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Reduce your carving footprint: what to do with leftover pumpkin after Halloween

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Georgie Young
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Over 8 million pumpkins are destined for the bin after Halloween. Help to stop food waste being the scariest part of Halloween by using up your leftover pumpkin using these top tips. 

As soon as the autumn leaves begin to fall, pumpkins start popping up in pumpkin patches and supermarkets all over the country. A hand-carved lantern is the crowning glory to every Halloween celebration, yet it’s what happens to them when the evening draws to a close that’s the one of the terrifying parts of Halloween. 

A huge 95% of the 10 million pumpkins grown in the UK each year are hollowed out to create ghoulish lanterns. Seeing as we’re buying so many pumpkins, you’d think that it’d be as traditional to have pumpkin pie on November 1st as it is to have turkey sandwiches on Boxing Day. However, it’s projected that 8 million pumpkins are headed straight for the bin this year – wasting over 1,500 double decker buses worth of perfectly good produce. 

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Because pumpkins tend to be viewed as purely decorative, they’re often considered useless after Halloween is over. This is simply not the case. There’s a whole host of things you can do with all parts of your pumpkin after carving it, from snacks to skincare. Read on for some inspiration for how to keep your pumpkin out of the bin. 

Pumpkins: if you’re planning on eating your pumpkin flesh after carving it, make sure to use it within 24 hours of carving and wash it out thoroughly before cooking.

1. Cook up an autumnal feast

Pumpkin can be used in a variety of dishes, from soups (see below) and pies (standard) to doughnut muffins. No, we’re not kidding. Check out the recipes below from chefs Gill Meller, Claire Thomson and Tom Hunt for inspiration.

Salad of chicory, chestnut mushrooms, kale and toasted seeds by Gill Meller

This is one of my favourite raw salads. It’s quick and interesting and has raw mushrooms in it (so underrated) – I’m a massive fan. Toasting mixed seeds in a splash of tamari makes them hopelessly irresistible and, if there are any left by the time you sit down, the perfect garnish to what is the perfect light lunch.

Serves 2

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons tamari

2 small or 1 larger firm head of red chicory, leaves separated

About 100g (31/2oz) very fresh, firm chestnut mushrooms

Handful of very small, tender kale leaves, or chard if you can’t find kale

For the dressing

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1⁄2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground

Black pepper

Gill Mellor's salad of chicory, chestnut mushrooms, kale and toasted seeds, from Time.
Gill Mellor's salad of chicory, chestnut mushrooms, kale and toasted seeds, from Time.

This is one of the simplest salads you could ever put together.

Place a small pan over a low heat, add the seeds and tamari and cook, stirring regularly, until the seeds are toasted and the tamari has reduced to coat them, like a dry-roasted peanut – about 2–4 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Arrange the chicory leaves over a large plate. Slice the mushrooms and scatter these over the top of the chicory along with the kale or chard leaves and the toasted seeds.

To make the dressing, put all the ingredients in a small jug or bowl, season well with salt and pepper, and whisk well to combine. Trickle the dressing over the salad, season everything well with salt and pepper, and serve at once.

Recipe from Time by Gill Meller (Quadrille, £25).

Spiced filo pumpkin pie by Claire Thomson

Use up your pumpkin this year with this blisteringly crisp filo pastry stuffed full with spiced pumpkin and curd. Hot out of the oven, drench with honey, chilli and oregano for an impressive lunch after Halloween!

Makes one pie

350g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2cm dice

75g pine nuts or chopped walnuts

1 onion, finely diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

200g feta cheese, crumbled

100g cottage cheese, ricotta or quark

2 eggs, beaten

3 teaspoons dried oregano

1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

About 1 teaspoon of each of salt and freshly ground black pepper

300g filo pastry sheets

100g butter, melted

1 teaspoon nigella seeds (or use sesame)

1 tablespoon runny honey

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

Claire Thomson's pumpkin and filo pie from The Art of the Larder.
Claire Thomson's pumpkin and filo pie from The Art of the Larder.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C. Put the pumpkin or squash on a baking tray and roast for about 30 minutes, until tender. Put the pine nuts or walnuts on a separate tray and put into the oven for the last 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, fry the onion in olive oil for about 8–10 minutes, until soft and translucent.

Lower the oven temperature to 190°C/fan 170°C. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and set to one side. In a bowl mix the cooked pumpkin, pine nuts, cooked onion, feta, cottage cheese, beaten eggs, 2 teaspoons of oregano, the cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and pepper.

Put the prepared baking sheet on a work surface, with the shorter end facing you. Lay a sheet of filo

lengthways on the baking sheet and brush with melted butter. Top with another sheet and brush with more butter. Take 2 more sheets and turn them so that they are at the 11 o’clock and 5 o’clock positions, brushing each sheet you add with the melted butter. Continue to arrange the sheets in a clockwork fashion, until you have an incrementally overlapping circle shape. Be sure to butter each sheet liberally as you go.

When all the sheets have been used, place the pumpkin mixture in the centre and spread out into a circle – leaving a good 5cm border. Carefully fold the filo sheets over the edge of the pumpkin mixture, allowing the majority of the centre to still be visible. With the remaining butter, generously brush all the edges of the pie and scatter over the nigella seeds. Bake for 25–30 minutes, until the edges are golden and the centre is set. Remove from the oven, drizzle with the honey, sprinkle with the remaining oregano and the chilli and set to one side for 5–10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Recipe from The Art of the Larder by Claire Thomson (Quadrille, £25).

Pumpkin doughnut muffins by Tom Hunt

These scrummy little muffins are made from a simple variation on a doughnut batter that tastes divine rolled in cinnamon sugar. Baking them in the oven is both much healthier and simpler than deep-frying. The pumpkin gives them an appetising orange colour and keeps them nice and moist. 

Makes about 12

1 quantity puréed pumpkin

75g butter, softened, plus more for the tin and to brush

180g spelt flour, plus more for the tin

75g rapadura or raw cane sugar, plus more to coat

1 large egg, lightly beaten

11⁄2 tsp baking powder

1⁄4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1⁄2 tsp allspice (optional)

3 tbsp natural live yogurt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Tom Hunt's pumpkin doughnut muffins, from The Natural Cook.
Tom Hunt's pumpkin doughnut muffins, from The Natural Cook.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Butter 12 hollows of a muffin tin, then sprinkle with flour and turn the tin, tapping, so the hollows are well floured.

Beat the butter and sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add the egg, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, allspice (if using), yogurt and pumpkin and stir together until thoroughly mixed.

Fill the muffin moulds half full, then bake for 20–25 minutes until springy. Turn out of the tin.

Immediately melt a little butter and, as soon as the muffins are cool enough to handle, brush the tops with butter, then roll in a plate of sugar mixed with the cinnamon.

The muffins are best warm from the oven, but will keep for three days in an airtight container. The purée will keep for three days in a sealed container in the fridge; reheat it gently in a covered saucepan on the hob, with a splash of water added.

Recipe from The Natural Cook by Tom Hunt (Quadrille, £20).

Sweet baked pumpkin by Tom Hunt

Use this sweet pumpkin recipe in my delicious gluten free pie.

600g pumpkin, pinch of cinnamon, pinch of ginger, 6 cardamom pods, 50 ml maple syrup or honey, 50g Sugar

3 eggs, beaten

200ml double cream

Preheat the oven to 180C. Cut the pumpkin into wedges about 1-2 inches thick. Keep the seeds to roast later. Place on a baking tray. Sprinkle with the sugar and spices and drizzle the maple syrup over the top. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 40-50 minutes or until the pumpkin is very soft. Remove the foil and allow to cool a little. Scrape all of the pumpkin flesh of the skin back into the tray with the sweet spicy juices. Mash together with the juices using a fork. Spread on toast for breakfast or make my pumpkin pie or pancakes below.

Tom Hunt's pumpkin pie with cardamom and maple syrup photo, from The Natural Cook.
Tom Hunt's pumpkin pie with cardamom and maple syrup photo, from The Natural Cook.

Pumpkin pie with cardamom and maple syrup

This is a healthy classic and so scrummy. I can’t get enough of the nut base. If you have spare roll them into balls and eat them as energy snacks.

Serves 8

For the filling

1 quantity of sweet baked pumpkin

3 eggs, beaten

200ml double cream

For the crust

100g walnuts or pecans

100g almonds

100g rolled oats

300g dates

2 tbsp water

Method - preheat oven to 160c

First make the pie crust. Blend the nuts, oats and dates until they are fine and sticky. Add the water and pulse a few times until mixed. Remove from the blender and mix by hand. Line a nine-ten inch tart case with parchment. Press the crust into the bottom firmly with your fingers.

In a bowl mix the sweet baked pumpkin with the eggs and cream.

Pour the pumpkin mixture into the tart case. Bake at 160c for 35 minutes or until it sets.

Serve the tart with ice cream or whipped cream and a sprinkle of roasted seeds.

Storage: The pie will keep well for 4 days covered in the fridge.

Recipes from The Natural Cook by Tom Hunt (Quadrille, £20).

2. Don’t forget the most important meal of the day

Pumpkin isn’t just for dinner or dessert, it can also contribute to a delicious breakfast…

Buckwheat and oat granola by Gill Meller

Granola is easy to make, packed full of healthy, nutritious things and really, really tasty. I have it for breakfast a few times a week , and I know when I have, because I feel better for it. It’s good with milk , natural yoghurt or orange juice, or just a few slices of fresh fruit. As with so many things, though, you don’t have to reserve this granola for breakfast. It’s wonderful scattered over baked apples or spooned over vanilla ice cream, too.

Makes 1 large jar

300g (10 1⁄2 oz) jumbo oats

75g (2 1⁄2 oz) buckwheat groats

100g (3 1⁄2 oz) mixed nuts, roughly chopped

30g (1oz) pumpkin seeds

30g (1oz) sunflower seeds

Good pinch of salt

50ml (1 3⁄4 fl oz) cold-pressed rapeseed oil

150ml (5fl oz) runny honey

1 egg white

125g (4 1⁄2 oz) chopped dried prunes, dates and raisins

Gill Meller's buckwheat and oat granola, from Time.
Gill Meller's buckwheat and oat granola, from Time.

Heat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 3.

Line your largest baking tray or two smaller ones with baking parchment.

Tumble the oats, groats, nuts, both types of seed, and salt together in a large bowl. Pour over the rapeseed oil and trickle over the honey, then mix everything together well. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white until light and frothy, then turn this through the mixture.

Spread the granola out over the baking sheet nice and evenly. Place in the oven and bake for 30–35 minutes, turning the mixture with a spatula three or four times during baking. When it’s golden and fragrant, it’s ready to come out of the oven.

Leave the granola to cool in the tray so that it crisps up nicely. Mix in your chosen dried fruit then transfer to an airtight container or jar. It will keep for about 4–6 weeks.

Recipe from Time by Gill Meller (Quadrille, £25).

3. Warm up with some soup

A creamy, slightly spiced pumpkin soup is an autumn staple, but often only uses the pumpkin’s flesh. Tom Kitchin’s flavoursome recipe makes use of every bit of the pumpkin bar the inedible green stalk – and for an added seasonal twist, why not serve inside a hollowed out pumpkin?

4. Brew planet-saving pumpkin beer

Toast Ale aim to reduce waste by transforming leftover bread into beer. It’s currently brewing Dubbel Dubbel Toil and Trouble – a pumpkin-flavoured version of its waste-saving beer that will be available in six London Brewdog bars on 28 November. Can’t wait? Collect your leftover pumpkin and follow the company’s recipe card to create your own home brew. 

5. Stir up a Harry Potter-inspired cocktail

You may not be able to pop down to the Leaky Cauldron for an evening tipple, but you can whip up your very own pumpkin juice using leftover pumpkin! This recipe adds apple cider, sugar, pumpkin spice and whiskey to pureed pumpkin to create a wickedly good cocktail that Dumbledore himself wouldn’t say no to.   

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6. Treat your skin to a fresh facemask

Did you know that pumpkin is packed with antioxidants and enzymes that brighten your skin and ward off fine lines? Treat your skin and reduce waste by following this recipe. Puree your pumpkin and combine it with ½ tsp honey and ½ tsp milk before applying it to your skin using your fingers. Leave it on for 20 minutes before washing off with a warm washcloth, and voila! Beautifully bright skin and much less waste to boot. 

Pumpkin can also be used to make a refreshing face mask

7. Create a pretty planter

Pumpkins are chosen to be Halloween lanterns because their bright orange colour makes them eye-catching decorations. When Halloween is over, why not extend your pumpkin’s decorative life by converting your carved pumpkin into a planter? Simply line the hollowed-out pumpkin with newspaper and fill it with soil before repotting your plants into it and placing it outside. As well as looking fantastic in the weeks following Halloween, when the pumpkin composts it releases nutrients into the soil that help your seeds to grow.  

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Images: Getty, Unsplash. Photos from Gill Meller’s Time by Andrew Montgomery. Photo from Claire Thomson’s The Art of the Larder by Mike Lusmore. Photos from Tom Hunt’s The Natural Cook by Laura Edwards.

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