The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star.
Anthelme Brillat-Savarin 1755-1826
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
FROM GHOULIES AND GHOSTIESand long-leggety beasties, And things that go bump in the night,Good Lord deliver us.
London is an amazing place, and since I came to live here, umpteen years ago, I have been absolutely fascinated by my adoptive city. Anything and everything about it intrigues me, its history, geography, archaeology, and its people. So I have a quite a collection of books covering all aspects of London from the obvious to the obscure.
Necropolis- London and its Dead byCatharine Arnold is one of my latest purchases, and it is a ghoulishly entertaining read. Leaving no headstone unturned, the author covers how London has buried it's dead over the last two thousand years, from Saxon and Roman burials, through the middle ages, the Victorians and up to our own times. She tells of bodysnatchers, plague pits, pauper graves, the advent of undertakers as a profession, and the pageantry of great state funerals - including one we all remember, that of Diana, Princess of Wales. Don't be put off by the subject - as someone once said there are only two things certain in this life, death and taxes- and the book really isn't at all gruesome, in places it is even very funny, and I would defy any reader not to be as fascinated as I was by some of the tales Ms Arnold has unearthed. A perfect book to read at Hallowe'en!
Its Hallowe'en, with all that entails...I'm getting sick of the commercialisation of what was once a happy, simple evening with very little financial expenditure required. Now it seems that every high street store stocks crummy tat for kids, and all very highly priced. Even the sainted M&S has a whole range of foodstuffs just for Hallowe'en, I ask you, is it really necessary? What happened to the good old days ? a few apples to bob, a mound of mashed potatoes with a coin hidden in it, a few sticky doughnuts dangling from strings, all good fun and relatively cheap. Kids could, with a little help from mum or dad, make a witches hat, cut eye holes in an old sheet and become a ghost, stick cardboard talons on their fingernails, or make dracula fangs from orange peel and paint lipstick blood coming from their mouths. Half the enjoyment was making the effort. Now its plastic and lurex full Boris Karloff outfits, green latex heads with knives embedded in the skull, all made in China (where else) and all costing the equivalent of a day's wages for some poor sod in the third world. It's enough to make a pumpkin puke.
We are going to have supper with friends this evening, and I am taking the pudding, so naturally I decided it would be just the right time to make a Pumpkin Pie. I know that Americans eat this at their Thanksgiving, but we eat it just about any time in autumn and it is appropriate at Hallowe'en. Actually I have never been too sure why it is called pie and nottart. Somehow I always expect a pie to have a pastry lid, and though it can have a pastry base it is not obligatory, whereas a tart always has a pastry base and never has a lid. Maybe if some culinary etymologist reads this they could enlighten me. PUMPKIN PIE
Shortcrust pastry (enough to line a 23cm loose-bottomed flan tin) 500g pumpkin puree* 2 large eggs 75g light brown sugar 4 tablespoons golden syrup 250ml double cream 1 tablespoon mixed spice generous pinch of salt.
Pre-heat oven to 200C
Roll out the pastry and line the flan tin, prick the base with a fork and line with greaseproof paper and baking beans; blind bake in the oven for 10 mins and then remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for 5 more minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 190C. Tip the pumpkin puree into a bowl and beat in the eggs, sugar, syrup, cream, spice and salt. Mix very thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the pastry case . Bake for approx 40 minutes, until the filling has set. Dust with icing sugar and serve at room temperature. This is delicious with either a scoop of vanilla icecream, or a dollop of whipped cream, but neither are strictly necessary!
* The easiest way of making pumpkin puree is to cut the pumpkin into 6-8 wedges, scoop out all the seeds and soft stringy stuff. Line a large roasting tin with kitchen foil to save cleaning, and lay the wedges in it. Bake in a 190C oven for 1 hour or until the pumpkin flesh is soft. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and then scoop the flesh from the rind. Puree the flesh in a food processor. Unused puree can be frozen for one or two weeks, and used in soups etc.