Halloween in The Levels

373A6294-Edit.JPG

Have you ever wondered what happens to all the mountains of pumpkin flesh that is gouged out when families up and down the land make their Hallowe’en lanterns? We did and the sad truth is that about two thirds of it goes to waste. Not here on the farm. We have turned this subtle, sweet vegetable into a delicious ice cream but it is actually incredibly versatile. You can use it to make savoury soups or pies for pudding and the seeds are great in salads. Best of all, it’s good for the heart. We have a fabulous pumpkin pie recipe below but before we come to that, chopping up our pumpkin set us thinking about how the idea of hollowing them and using them for lights came about.

Would it surprise you to learn that it is an age-old Somerset tradition? Punkie Night was the last Thursday in October when children with their punkies (lanterns) made from turnips or manglewurzels – yes they are a thing - would traipse round villages singing and asking for a candle or there would be a fright! Sound familiar? Framers also used to put the candlelit turnips, knows as Jack-o’-lanterns on gates around Hallowe’en to ward off spirits. Jack -o’-lantern or will-o’-the-wisp was the name for the strange light flickering over peat bogs and we have plenty of those on the Somerset Levels. As for Hallowe’en itself, that was the night before all hallows’ (or saints’) day and associated with the dead. It was around harvest time too and country folk would have feasts and families would play games such as apple bobbing. When our children were small, a favourite game was for us to prepare food which they would eat blindfolded and have to guess what ghoulish ingredients they might be:

“Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,

Lizard's leg and howlet's wing ….”

Needless to say they were harmless, but cunningly concocted, substitutes! Fortunately you don’t have to guess what is in our ice-cream but I think you might be surprised by some of our new flavours if you didn’t know what they were – Horseradish for example.

Hallowe’en in days gone by was also a time for predictions and fortune-telling. There is no way would have guessed when we started out with just five customers some six years ago we would be named Somerset Manufacturer of the year at the Somerset Business Awards and Product and Producer of the year at the Somerset Life Food and Drink Awards. We were truly humbled this month when that happened and grateful to all our wonderful ice-cream makers and most of all our lovely customers who know a good ice-cream when they taste one. Do try our pumpkin pie recipe and tell us which of our flavours would go with it. Happy Hallowe’en.

 

373A6345-Edit.JPG

Ingredients


For the pastry
175 g (6oz) plain flour
125 g (4oz) butter, cold and cubed
40 g (1 ½oz) caster sugar
1 med egg yolk


For the filling
2 med eggs
100 g (3 ½oz) caster sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ginger
275g tin pumpkin puree, we used Libby's
200 mL (7 fl oz (⅓ pint)) evaporated milk
double cream or crème fraîche, to serve

Directions

To make the pastry, put the flour and butter into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (alternatively, rub the butter into the flour using your fingers). Add the caster sugar and briefly whiz (or stir) to combine. Next add the egg yolk and 2tsp water and pulse (or stir with a blunt-ended cutlery knife) until the pastry comes together. Bring pastry together into a disc with your hands, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30min.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and roll out the pastry and use to line a 20.5cm (8in) round, roughly 4cm (1½in) deep cake tin. Prick base with a fork and chill for 20min.

Preheat oven to 200°C (180°C fan) mark 6. Line the pastry case with a large square of baking parchment, then fill with ceramic baking beans or uncooked rice. Put the tin on a baking sheet, then bake for 15min. Carefully remove the
parchment and beans or rice, return the tin to the oven and bake for 8min, or until the pastry is cooked through and feels sandy to the touch.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs using electric beaters until pale and fluffy, about 3min. Fold through the sugar, spices and pumpkin
until combined. Gently mix through the evaporated milk. Pour into cooked pastry.

Reduce oven temp to 180°C (160°C fan) mark 4. Return the tart to the oven and cook for 45-50min or until the filling feels lightly firm. Leave to cool completely or serve just warm with some double cream or crème fraîche

 
Amanda stansfield