When I was growing, we were not allowed to play with food. Any slight indication of shoveling food around the dinner plate called for a reprimand from my mother. She would remind me of the children on TV who were starving from famine in parts of the African continent. And then she would also remind me that food was not cheap and that there were children in our own communities who did not have the privilege of enjoying a satisfying meal on a regular basis. So I developed a healthy respect for food. To this day, I don’t like to play with food or waste it; I do my best to make sure my groceries end up on the plate and not in the trash can.
My initial experiences during the autumn season in American and the tradition of carving pumpkins was met with a cultural shock. I could not believe that people played with food. It was only when I started to understand that with the exception of ornamental pumpkins, carved pumpkin don’t necessarily have to go to waste; the seeds get toasted to create a snack and the flesh from the inside of the pumpkin is used to make soups, pies and other cooked and baked dishes.
In Zambia, I grew up doing only two things with pumpkins. We would cook the leaves and the flowers to create a vegetable dish called Chibwawa, a vegetable recipe I will be sharing in the near future. When it came to the flesh of the pumpkin, we would make a sweet pudding by peeling, then boiling and mashing the pumpkin and mixing it with a little corn flour, some sugar and lots of milk.
Last weekend, I picked up a 20 pound pumpkin. No, I did not carve it or create any kind of ornaments. Instead, before cutting it up for cooking, I took a photographic memorabilia of its beauty. I set it on top of a stool over my balcony and used the beautiful fall leaves of the trees in my back yard as a backdrop. I then proceeded to cutting it up and used some of it to make a pudding. With the remainder of the pumpkin, I plan to either grill some with other fall vegetables, turn a small portion of it into a spread, or maybe bake some pumpkin bread. Finally I plan to roast the seeds for a delicious snack.
The recipe below is a slightly modified version of the pumpkin pudding I grew up making. I have neglected the use of the corn flour to reduce on the amount of calories and I have used evaporated milk and spices to create a more flavorful desert. I noticed that the nutmeg and the allspice took away from the bright orange color of the pumpkin. If you want to preserve the color, you may want to do away with these two spices and just stick to using cinnamon and ginger.
Prep time: 5 minutes Cooking Time: 35 minutes Yields: 4-6 servings
4 lbs. sliced pumpkins
2 cups of water
¼ teaspoon of salt
¼ cup of sugar (and more as needed for sweetness)
½ cup evaporated milk
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp ginger
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp cream (for topping)
Using a knife, cut off the top of the pumpkin. Pull out the seeds and place in a bowl for a later recipe of roasted pumpkin seeds.
Begin to slice pumpkin by following the lengthwise indented lines down the pumpkin
Set aside 4lbs of the slices. Peel and chop into about 3in of length
Place in a bowl and wash before placing in a pot. Sprinkle salt over and pour in the water.
Place pot on stove at high temperature. When water starts to boil, reduce to medium heat.
Mix pumpkin pieces every five minutes to ensure all pieces get the same amount of exposure to the heat so as to cook evenly. After 25 minutes, turn off the heat and place pumpkin pieces in a blender. Blend on high for 50 seconds or until pumpkin is turned into a smooth puree.
Return pumpkin puree to the pot, heat for 5 min on medium heat and add the spices, vanilla, evaporated milk and sugar.
Let pudding boil for another 5 minutes stirring constantly
Serve in a bowl and drizzle with cream. Enjoy as a desert or for breakfast.by