Step 1 – Making the pumpkin puree
I usually make this pie on Hallowe'en using the scooped-out centre of the pumpkin I carve for the children, or you could buy a pumpkin for the purpose (or a couple of butternut squashes), in which case you'll have to peel it (the skin is quite thin), cut it in half and discard the seeds and the stringy material around them, then cut the flesh into chunks. Either way, boil what you've got with just a little water until the flesh is soft. Line a colander with a clean tea towel and let the cooked flesh stand until all the excess water is drained off. Then puree the pumpkin, either by rubbing through a sieve, with a food processor or hand blender, a ricer, or with a potato masher. I find that one Hallowe'en pumpkin usually yields about 2lbs of puree, so you could make two pies, or freeze some to make another pie later in the year. 2 butternut squashes makes 1lb of puree, just enough for a pie.
Step 2 – Making the pastry case
You can use your own shortcrust pastry recipe, or ready-made pastry or a ready-made pie shell. But this is my favourite shortcrust pastry recipe for when I'm really pushing the boat out. It makes the best ever mince pies, for example. Sift 7oz plain flour into a bowl with ½ teaspoon of salt. Make a well in the centre. Add 4oz diced softened (really soft) unsalted butter, 2oz caster sugar, 4 egg yolks and ½ teaspoon vanilla essence into the well and then rub in. In fact I usually heave it all into my food processor with a dough hook attachment and let it run until it looks like pastry. Bring it together into a ball and knead it lightly, then wrap it in clingfilm and chill it for at least half an hour before using.
Roll it out, but it's a b****r to handle, so if it falls apart when you try to line your 9-10” pie tin with it, don't panic. Just smoosh it back together with your knuckles, and feel free to cover any holes with leftover bits of pastry and work them in until you can't hardly see the join no more. Stab the bottom with a fork a few times, put a sheet of tin foil inside and fill with blind baking beans, dried chickpeas, or whatever you can find to weigh it down evenly. Then bake at 200°C, 400°F, gas 6 until golden brown and set aside to cool.
Step 3 – Making the filling
Turn down the oven to something lower, because the pastry is now cooked, and all you want to do is gently set the pie filling. Beat 1/2 a pint of cream lightly with 3 eggs, the grated peel of a lemon, and 5oz caster sugar. Stir this mixture into the pumpkin puree and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/2 a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 1/2 a teaspoon of ground cloves. Combine thoroughly, then spoon the filling into the pie shell and bake until set and brown.
Serve the pie cold with something creamy. It looks nice with whipped cream piped on top, but it tastes even nicer with a generous dollop of extra thick double cream on the side. Or I like it with something a little bit tart, like crème fraiche or Greek yogurt. Enjoy.