Patisserie Diaries: try this wicked way with seasonal squash

Halloween might now be a distant flicker, but pumpkin is still the perfect ingredient for November, says Flour of London’s Clare Zerny

Gorgeous: selection of squash and pumpkin at Parkway Greens, Camden Town
Gorgeous: selection of squash and pumpkin at Parkway Greens, Camden Town
Take a stroll, if you will, to fabulous Parkway Greens in Camden. There you’ll see numerous varieties of pumpkins and winter squashes including the spaghetti, sugar, cheese, little honey and pattipan, all organic and grown in the UK.

The extensive range they carry inspires me to try new recipes with produce I’ve never cooked before and even better is their impressive knowledge of the all fruit and veg: which squash, for example, is most suited to making a pie? And what’s the best for soup?

Parkway Greens, Parkway NW1. Photo: Clare Zerny
Parkway Greens, Parkway NW1. Photo: Clare Zerny

I settled on the cheese squash, sometimes called the Cinderella for their fairytale shape, and apparently the winning choice for a traditional pie (see box below).

Whatever the variety, this North American native boasts bright flesh, and is suited to both mains and desserts. The vivid hue is a result of the high levels of Vitamin A-generating beta-carotene. Low in calories, pumpkins are also a great source of fibre as well as other vitamins and minerals, while the seeds, beyond being delicious, are high in protein, magnesium and zinc.


The traditional Jack o’lantern pumpkin, while edible, lacks flavour and is best kept for carving. Although with Halloween long gone now, you might want to wait till next year for that.

In the meantime, here’s how to make your own fresh pumpkin puree and prepare the seeds for eating, plus a recipe to serve up this month.

Pumpkin puree in 4 easy steps

So simple to roast: squash
So simple to roast: squash
Making fresh is more time consuming than grabbing a can but the end result is worth it. You can make puree ahead and fridge for up to one week, or freeze for up to 3 months.
• Preheat your oven to 180C. Cut the pumpkin in half and pull out the seeds before scraping out the rest of the innards with a spoon. Discard the pulp but hold onto the seeds.
• Cut the halves into quarters then place them in a roasting tin and bake for about 45 minutes or until they are fork-tender. You don’t need to add oil.
• Once done, leave to cool, enough that they can be handled. Then you should be able to peel off the skin. If you find it difficult just use a spoon to scoop again, add the cooked flesh to a food processor or blender and whizz until silky smooth.
• As pumpkin flesh holds a lot of moisture it needs draining first. A muslin cloth is best for this; add the puree before tying up and leaving to drain for an hour. A gentle squeeze will help it along. Alternatively, line a sieve with paper towel or coffee filter and set over a deep bowl.

…and a note on the seeds

Clare Zerny.
One more piece of pie – or not? Clare Zerny.

Once dried out, the seeds can be eaten with their shell on or off. For the following recipe it’s the green seed from within that we’re looking for.
• Once removed from the pumpkin, use a colander to rinse the pulp from the seeds.
• Lay them out on a tray lined with baking paper and leave to dry, before using a rolling pin carefully to crack the outer shell but not the seed inside.
• Bring a pan of water to the boil then add the cracked seeds and simmer for 30 minutes. The seeds will be released and sink to the bottom while the shells rise to the top. Use a slotted spoon to remove the floating shells, before straining the whole lot into a sieve and laying them out on a baking sheet.
• Roast the seeds once dry at 75C for 15-20 minutes, no more. The cooking temperature and time are important to preserve their unsaturated fats.

This is box title

Chocolate & Pumpkin tart

A spider's web decoration is not just for Halloween....Photo: Clare Zerny
A spider’s web decoration is not just for Halloween….Photo: Clare Zerny

Makes 10 inch tart

200g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
125g cubed, cold butter
60g caster sugar
1 large egg
Pinch salt
100g dark chocolate, finely chopped

430g pumpkin puree
150g light-brown sugar
225g creme fraiche
3 large eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp fresh grated nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves
70g dark chocolate

1. Measure the flour and salt into a large bowl then add the cold butter, rubbing it in with your finger-tips as though dealing a pack of cards, until the flakes are about the size of your little finger nail.

2. Add the sugar and cocoa and stir through before adding the egg and bringing the dough together, ideally with a plastic scraper. Tip it out onto a lightly floured work-surface and continue to work the dough, pressing it between your fingers and thumbs before folding over and repeating until the dough resembles plasticine. Wrap in baking paper and chill for 30 minutes minimum.

3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough, turning each roll to about 4mm thick. Brush off excess flour and transfer to a 10-inch tart ring on a lined tin or one with a removable bottom. Press it into corners and sides with excess dough and patch any holes. Leave an overhang to compensate for possible shrinkage. Lightly prick with a fork then chill again for about 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 190C. Line the dough with baking paper, add baking beans for weight and bake the shell until for 20 minutes, take away the paper and beans and bake for a further 10 minutes. Straight from the oven, sprinkle the chopped chocolate all over the hot base and while still warm, take a sharp knife and carefully cut away the excess dough from the top. Leave to cool in the tin.

5. For the filling: whisk together the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, creme fraiche, eggs, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and cloves until smooth. Pass the mixture through a sieve before pouring the filling into prepared crust, just to top edge.

6. Bake at 180C until it’s set, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least 30 minutes.

7. Meanwhile chop the chocolate and add to a heatproof bowl and microwave for 15-second increments, stirring between each until it has nearly all melted, then continue to stir until it has. Pour the chocolate into a small paper cone and pipe about 15 evenly spaced lines outwards from the centre of the tart. Next pipe curved lines around the perimeter, connecting each spoke. Keep piping the joining lines spacing them closer together as you get towards the centre.

8. Chill the tart to set for at least an hour or up to one day.

Clare Zerny is the founder of Flour of London, and a regular stall holder at street markets like the annual Alma Street Fair. Follow her on @flouroflondon


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