Spiced Pumpkin Pecan Butter
Words & Photography by Mehrunnisa Yusuf
I am unfamiliar with the tradition of Thanksgiving, as I have not celebrated it. However, its theme of giving thanks for the blessings of the harvest is one that resonates across cultures. In Pakistan (which is where I grew up), the festival of Basant shares roots with Thanksgiving, as it too celebrates seasons and their bounty. Basant marks the beginning of spring. In the flatlands of the agricultural Punjab, the horizon is marked with fields of mustard flowers. Friends and family come together to fly kites in the narrow streets of the old walled city in Lahore. There is music, merriment and of course food. The traditional menu celebrates the crop of the season. Sarsoon ka saag is a vegetarian dish made with mustard and spinach leaves cooked in a delicately spiced clarified butter and thickened with wholemeal flour. It is eaten with makai ki roti; a thick unleavened flatbread of crumbly constitution made of maize flour and brushed with plenty of ghee.
But to return to Thanksgiving. Last year, I purchased a can of Libby’s pumpkin puree with the intention to make pie. However, Thanksgiving came and went and the can of Libby’s sat forlornly in my kitchen cupboard. Until it found itself transformed into this Spiced Pumpkin Pecan Butter. It brings together some of my favourite American ingredients that are traditionally associated with Thanksgiving. In fact it is much like the filing for a pumpkin pie but with a tamed sweetness. It is a play of texture and flavours – grainy and rich from the pecans, bright with orange and finished with the smoothness of pumpkin and cinnamon.
It is versatile too.
I love it slathered on sourdough with a crown of ricotta, or to sandwich freshly baked oatmeal cookies. It has found itself in parfaits, alternating with layers of crème fraiche, topped with a rough and ready crumble of chopped pecans and crushed biscuits. But mostly, I confess to spooning it straight from the jar.
200g pecan nuts
200g pumpkin puree (Libby’s or home-made)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
The zest and juice of an orange
75 grams soft brown sugar
Start by toasting the pecan nuts. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Spread the pecan nuts onto a rimmed baking sheet and toast until fragrant. This should take around 12 – 15 minutes. Do keep an eye on them at the halfway mark, giving the tray a little shake. They are ready when they smell fragrant. Set aside to cool briefly.
Place the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Allow the mixture to cook, stirring often until the juice evaporates. It should thicken and come together to a spreadable consistency.
Process the pecan nuts in a food processor using the s-blade attachment. At first they will break down and resemble nut flour. Scrape the sides of the food processor and continue to whizz them until they form a smooth nut butter. This will take up to five minutes in a regular food processor. Fortunately pecan nuts are very oily and therefore lend themselves well to nut butter making. When the pecan nut butter is ready fold this into the spiced pumpkin puree.
Spoon it into a jar and store in the fridge. It will keep for a month at the most but I suspect it will be finished much quicker than that.