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Oily Rag column: Fantastically frugal pumpkin

Fantastically frugal pumpkin

by Frank and Muriel Newman
Week of 3 February 2014

We - and many others around Aoteaoilyragaroa - are having fun watching giant pumpkins grow larger by the day. The giant ones are not very edible, but the kids certainly get pretty excited when they see pumpkins growing larger than they are.

But, of course the oily rag garden is not without its ordinary culinary pumpkin for the oily rag kitchen. Here are some pumpkin-type tips that will see you turn the under-appreciated gem into a delicious treat.

D.F. from Whakatane has sent in this pumpkin pie recipe. “My daughter in law served this pumpkin pie dish with a barbecue when we were last in Cape Town but her kids eat it for pudding. This recipe serves 12. Ingredients: 4 cups cooked pumpkin/butternut, 1 cup flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, a pinch of salt, half a cup of sugar, 3 to 4 eggs (beaten), a sprinkle of cinnamon. Cook & mash the pumpkin/butternut. Sift in the flour, baking powder & salt. Add the sugar & beaten eggs. Pour into pie dish, sprinkle cinnamon on top. Bake at 180C until edges pull away from pie dish (about an hour).”

Or how about pumpkin muffins: K.J. from Wellington recommends this. “To make pumpkin muffins you will need 2 cups of flour, 1½ cups of sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 egg, ¾ cup milk, ¼ cup cooking oil, ½ cup cooked and mashed pumpkin, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg. Mix all of the dry ingredients together - and the pumpkin, milk, oil and egg in another mix. Make a well in the centre of the dry mix and add the wet mixture. Stir to form a batter then place large spoonfuls in greased muffin tins. Bake at 200C for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. This mix makes about 10 muffins.”

Instead of buying expensive baby food, buy cheap fruit and vegetables (the second grade or really ripe ones) and puree. Pumpkin is a favourite - and cheap, when compared to the cost of buying it in the supermarkets at between $1.50 and $2 for 120g. You can imagine how much that adds up to, and how much you could save if you make your own from a home grown pumpkin.

Being a starchy vegetables, pumpkins are delicious baked (other veggies that bake well are potatoes, yams, carrots, and kumara). Give the veggies a good scrub to avoid that crunchy sensation when eating(!), then brush with oil (cooking oil, not the kids oil paints!) and bake at about 200°C until yummy.

Pumpkins in the garden like sun (and lots of rich compost) but when picked they like to be left in the dark. Store them in a nice cool and dry place.

Although there are lots of ways to enjoy pumpkin, we reckon it’s hard to go past a pumpkin soup, with home-made bread as a dipper. A reader has sent in this recipe. All you need is an onion chopped into little pieces, three or four cups of water, a dash of curry powder (which translates into one teaspoon) and half a dash of nutmeg. Oh, and about a kilogram of pumpkin!

Peel the pumpkins and slice into pieces. Throw it into a saucepan with the onion, cover with the water and bring to the boil. Leave it to simmer until the pumpkin is soft. Throw it into a blender, add the nutmeg and curry powder, whizz it about for a while, and there you are.

If you want a variation, reduce the amount of pumpkin and add carrots, or a potato or two.

GP writes, “Pumpkins freeze well. Cut into meal sized pieces, clean the pulp from the centres and freeze in plastic bags. Do not thaw before using – put straight into the water or roasting dish for cooking. Alternatively, pulp the pumpkins – freeze in ice cream containers, and use for soup or jam as the time permits.”

If you have a favourite frugal recipe or an oily rag tip that works wonders for your family, then why not share it with everyone else by sending it to us - or by writing to us at Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.


Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at The book is available from bookstores and online at

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