Pumpkins and Squash in the AGA

There are a variety of harvest festivals the length and breadth of Britain, but no Thanksgiving Day.

Never mind, this family will follow traditional Thanksgiving protocol – gratefully serving turkey, stuffing/dressing, gravy, at least one starch, vegetables galore.  And dessert – in particular, pumpkin pie.

In preparation, welcome to Herdy Girl’s Pumpkin-Puree-Fest.  Meet the guests of honour…

This is Blue Hokkaido. Her dusky blue skin hides dense bright flesh, and massive seeds.  After roasting, Blue Hokkaido was the driest, sweetest, and nuttiest of all five varieties.  Surprisingly complex.

Acorn’s dark green coat was a beautiful contrast to his medium flesh, which reminded me of the texture of a not-quite-ripe cantaloupe melon. Once roasted, his flesh was moist, coarse and blandly sweet.

Butternut, hard to cut into, but always consistent. Her flesh was smooth and moderately sweet with excellent flavour.

This fella was an unnamed small pumpkin. We’ll call him Wilbur.

Wilbur was a little soft because he’d sat prettily near the nice warm Aga for a week. He didn’t have a lot of flesh, mostly pith. Once cooked, he didn’t improve. Poor Wilbur.

Lastly, Musque de Provence. The belle of the ball. A good size, not too difficult to cut, dewy fleshed.

Ms M de Provence took an extra ten minutes longer to finish roasting.  Despite her lovely appearance, the result was okay.  Just okay. Sigh.

Onward. Lots to do. Holiday impending.

For roasting, I placed two racks in the Roasting Oven of the Aga – one on the third set of runners and one on the bottom.  I baked the unseasoned fruit for an hour and twenty minutes, turning the trays after 20 min, swapping shelves at 40 min, and turning the trays again at 60 min.  (Ms M de Provence’s tray required an extra 10 minutes roasting, as above.)

Two trays full of fork-tender pumpkin/squash to puree together, after they cool for ten minutes.

I mixed a bit of each type in every whizz-batch.  Five batches smoothly pureed.

Lots and lots of puree.  Lots.

The flavours balanced into a really, truly, completely delicious whole.

I’m freezing most of the puree, so I weighed it into the two most commonly used portions for the recipes I use:

2/3 cup, 150g in metric;

1 & 3/4 cup, 425g in metric, which is the same amount contained in a can/tin of purchased puree.

Any extra was consumed by myself and two happy dogs.

Roll on pumpkin pie, I am ready!

Peace,

Herdy Girl

Lemon & Berry Polenta Cake

A small bowl of summer berries and a lonely lemon were languishing on my countertop this morning…

And it’s Monday. If any day needs cake, it’s Monday.

I have been a little leery of baking cakes in the two-oven AGA.  Today, I set out to conquer my fear, and with one of my favourite cakes – a Lemon & Berry Polenta Cake. It’s a simple cake, and ideal for building confidence in AGA baking skills.

Fragrant lemon and ripe berries are the stars of this buttery, light cake. And I love the polenta-crunchy edge.

When asked his opinion, my Best Beloved described it as, “A light, lemony sponge with fruity flavour bombs. Yummy.”

Guess I’ll go with that!

Peace,

Herdy Girl

Print Recipe
Lemon & Berry Polenta Cake
This is a light, lemony, fruity, delicious cake.
Course Cakes
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Course Cakes
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a two-oven AGA, position a rack at the bottom of the Roasting Oven, and have the plain shelf ready to use. Or set conventional oven to 350f/180c.
  2. Lightly butter a 25 cm cake tin (10 in cake pan) and line the bottom with a circle of baking parchment. Lightly flour the sides of the pan, tapping out the excess. Set the pan aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk or sieve together the dry ingredients - flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well blended.
  4. In a large bowl (using a stand mixer or hand mixer), beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time and stir until just blended. Don't worry if it looks a bit 'curdled', it'll be okay!
  6. Using either a large metal spoon or a spatula, fold in half of dry ingredients, then add milk & lemon juice, then fold in the final half of the dry ingredients.
  7. Pour batter into prepared tin, spreading evenly.
  8. Place cold Plain Sheet on second set of runners in Roasting Oven, and put the filled cake tin on the grid on the oven bottom. Close the door and set your timer for 15 minutes.
  9. During those 15 minutes, combine the berries and the remaining flour and sugar. Also, you may want to have a cup of tea, or check your social media.
  10. When the timer alerts you that 15 minutes have passed, carefully slide the cake out of the oven, leaving the door ajar. Scatter the berries over the cake, evenly. (Discard any remaining flour mixture.
  11. Carefully slide cake back into oven and continue baking it for another 15 minutes. Then turn cake around and back another 5 minutes, or until a cake tester (skewer, toothpick...) comes out clean from centre of cake.
  12. Cool cake in the tin for 15 minutes. Then gently run a knife around the inside edge of the tin to make sure it is loose. Invert the cake over a rack and peel off the parchment.
  13. Lay a flat serving plate on the bottom of the cake and carefully flip the cake once more, so that the berries are on top. Lovely.
  14. Serve the cake warm (if, like us, you have been overwhelmed by buttery fumes and cannot help yourself) or at room temperature.
Recipe Notes

You could substitute buttermilk for the milk.  You could also use other fruits: maybe fresh figs with orange instead of lemon, apricots with blackberries... Or you could leave the fruit out and enjoy a beautiful, simple lemon polenta cake.

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