halloween, but you wouldn’t know that from the stores full to the brim with costumes and creepy decorations. I feel like I should be disgusted, but I’m not. The more people involved with Halloween, the better, for me.
Obviously Halloween revolves around pumpkins. I have always had a dream of taking my young family to a pumpkin patch, and taking gorgeous pictures as my children frolic in the leaves (you’ll be seeing lots of photos like this on Instagram right now). However, now I live in a place where people are like: so, you cut up a pumpkin? And then light it on fire? *look of suspicion. Pumpkins aren’t easy to find here, and if you do find them in the store, they cost an absolute fortune. So last weekend we took a little adventure into the Genevois countryside to find a pumpkin. I had found online a place called La Ferme Enchantée (The Enchanted Farm) that proclaimed to sell pumpkins. We traveled through the woods, past the fields, over a giant dam, and to a tiny village called Russin (it wasn’t that easy, we got really lost first). But we did find La Ferme Enchantée and it turns out it was kind of enchanted.
Along with a plethora of different types of pumpkins, the sweet little old lady sold her homemade jams and jellies. We came away with two big pumpkins, a small sweet pumpkin (called un petit marron here) that she gave X because he’s super adorable, as well as apple jelly, grape jelly and peaches in red wine jam. Apple jelly is impossible to find in the grocery stores, and she told me that it’s not made commercially. You can only get the homemade stuff, so I was all over that. Here’s our enchanted loot.
These pumpkins are really good quality, a lot nicer than the light orange ones you usually find in North America. The shells are thicker, so I was worried that carving them wouldn’t work, but it turns out the shells are also softer, so the knife just slipped through them. I took the really big one first, just to see how easy it would be.
So easy! Another thing you can’t find in Geneva is pumpkin puree, it’s just not a thing. I haven’t found it in France either. Last year I despaired of never having pumpkin pie again. This year I was going to do something about it. I’ve always been a little intimidated at the idea of roasting a pumpkin, but I cook a lot more squash than I used to, so I felt up to the challenge. I chopped this sucker in half then, sprinkled it with salt, then put it in the oven to roast. Turns out this couldn’t be simpler. Once it was done (after about 40 minutes), I let it cool for a really long time, then scraped out the flesh.
In batches, I transferred it to the blender to get a smooth puree. There was SO MUCH. I froze most of it. But one thing I have to say is that the newly pureed pumpkin felt AWESOME. Like, warm, and silky, and gorgeous to touch. And that rich saffron colour. Working with pureed pumpkin was an intensely pleasurable sensory experience. Sorry, that got a little weird.
What to do with all this puree. Well, I made the best pumpkin muffins ever. That’s what they are called. And when someone calls a recipe “the best ever,” particularly when they are a chef, you have to sit up and pay attention. These really are the best pumpkin muffins ever, oh my god. Especially with the coconut oil, which I don’t cook with usually, but gives a moistness, almost chewiness, in the best way. X loves them, so I consider it a win since they are filled with pumpkin. You can find the recipe on the Lovely Little Kitchen. They come highly recommended.
I’ve already made a pumpkin pie as well. Let’s call it … a work in progress. It didn’t turn out exactly as I had envisioned. Well, I’m sure it tastes fine, but it looks like something threw up in the dish. At least I had lots of extra filling, so I can try again. The other thing I’m really keen to make: Pumpkin Tiramisu. I just got so excited about that. I’m going to roast up the petit marron for that one. It’s going to be good, even if it does end up looking like vomit, I can just tell.
Happy Halloween everybody!