The origins of the traditional Jack-o’-lantern have largely been lost in the midst of time and surprisingly they are relatively absent from literature. Vegetable carving is an ancient practice. In 17th century England and Scotland, turnips were carved into grotesque faces and, to resemble a will-o’-the-wisp, were illuminated from within to mimic the glowing lights seen across peat bogs – and with terrifying effect. Without doubt, the pumpkin has been imported from North America. It is larger and in some ways more versatile than the turnip for designing Jack-o’-lanterns. Its flavour is also versatile as a sweet or savoury dish. I hope you will agree the pumpkin is not just for halloween.
For the pumpkin parfait
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup (60 mls) caster sugar
14 oz (400mls) condensed milk
2 cups pumpkin flesh, simmered in water for 20 minutes and puréed
4 leaves of gelatine, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes
Set a glass mixing bowl above a boiling pan of water. Add the egg yolks and cream in the sugar. Gently add the condensed milk, mixing all the time. Be careful not to let the mixture exceed 60C/140F else the yolks will split. Squeeze out water from the gelatine and add the softened gelatine to the mixture and stir. Sieve the contents into another container. Fill a pipe mould with the pumpkin mixture and refrigerate.
For the walnut ice cream
⅔ cup (180 mls) walnuts
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup (60 mls) caster sugar
1 cup (250 mls) double cream
1 cup (250 mls) milk
Soak the walnuts in cold water for an hour. Lift them out of the water and using a coffee grinder grind them into a smooth paste. Add some of the soaking water if necessary. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs and sugar and cream them together, Bit by bit add the cream and milk then add the walnut paste. Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker and freeze in a container.
For the sweet black sesame sauce
1/2 cup (125 mls) black sesame seeds, soaked in 1/2 cup (125 mls) water for 24 hours
1 tbsp honey
2 sheets leaf gelatine, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes and squeeze-dried
2 tsp sesame oil
Warm the sesame seeds with the water in a pan and add the softened gelatine. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and blend. Sieve the mixture into a squeezey dispenser.
For the meringues
3 egg whites
5 oz (150 gms) caster sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartare
Prehaet an oven to 260F/130C. Using a clean mixing bowl, use an electric whisk to whip the egg whites. As they become white and glossy, continuing with the whisking process, add the sugar little by little then add the cream of tartare. Continue whisking until the mixture forms stiff peaks when lifted. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Transfer the mixture with a piping bag and plain spout attachment, pipe out small mounds of the mixture onto the parchment. Place the baking sheet in the oven for 35-40 minutes.
For the walnut pralines
1/2 cup (125 mls) split walnuts
1/2 cup (125 mls) sugar
Place the walnuts and sugar in a pan and heat on a hob until the sugar has melted and the walnut halves coated. Allow to cool.
Plating the dish
Push out the parfait onto the plate from the pipe mould. Arrange the meringues, pralines and sesame sauce around the plate. I have used clotted cream and mint leaves for decoration. Finally add 2 quenelles of the walnut ice cream.