The Great Pumpkin

The morning sun filtered through the kitchen window, giving light to my newest adventure in expat baking.

While vacationing in Puyehue, home to volcanoes, thermal spas and ski slopes, we had purchased a large yellow-orange pumpkin to satisfy a craving for some down home Chilean comfort food. Although often generically labeled in Chilean supermarkets as “zapallo,” meaning pumpkin, its appearance reminds me of the “Mother Hubbards” often found in farmers markets near my former U.S. home.  Although not the same, its size is generous enough to feed all of Mother Hubbard’s children (For those unfamiliar with the nursery rhyme, “Mother Hubbard lived in a shoe. She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.”).

After using less than one quarter for a massive pot of Beans with Mote and Zapallo (recipe to follow), I was uncertain of what to do with the rest. That is, until the rain began to pour like a tropical hurricane yesterday. While the winds raged and the rain pounded, I carved another section from the massive pumpkin to prepare for one of my favorite bread recipes. I was curious to see, and taste, whether it would be as suitable as a pie pumpkin for desserts.

To prepare the pumpkin for mashing, I removed the thin rind and cut the flesh into small pieces for steaming. Over the years, and after much experimentation, I have found steaming to be the easiest and least messy method to prepare pumpkins for baking.  Simply place a steamer basket in a pot with water rising to just under the bottom of the basket. Add the diced pumpkin, cover with a lid and boil the water until the flesh is tender. Carefully remove the basket, use its sides to compress most of the water out, and then puree in a food processor.

Although preparing pumpkin from scratch may seem like a lot of work, the texture that it brings to baked goods is worth all the effort. Canned pumpkin just doesn’t produce the same results.

Although the pumpkin bread recipe produces two regular loaves of bread, I prefer to make mini loaves and muffins, to share my efforts with others.

Pumpkin Bread

1 cup vegetable oil

4 beaten eggs

1/3 cup water

2 cups mashed pumpkin

3 1/3 cups sifted flour

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

3 cups sugar

½ cup golden raisins

Grease and flour two bread pans (I use one tray of eight mini loaves, and one of a dozen muffins). Mix the following wet ingredients:  vegetable oil, eggs, water and pumpkin. Sift the following dry ingredients together in a separate bowl:  flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking soda and sugar. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Add raisins. Bake for one hour at 350 degrees F, if using regular bread pans, or for 25 minutes if using mini pans.

Beans with Mote and Zapallo

Comfort food to warm the Chilean heart and home on a rainy winter night!

1 lb. dry white beans, soaked overnight and cooked until tender, or

prepared in pressure cooker

1 cup dried barley, rinsed and cooked until tender

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 cups pumpkin, diced into ½ inch pieces

1 red onion, diced into ½ inch pieces

1 large carrot, diced into ½ inch pieces

1 green pepper, diced into ½ inch pieces

1-2 long green hot peppers, diced into ½ inch pieces

6-8 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced

chicken stock or water, or combination

salt to taste

pepper to taste

Cilantro leaves for garnish

White beans and barley are prepared separately, in advance.

In a large heavy dutch oven, saute onions in olive oil, over moderate heat, until almost translucent. Add carrots, and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add pumpkin, and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add green and hot peppers, and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, and continue sautéing until vegetables are almost tender. Add beans and barley, and mix well. Add chicken broth, covering vegetable mixture by several inches, or as desired for soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for 30 minutes. Serve garnished with cilantro.

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