Welcome to the Secret Garden South of Bobber's Mill Bridge in Nottingham

Welcome to Windmill Community Gardens, home of the Climate Friendly Gardeners Project.

We are a group of local people, who are nurturing a wonderful community garden in the heart of the city. You'll find us just South of Bobbersmill Bridge, on the allotment site at the South end of Ascot Road. The Gardens are a great place where anyone can come to find out more about growing their own food in a changing climate. We cater for all abilities and welcome any nationality or age group.

Why not come and join us?

Thursday 24 October 2013

Pumpkins - Carve Them, Eat Them!

Let the pumpkin carving commence!

We're still on a high after a fabulous session carving pumpkins with our volunteers and Gateway to Nature today. The weather was lovely too - perfect for an outdoor cooking session. With heavy rain yesterday and the tail end of a hurricane forecast in the next few days, we definitely got lucky!

A great day for outdoor cooking!

Every year, we try our hardest to push the message that pumpkins are delicious as well as a convenient lantern for Halloween. Tracey thinks they are great. During her youth in Scotland, turnips were still being used as lanterns during the festival, and she much prefers pumpkins - they smell vastly better when you put a candle in them, and they are much, much easier to carve.

In this season of pumpkin abundance, we invited Gateway to Nature to find out some new, and safer techniques for carving pumpkins and then helped some of them to turn the innards into a delicious pumpkin risotto. First we took the tops off and pulled out the seeds and stringy centre of these huge fruit. Then we carefully scraped out as much of the flesh as we could, to leave a shell around 1cm thick all round. That left them ready to carve.

Non-spooky designs can look great!

A happy monster design

A great DIY design - can you spot
Tahu from Lego Bionicles!
Pumpkin carving with a knife is pretty dangerous. It's extremely easy to let the knife slip and cut yourself, even for skilled cooks, so we mainly use pumpkin saws. These are brilliant because they aren't sharp, but they have blunt teeth on the blade that still cut through pumpkin flesh. The only problem is that people don't realise they need to use a sawing action, rather than cutting like they would with a knife. Most of the big supermarkets seem to have these special saws this year, so look out for them. 

Wonderful witch design

The best way to get a good result is to choose a pattern, stick it to the pumpkin with masking tape and then use a drawing pin to prick holes through it which transfers the design to the pumpkin itself. If the design doesn't show up well, you can rub a little flour or cinnamon into the holes so that they show up better. You could also use a wipe-off marker to go over the lines. Then you can use the saw to follow the lines to get a really artistic finish. There's a useful "how to" guide here from Zombie Pumpkins to give a bit more detail.

Even Mia got a good result
though Dad may have helped a bit

Some of the techniques we used don't actually cut pieces out of the pumpkin. Instead the pumpkin is peeled to reveal the design. For those, we use mini wood carving chisels and lino cutters. There is a bit more risk of cutting yourself, but they are far safer than craft knives or scalpels. To see this technique in action - have a look at this great Instructable - it doesn't have to be that detailed to be effective, but you can see how the process works.

A beautiful peeled design
Combining peeling and cutting out holes can also look great

We hope you'll agree that the results were pretty good. Now we hope that they will last until Halloween. The way to get them to last is to rub a little vaseline on all the cut surfaces. This is to keep in the moisture and keep out the air, to reduce the chance of mould developing. They also need to be kept somewhere cool but not cold, and should not have a candle lit in them until Halloween itself, because the heated spots will often mould afterwards.

Mark's fabulous Welsh dragon

As the carving was being finished, we started the risotto. This is quick to make, and really quite an easy recipe. Like last week, the amounts of ingredients aren't very exact, but we always get great results, so we will share it with you and let you try it with different variations on the amounts.

Ingredients (feeds 4 - 6 depending on how hungry they are!)

1 medium onion chopped finely
1 pint jug packed with pumpkin scrapings or pumpkin chopped into cm square dice
1/2 oz (15g) butter
1/2 pint 1/4 litre volume of basmati or risotto rice
1 pint / 1/2 litre of vegetable stock
handful of fresh sage (around 10 leaves), finely chopped
Mature or vintage cheddar grated - to taste

Easy to make and delicious!

Cook onion in the butter until it goes see-through. Add the pumpkin and cook for about 5 minutes until the pumpkin starts to soften a little. Break up any large bits of pumpkin as you do this. Add the rice and mix, then the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, and boil for 1 - 2 minutes, then take it off the heat, wrap it in a towel or two and leave it for 15 minutes. It should be perfectly cooked and still hot, and you will have saved 8 minutes of gas! Now stir in the finely chopped sage and then some really good mature cheddar. Feel free to add plenty of both - we probably add about 2oz / 50g of cheese per person. Eat and enjoy!

The risotto could only make use of a small amount of the pumpkin that we cut out, but the rest will go to make soup for different community events and pancakes, so it won't be wasted.

Some happy pumpkin carvers

More please!

If you're not already a pumpkin fan, we hope you'll try this and agree with the person who said, "I don't like pumpkin, but I like this!" Have a good pumpkin season!!

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