Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Trick or Treat, Heat or Sweet: Halloween Stuffed Pumpkin Duo | 萬聖「南」式生死戀

Fall is finally here! My favorite season of the year brings cooler evenings, an end to ravaging typhoons, yellowing leaves, spiced apple cider, and loads and loads of pumpkins. Around the world this autumn staple pops up in menus from pastas, baked goods, your morning coffee and, soon, to all things Halloween. I realize all these years I haven't done much for Halloween, but that is all going to change!

My first ever hand-carved mini Jack-O'-Lanterns! Feed them a candle and watch as they come alive!

Several weeks ago KitchenAid Hong Kong got in touch with me regarding an exciting opportunity to collaborate in an upcoming campaign #CapturingTaste. They are to partner up with SONY and host a series of food photography and styling workshops, featuring creations by a talented team of local chefs handpicked by KitchenAid. Before I knew it, I've reached for an imaginary paper bag in case of hyperventilation upon receiving this extraordinary invitation. The event is slated to debut on October 30; and my assigned theme is Halloween - perfectly in time for the spooky celebration!

Flanked by a star-studded lineup of half a dozen accomplished chefs, entrepreneurs and cooking school founders, I couldn't help but feel intimidated. We were each assigned a theme and tasked to design and prepare one dish at the KitchenAid live kitchen to be the centerpiece of a professional photo shoot. Imagination is one's own limit, granted that healthful eating and sustainability is taken into account and that artificial food coloring is avoided at all cost. Sounds right up my alley!
In the weeks following, as fireworks began to set off in my brain, I delineated several routes I could take to bring Halloween to life. Do I want to go gory, gross, and scary? Nah. Spooky but cute? Maybe. Color themed with a touch of fall and fusion? Yes! Having seen crates upon crates of colorful, adorable (some adorably deformed and resembling a witch's wart-covered nose) pumpkins and squash in markets in Europe and the U.S., already I was certain that these would play a pivotal role in the presentation of my dish. All I needed was to inject creativity and a splash of orange and black.

While orange colors are rather easy to come by in the plant kingdom, black may not be as prevalent. Drawing inspirations from international cuisines and ingredients, I scoured my mind for all things naturally black in nature. Squid ink, charcoal powder, olives... and bam! Thai black glutinous rice came up in a conversation with a friend. My eyes lit up, sending sparkles throughout my brain. That is it. I am going to create a Halloween mini stuffed pumpkin duo drawing influences from Thai and other cuisines.

Black sticky rice and pumpkin are both traditional dessert ingredients ubiquitous across Thailand. I decided to steam rather than simmer the glutinous rice for a firmer and less runny consistency, and drizzle in a salty sweet coconut sauce exactly like what you'll find on sticky rice with mango desserts everywhere in Thailand. A knot of pandan leaf and just a tad of Thai palm sugar is added to the rice before steaming to infuse a hint of sweetness and that unmistakable, comforting fragrant note. Feel free to substitute the more delicate Thai palm sugar with gula melaka - the smokier, toffee-edged version of palm sugar, or brown sugar if neither is available.

Watch my mini "tutorial" on carving your own mini Jack-O'-Lanterns!

To counter the sweet treat, I made hummus - yes, I know, a little out of the blue it seems - but this is not your ordinary hummus, but a velvety smooth orange-hued pumpkin hummus with a Thai twist and unanticipated heat. A Thai red curry pumpkin hummus that you just can't stop dipping into. You can use canned pure pumpkin here, but why not make from scratch when it's so easy? Just chop, steam, and peel and in it goes into the processor. Makes a wonderful Halloween party snack, and both recipes are entirely gluten-free and vegan-friendly too! Now this is what I call a Halloween trick or treat!

Mini pumpkins and squashes

1. Cut about a quarter to a third of the pumpkins to make a lid. Scoop out all the seeds and pulp and save for other use.

Black Sticky Rice Pudding with Pumpkin
3/4 cup Thai black glutinous rice
1/4 cup white glutinous rice
1 pandan leaf
2 teaspoons Thai palm sugar, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
Boiling water

Diced Pumpkin:
120 g butternut squash

Coconut Sauce:
1/2 cup coconut cream
1/2 tablespoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Black Sticky Rice Pudding:
1. Combine the rice, wash and soak in water for at least 3 hours up to overnight. Drain and rinse, and place into a heatproof dish. Tie the pandan leaf into a knot and nestle into the glutinous rice. Scatter chopped palm sugar on top of the rice.

2. Add some boiling water to the dish, leaving a top layer or rice exposed. Steam for 25 minutes or until the rice is cooked but still retains a chewy and slightly crunchy texture.

3. Discard pandan leaf and stir in salt and three-quarters of the coconut sauce. Set aside and allow the rice to absorb the coconut sauce. If making ahead of time, do not mix in the coconut sauce until ready to eat. Scoop into prepared mini pumpkins, drizzle some more coconut sauce, and scatter diced pumpkin over the rice.

Diced Pumpkin:
Dice pumpkin into small cubes. Steam for 4 minutes, remove and plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

Coconut Sauce:
Warm coconut cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in sugar and salt until dissolved.

Thai Red Curry Pumpkin Hummus
1 can (425 g) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
420 g butternut squash
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 1/2 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (adjust to taste)
1/4 cup coconut milk

Garnish (optional):
Paprika | Bird's eye chili, chopped | Cilantro, chopped

1. Rinse, scrape out all the seeds and pulp, and cut butternut squash into large chunks. Steam for 8-10 minutes until softened and easily pierced with a fork. Remove skin once cooled enough to handle.

2. Place chickpeas, cooked pumpkin, garlic, grated ginger, tahini, curry paste, and coconut milk in a food processor, blend, and check taste and consistency. Add more coconut milk if necessary to loosen. To increase heat, blend in half a bird's eye chili. Puree until smooth. Scoop into prepared mini pumpkins, and top with garnish.

【 萬聖「南」式生死戀 】

泰國黑糯米           3/4 杯
泰國白糯米           1/4 杯
斑蘭葉                    1 片
泰國棕櫚糖            2 茶匙
幼鹽                         1/4 茶匙
滾水                         適量

南瓜                         120 克

椰漿                         115 毫升
砂糖                         1/2 湯匙
幼鹽                         1/4 茶匙

1. 黑糯米和白糯米洗淨,用清水浸三小時或過夜。 
2. 南瓜切小粒, 隔水蒸四分鐘後撈起浸冰水。撈起備用。
3. 斑蘭葉打個小結,連同隔了水的糯米放在蒸盆內。棕櫚糖撒在面。注入滾水(隔水蒸 25-30 分鐘。
4. 椰漿用慢火煮開,加入鹽和糖,拌勻備用。
5. 糯米蒸好後把斑蘭葉拔出。拌入幼鹽和部分椰汁,靜置數分鐘,讓糯米吸收掉椰汁。
6. 食用前再淋上剩餘椰汁和撒上南瓜粒,即成!

罐裝鷹嘴豆              425 克
南瓜                           420 克
蒜頭                            3 瓣
薑蓉                            1 茶匙
純芝麻醬                   2 湯匙
泰國紅咖哩               1 1/2 湯匙
椰汁                            60 毫升

裝飾用:紅椒粉 | 指天椒(切粒)| 芫荽(切粒)

1. 南瓜去籽洗淨後切段,隔水蒸 8-10 分鐘至軟身。待涼後去皮。
2. 將所有材料放入攪拌器,高速攪打一分鐘後試味。如喜歡較辛辣的可加入半條指天椒。將混合物攪打至呈細緻泥狀。撒上裝飾,即成!

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