The Collector Pumpkin Festival
First, the festival. Last weekend we experienced our fair share of pumpkins at the Collector Pumpkin Festival, an annual celebration of all things pumpkin held in a small town just outside of Canberra. Collector’s normal population of 150 swells to several thousand for the Festival on the first Sunday of May each year. The last couple of years I have taken Japanese exchange students to the festival to give them a unique and different cultural experience. I wasn’t planning to go this year as we didn’t have any Japanese visitors to join us. However, our girls and a friend were keen, so I went back for another year of the Collector Pumpkin Festival, this time with three 13 year olds.
The Festival is a classic country show. A highlight is the competition for the biggest pumpkin, which this year went to a 202.5 kilo entrant from the ACT.
There are competitions for the best pumpkin cakes and scones, as well as pumpkin sculptures and art work from the local primary school. Plenty of stalls sell the kind of things you might expect at a country show. And what country show would be complete without old cars and the historical engine club?
Of course there are plenty of pumpkins to buy, all $5 each. Next time I will try and remember to bring a market trolley to help carry the pumpkin(s) back to where we parked the car, which can be a long walk when the festival takes over the town.
A collection of pumpkin recipes
The question now is, what to do with all that pumpkin? I have a few ideas that we use often, such as:
- Soup, of course. Try the roasted vegetable pumpkin soup recipe in this post here, or the simple hearty soup recipe below.
- A simple pasta sauce. Chop pumpkin into small chunks and roast on an oiled tray with a few halved tomatoes, and some basil if you have it. Cook for about 30 minutes or until soft and starting to brown. Mash or puree the cooked pumpkin and tomato and place in a saucepan with some tomato puree, a little red wine, some diced green vegetables or baby spinach. Simmer gently for 10 – 15 minutes and serve with pasta.
- A hearty salad. Dice approximately 2 cups of pumpkin and roast on an oiled tray in a moderate oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until soft and starting to blacken on the edges. Dice 1 medium beetroot, either cooked or canned. Add the roasted pumpkin and the beetroot to some mixed lettuce leaves with a handful of chickpeas. Make a dressing by stirring together 3 teaspoons rice bran or other light flavoured oil, 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, half a teaspoon of grainy mustard and half a teaspoon of honey.
- We love the spelt scone recipe with pumpkin and dates from the Whole Food Cooking site here. The amount of flour you need will depend on the moisture content of your pumpkin. Each time I made these I needed 300g of the spelt flour, which is a little more than the recipe suggests.
- I also made a simple pumpkin loaf cake with some of the cooked pumpkin left over from my pumpkin serving bowl below. The pumpkin makes a nice change as the base for a moist sweet loaf.
- Pumpkin mash is a good alternative to mashed potato for a stew or casserole dinner.
- What about some pumpkin beer? Here it is featured on the cover of a 2015 edition of the Japan Beer Times magazine*
Here’s another interesting idea if you have a nice looking, large pumpkin and a crowd to feed . . .
Pumpkin serving bowl
To make the serving bowl, carefully slice the top off the pumpkin. Scoop out the seeds from the inside of the pumpkin with an icecream scoop. Place the pumpkin right side up on an oiled tray. Lightly oil the inside and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook in a moderate oven for 30 to 45 minutes. Watch it carefully and remove from the oven when the flesh is cooked but not too soft. If you cook it for too long the pumpkin shell will start to split.
Because the inside of the pumpkin bowl is cooked, you can scoop out the flesh and eat it when the soup is done. Or, keep it and chop the pumpkin flesh to use in another dish later.
If you are serving soup inside the pumpkin, I recommend having a “back up plan” serving dish underneath the pumpkin, just in case the soup leaks through the pumpkin base.
And here’s the recipe for the soup in the photo:
Simple and hearty slow cooker soup with pumpkin
This is a really simple soup which is easy to put together with ingredients I usually have in the pantry and refrigerator, and it (mostly) cooks in the slow cooker. The first time I made it I was worried it might be slightly boring, but actually it’s quite tasty. The split peas and pumpkin give it a natural sweetness. The pearl barley produces soft, swollen “pearls” at the end of the cooking time which gives the soup substance.
Split peas take longer than the other ingredients to reach their optimal point of dissolving into the broth, which is why I suggest giving them a head start in a saucepan first.
I realise this idea is on a bit of a tangent but, you could argue, it’s also relevant to the topic of pumpkins: the most beautiful Cinderella picture book we have seen is Ruth Sanderson’s lovely version. Our girls had our older edition out again recently for a school project:
*See more of this craft beer magazine at their website here.
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