Yes, it’s Pumpkin Pie. Yes it is April. And yes, this is not your run of the mill Pumpkin Pie.
When I saw this recipe in Asha’s book, ‘Masala and Meatballs’ which we are using this month for our IG cookbook club, I knew I had to try it. I didn’t care that it is Spring, and not Autumn, when pumpkin pie has it’s shining moment in the food year. The crust totally intrigued me: gluten free, made with a blend of nuts and dried fruit, and the filling isn’t baked! See what I mean about it not being your run of the mill pumpkin pie!? So I just had to make it!
Asha calls this filling a halwa. At first I thought it was just a version of halva. You know, that dense, sweet almost fudge-like treat from the Middle East, usually with tahini as part of the base? Well, this isn’t that. This is halwa. It is an Indian dessert which is more pudding like in texture. When I went online to learn about it, I found that there are recipes for carrot, beetroot, pumpkin, even yellow dal (pea) halwa. Adding milk and spices as well as sugar and cooking it down in a pot creates a pudding that we can relate to here in North America.
I couldn’t wait to try this! Thankfully canned pumpkin is available all year round. Which brings me to the question, why, if so many pumpkin pies are made from canned pumpkin, do we wait till October or November to bake one up!? From the time I was a little girl, pumpkin pie was one of my favourites, and you couldn’t reason with me that I would have to wait till the Autumn to have a slice! But I’ve already gone on that rant about gingerbread as well. If I want a gingerbread cookie in July, why can’t I?! How many of you guys out there feel the same way? Do you resent having to wait to enjoy certain treats, or do you just buck tradition and make them any time the mood strikes you? I hope I’m not alone!!
This pie/tart starts off with creating the crust. It is just a matter of getting out your food processor and blending all the ingredients. The almonds, pistachios, dates, figs, butter and salt will get pulsed into a chunky, sticky mixture. You may need to add a splash of water to help it all move and blend together, I did.
When pressing this into a springform pan or tart pan with a removable bottom, you will need to cover the sides of the pan with plastic wrap or else spray the sides and bottom really well with a non-stick spray. I did this, and still found that the crust wanted to adhere to the pan. I think a smooth sided springform pan covered in plastic wrap or lined with parchment, may be the way to go next time. Or else of course, you can press it into a sprayed pie plate. The only reason the other two types of pans are suggested, are if you want the sides to be exposed – it just looks nicer for presenting. But if you are more concerned about a delicious gluten free crust option, than a photogenic crust, then go with the pie plate. You get the same deliciousness, without the pain of ensuring that the tart crust comes away nicely from the pan. The crust is chilled in the fridge till needed.
The filling is cooked down in a sauce pan. Pumpkin puree, milk powder and milk are blended and then thickened. You need the milk powder as flavour and as a thickening agent, so pick some up, it’s worth it. You can find it in most bulk food sections of grocery stores, or health food stores. Then some more of the milk as well as cornstarch, sugar are blended and added in. Finally ghee or clarified butter are added. You will keep stirring until the sides of the ‘pudding’ start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cardamom, ginger and saffron are added at the end. Once cooled it gets poured into the cooled crust. It then needs to sit for at least 30 minutes to set. And that’s it.
Well, of course you will want to garnish it before serving! Asha suggested fruit and whipped cream. So of course I pulled out some fruit from the fridge. The soft orange russet colour of the filling is a great canvas for just about any fruit you want. I did have blueberries and blackberries in the fridge. And I decided that if I was going to serve this to company, it needed one more thing. So as I wandered the grocery aisles, keeping my eye open for inspiration, it found me! Star fruit. I saw it, and immediately thought it would make a spectacular garnish. As one observer later noted, the star fruit slices looked like starfish in the sea! I’m so glad I came across it that day.
Will I make this again? You bet! I love the crust so much! Not overly sweet, just sweet enough. This will be a go-to recipe for when company with dietary restrictions is coming over. No gluten, no problem! Even the dairy can be replaced with nut milk. And the milk powder can then be replaced with some arrowroot starch (not equal parts of course- you may only need 2 tbsp of arrowroot to account for the milk powder) I haven’t tried this yet, I’ll get back to you if I do so, with more accurate findings!
I am going to write out Asha’s recipe as she states it. I did use a 9″ or 23 cm fluted pan with removable bottom. If you use the 7″ as Asha states, you will have higher sides, that’s the only difference! And like I said, I would probably use a 8″ springform pan lined with parchment and sprayed, next time I make this.
No Bake Pumpkin Halwa Pie
A thick pudding like filling of traditional pumpkin with not so expected saffron, ginger and cardamom in a fruit and nut crust, makes this a real treat and a twist on an Autumn classic
- 1/2 cup 73 gram raw almonds, chopped
- 1/2 cup 73 gram pistachios, chopped
- 15 dates pitted and chopped
- 7 dried figs chopped
- 2 tbs 28 gram unsalted butter. melted
- pinch of salt
- 1 16 oz 454 gram can plain pumpkin purée
- 1/2 cup 60 gram milk powder
- 1 cup 235 ml full fat milk, divided
- 3 tbsp 24 gram cornstarch
- 1 cup 200 gram fine sugar
- 1/2 cup 112 gram unsalted butter, melted and browned a bit over medium heat (brown butter); can also use ghee
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- pinch of saffron crushed and soaked in 2 tsp (10 ml) of milk
Place all the ingredients in a food processor.
Pulse until ground into a chunky, sticky mixture. Add a couple of tbsp (15-30 ml) of cold water if needed.
Pat the dough into a 7 inch (18 cm) springform pan which has been lined in parchment or sprayed well with non-stick spray)
Flatten the dough out with your fingers or the back of a spoon. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
In a heavy bottomed pot, combine the pumpkin purée, milk powder, and 3/4 cup (180 ml) of the milk. Mix well and cook over medium low heat until the mixture comes to a very thick consistency, about 15 minutes. Do not let the bottom burn, so keep stirring.
In a small cup, combine the remaining 1/4 cup milk with the cornstarch and stir till smooth. Add the cornstarch mixture and the sugar to the pot, and cook, stirring, over low heat for about 10 minutes, until it is thick again. Add the clarified butter and cook, stirring, until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan, about another 10 minutes.
Add the cardamom, ginger, and safrron with the milk.
Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool. Stir regularly so it doesn't form a film on top.
Pour into the cooled pie crust and chill for 30 minutes or even overnight.
Garnish with berries or other fruit. Serve with whipped cream.
Asha mentions that the filling, being a pudding or halwa, can actually be eaten on it's own as well!