Gaia’s Feasts: Spicy Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie is a traditional Thanksgiving treat for many Americans, and here is Julia Ponsonby’s fresh, flavourful take on the quintessential autumn dessert.

This gorgeous spicy pumpkin pie makes a tasty autumnal treat.
This gorgeous spicy pumpkin pie makes a tasty autumnal treat. (Image (c) Joanna Brown)

The squash we think of as a ‘pumpkin’ is often splendid to behold, and wonderful to make jack-o’-lanterns out of, but its pale flesh is somewhat bland, fibrous and full of water. It needs to be mixed with denser varieties of squash and spiced to improve the flavour. If you are not attempting to use up jack-o’-lantern pumpkin, then try to get hold of sugar pumpkins, which are intended for cooking and, again, can be mixed with other squash.

Thanksgiving commemorates the first meal the Pilgrim Fathers had with the Native American people back in the 1700s – a fleeting moment of hope, when they shared each other’s food, before rivalry set in and turned the relationship sour. For those who celebrate the festival at Schumacher College, it remains a time of genuine thankfulness and sharing, rather than gift-giving – and this includes a great appreciation of the learning that has come from the first people of North America themselves, some of whom now teach at Schumacher College.

This recipe is from Gaia’s Feasts by Julia Ponsonby.

For 10+                                                                                                           For 45-50
(1 x 28cm / 11″ loose-bottomed tart tin)                                                   (4 x 28cm / 11″ tins)

750g chunked squash (1lb 10oz / 3 cups mashed)                                  3kg (6½lb)

175g (6oz / 1 cup) golden granulated sugar                                              700g (1½lb / 4 cups)

4 eggs                                                                                                                16

500ml (18fl oz / 2¼ cups) cream (single, double or whipping)          2l (3½ pints /                                                                                                                                       4¾ US pints)

1 tsp ground cardamom                                                                                1 rounded tbsp

1 tsp ground cinnamon                                                                                 1 rounded tbsp

¾ tsp ground ginger                                                                                     3 tsp

1 tiny pinch ground cloves                                                                          ¼ tsp

½ tsp salt                                                                                                        2 tsp

approx. 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds and/or                                                      4 tbsp                             ½ an apple (optional – to decorate)                                                         and/or 2 apples



Use a standard short-crust pastry recipe and add:

2 tsp ground cardamom and ½ tsp mixed spice                                    3 tbsp and 2 tsp


  1. Prepare your pastry and line your tart tins in the normal way, and leave to chill in the fridge.
  2. Select a good flavoursome squash such as butternut or Crown Prince. Peel, de-seed and cut into chunks that weigh in at the specified amount. Steam these in a bamboo or metal steamer suspended above a saucepan of boiling water on the hob, the steam enclosed with a lid. When soft, remove from heat.
  3. Blend the squash in your food processor, or mash well with a fork (the former will give a smoother finish, which is preferable though not essential). Add some of the eggs if the squash on its own is too stiff to process easily in a blender.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F / Gas Mark 4).
  5. Mix the pulped squash, sugar, egg, salt and spices together in a bowl. Stir in the cream and mix until evenly blended.
  6. Pour the pumpkin pie mixture into the pastry cases. Sprinkle the tops with pumpkin seeds around the edge (and a few slices of apple, painted thinly with oil, if you like) and gently move to the oven. Try to ensure that for the first 15 minutes you have selected a position where the base will receive strong underneath heat and therefore cook well. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the filling is set and the pastry is golden-brown.
  7. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

Other Gaia’s Feasts recipes available on this blog:


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