To most North Americans pumpkin is a symbol of Halloween which is celebrated on October 31. Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. The term Halloween comes from an Old English phrase ealtra halgena aefen, meaning All Hallow’s Evening, which is the eve of All Hallow Day. It was shortened to All Hallow’s Eve before being spell Halloween.
To me, October 31 has always been an important date not because it is Halloween – but simply because it is my birthday. Yeah, I have a Halloween Birthday and everybody loves Pumpkin = Me :-)
And this year My Halloween Birthday, falls on the best of days, Saturday. So today is the perfect time to go all out with sweet pumpkin treat and celebrate my birthday!
In-fact Pumpkin has more use than just as traditional jack-o’-lanterns and pie filling. The strong flavored flesh of pumpkin can be cooked and enjoyed in many ways. Pumpkin is also a rich source of beta carotene, a good low-calorie source of iron and potassium, high in fiber and can be stored for along time.
When I was a kid, our house was located near a busy street. Since early morning the street hawkers who sold Ready-to-Eat (RTE) foods were already busy. They sold many different types of foods like bubur ayam (chicken rice porridge), fried rice noodle, nasi uduk (mixed rice) and some sweet treats like mung bean porridge, dark sweet risotto (black rice pudding) and sweet pumpkin treat (kolak).
My mom was the kind of a mother who never give her children pocket money and she did not allow me and my sisters to buy food from the street hawkers. She knew that as kids, we love food from street hawkers better than our home-made meal. So to compensate what we missed, everyday she cooked me and my sisters different types of snack-foods like those sold by the street hawkers. And one of my favorites is the Sweet Pumpkin Treat.
Let’s cook the Pumpkin
When choosing a pumpkin, we have to know exactly how are we going to cook the pumpkin. To serve pumpkin as a tureen, the size of the pumpkin must fit into your oven and you must be able to lift it out comfortably and safety after it is filled with hot soup. In addition, the pumpkin must have a flat base so that it stands upright firmly and of course it must be free of cracks that could cause leaks.
So far I have seen only 3 types of pumpkin available in supermarkets in Jakarta, where I live: butter-nut pumpkin, sugar pumpkin and the large deep-orange pumpkin (in Bahasa we call Labu Parang). I love the taste of butter-nut pumpkin but certainly not the price. Many people like the sugar pumpkin coz it’s smaller in size and tastes sweeter. My favorite is the large-orange pumpkin. The flesh is thick and I love its starchy taste.
It’s a bit tricky to buy pumpkin as a whole coz I don’t have any idea how to judge whether the level of ripeness is just right. Fortunately, in most supermarkets in Jakarta pumpkins are available by piece (in half / one-quarter etc) and it is charged based on the weight. This way it’s easier to judge whether the level of ripeness is in line with our expectation or not.
Cooking Sweet Pumpkin Treat
WHAT’S a Halloween Birthday without Sweet Pumpkin Treat? After all, pumpkin is my favorite as well as the symbol of Halloween.To me, Sweet Pumpkin Treat is the reward of life, the delicious, satisfying sweet treat in life.
My favorite Sweet Pumpkin Treat is a kind versatile food. It can be served both warm or chilled depending on the occasion. Serve warm for breakfast alternative or serve chilled as a dessert after lunch or dinner. It can also be cooked as pumpkin stew (kolak) or pumpkin soup.
This is the original recipe of Indonesian Sweet Pumpkin Treat (kolak labu kuning):
- 250 gram pumpkin meat, cut in cubes
- 500 ml water
- 100 gram palm sugar, shaved
- 200 ml thick coconut milk
- Pinch of salt
- 1 pandan leaf, tied into a knot
- Put water in a saucepan, bring to a boil
- Slow cook the pumpkin cubes in the water on low heat until tender but still in the form of cubes.
- Add the coconut milk
- Add the salt
- Simmer uncovered until the liquid thickened
- Remove from heat
- Serve warm or chilled.
The Sweet Pumkin Stew (kolak) will look like this:
How to prepare the coconut milk:
To make traditional fresh coconut milk, put 2 cups of freshly grated ripe coconut into a bowl and add 2 cups of lukewarm water. Squeeze and knead the coconut thoroughly for 1 minute, then strain through cheesecloth into a bowl to obtain thick coconut milk.
Repeat the process with another 1 cup of water to obtain thin coconut milk. Combine both for the coconut milk. Coconut milk can be frozen; thaw and stir thoroughly before use. The substitute for fresh coconut milk is instant coconut powder. Combine this with warm water as directed on the packet.
My version of Sweet Pumpkin Treats
To cook my version of Sweet Pumpkin Treat, I prefer to use dairy milk instead of coconut milk:
- Cook 200 gram of pumpkin cubes in 500 ml of water until tender but still firm. Then remove the cooked pumpkin from the water and put aside.
- Boil 300 ml milk on medium heat, add 100 gram shaved palm sugar (or brown sugar) and stir occasionally until mix well.
- Put the cooked pumpkin cubes into the milk.
- Add pandan leaf tied into a knot or 1 drop of Vanilla essence as substitue.
- Simmer uncovered for around 10 minutes until the pumpkin cubes are really soft and tender and the liquid is thickened. To make it into soup type, cook longer, stir and mash the pumpkin.
- Remove from heat. Discard the pandan leaf.
Serve in a bowl either warm or chilled
This is my version of Sweet Pumpkin Treat (Kolak)