Do you really feel it? Honestly, all this Halloween buzz, this hue of plastic orange covering our cities. Do you really relate to all this? Specially those of you NOT living in north America, those of you who like me, haven’t grown up with Halloween.
Here in Italy (and the same in Iran) it’s been roughly a decade that Halloween has become a popular event. Of course there’s no wonder why. The target of the cheap costume shop is the kids and the teenagers. And who wouldn’t love to dress up in something freaky and spooky?In Italy, more traditionally the first of November is celebrated, All Saints’ Day. A Christian festivity to remember the deceased. (Halloween actually would be All Hallows’ Eve, which is the vigil of All Saints’ Day). And November 2nd is All Souls’ Day. There are some long interesting historical facts to study about this. But you know what’s more attractive than the dead? Pumpkins! Pumpkins to me are one the strangest, most beautiful, amazing edible things on earth.
Now imagine this field, covered with these huge orange (or green, or beige) balls, that are a mine of sweetness, they’re full of delicious seeds, they come in many beautiful varieties all over the world and we can cook them into endless mouth-watering types of sweet and savory goodness. Isn’t that marvelous?
There’s a very rich culinary culture of pumpkins here in Italy. I don’t know how far it goes back but I have seen many recipes with pumpkins. It sure is no stranger to the Italian palate. There are risottos, pastas, cakes, fries and many other things.
If you talk to me in Persian about pumpkins, the first thing that comes to my mind is a children’s story called Kadoo-Ghelgheleh-Zan which means Rolling Pumpkin Lady. It’s basically the story of an elderly woman who wants to travel to her daughter’s house across the forest and on her way she meets a wolf, a tiger and a lion. Each of the wild animals want to eat her for dinner but she convinces them to wait until she comes back from her daughter’s house, when she’ll have eaten roast chicken, eggplant stew and rice and has become fat and chubby to make a good dinner.
When she wants to come back home, she sakes her daughter to bring a big pumpkin. They empty it and she goes inside it and rolls away all across the forest towards her home. She meets all of the animals again who ask here “Hey Rolling Pumpkin, haven’t you seen the old lady?”. Naturally she gets home safe and sound after a strife with the Wolf. Happily ever after.I experiment a lot with pumpkins. Specially in sweets, because they’re so naturally sweet that they don’t need much sugar. They’re full of fiber and it literally takes a breath to create something mouth-watering with them. Like at the moment of writing this, I’m sipping on the simplest butternut squash soup ever; Mashed roasted butternut squash, olive oil, garlic powder and chilly. Dinner is served!
To celebrate Autumn in its full glory, I have made a healthy pumpkin crumble. I was inspired by the orange and beige hues around me. It’s been only a week that it’s got colder here in Rome. The days are shorter but we’ve been blessed with sunny days that get quite warm in the afternoon. Right after the early sunset they give in to Autumn chill.I live close to a pine grove, and though pines are evergreen, the little dry unwanted plants and spikes have absorbed Autumn to the fullest. I had two little green Kabochas, one orange pumpkin and a beige butternut squash that embrace all the colors of October and the spikes made me choose oats.
The recipe for this healthy pumpkin crumble is really simple. I must make a confession though; the pictures are not from the perfected recipe and the crumble in the photos turned a little dry. I adjusted the doses and made it again but since it was already dark (barely 5 pm), I didn’t take any new pictures.
There’s little gluten and fat in this recipe. The topping is not excessively sweet, because I like to get the sweetness directly from the pumpkin. When served hot, it’s perfect for chilly mornings as breakfast, or with a hot tea in the afternoon. The sweet combination of cardamom, cloves and cinnamon would make sure the heat lingers in you. I served my pumpkin crumble with semi skim Greek yoghurt with a shot of espresso, a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon. If you want to keep it vegan, you can do the same with a vegetal yoghurt or ice-cream.
This amount makes a 20 cm | 8 in pan.
- 1 2/3 cup | 400 gr. Pumpkin puree*
- 1 1/2 cup | 150 gr. Steel Cut Oats
- 30 gr. bran
- 50 gr. rice flour
- 4 tbsp tahini
- 3 tbsp raw honey
- 3 tbsp butter** and more for greasing the pan
- a handful of walnuts
- 5 cloves (1/2 tsp clove powder)
- 4 cardamom
- 1 1/2 cinnamon powder
- half a nutmeg, grated
- 1 tsp grated orange zest
- fresh juice of one big orange
- a pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven at 180C° | 350F°. Grease your pan very well.
- Add the rice flour and the salt to a bowl. Divide your oats into 3 parts. We want to have three different textures of them; refined, coarse and whole.
- Crush the cloves and the break the cardamom pods to get the seeds. Put them in a good food processor with half of the walnuts and 1 part of oats and blend for a couple of minutes or as long as it gets as refined as possible. Add to the bowl.
- Put the second part of oats and the rest of the walnuts in the blender and pulse it for some seconds until they're coarsely chopped. Don't over do this. Add them to the bowl.
- Add the rest of the oats, the bran, half of the cinnamon, the orange zest, the tahini, 2 tbsp of honey and the butter and mix everything. Massage it with your hands so that the spices, tahini and honey are equally spreader on the dry ingredients.
- Blend the pumpkin puree with the orange juice, 1 tbsp of honey, the grated nutmeg and the rest of the cinnamon.
- Spread the pumpkin mix into the pan and cover it with the oat mix. Even the surface but do not press the dry mix very hard because it will penetrate the pumpkin mix, absorb it and there will no crumble, just a weird cake.
- Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until lightly browned on top.
- Serve hot with a topping.
- *For the pumpkin puree, cut the pumplin into 4 or 6 pieces, deseed it and bake it with a little water in the pan until tender. Scoop the flesh out and blend.
- **For a vegan version replace butter with cold-pressed coconut oil.
Coming from Iran, she mostly develops her recipes by combining the aromas of the middle east with the flavors of the Mediterranean, specially Italy, where she has found her second home.