It started out as Squash Pie, the same recipe that my grandmother made us for every holiday there ever was, and even, sometimes on Sundays. For us, growing up in the Baptist Church in rural Nova Scotia, lunch on Sunday was pie, maybe every kid's dream. It could be cooked the day before and wouldn't break the sabbath.
Nannie was a good cook and most all her pies were memorable. There was the Banana Cream with luscious bananas buried in silky folds of vanilla custard. There was tart apple with the bite of nutmeg and the crunch of a sugared top crust. There was dark oozing blueberry that almost made up for the whole days we spent in the field being tortured by flies, staring at the blueberries so long that they burned images onto our retinas so that we could almost keep picking when we closed our eyes that night. Except we didn't want to, by then.
There were rhubarb pies with an almost painful sour edge that caused your mouth to water furiously, and rhubarb with its sourness moderated by raspberry, sweet and smooth and suave in the mouth. There was mince pie with vanilla ice cream, hot spices nudging up against velvety ice cream melting between the teeth and tongue and exploding in a hot-cold tsunami.
But best of all, perhaps, was the smoothly spiced squash pie. It wasn't only the pure ochre colour that I loved before I even learned its name, or the fact that it looked so liquid when it was poured into the crust that I doubted each time that it could possibly solidify and it seemed like magic when it did. Or that I wondered how a plain sturdy vegetable like squash could be turned into something more like food for a princess' table.
Or that the spices rose to the top in a little rebellion of sienna, as the pie baked.
It was the scent of cinnamon and cloves and ginger, which must surely have still been exotic to a child who knew nothing of kitchen alchemy.
It surely was the incomparable taste. It rushes into the mouth like a dream and leaves just a little shimmer as it passes, making eating more about the desire to recapture that flavour than about getting the belly full.
It' s a bit dangerous that way. You don't want to stop tasting. I don't make it as often as I'd like because of that but when I do, oh!
And I'll tell you frankly that this blows North American pumpkin pie out of the water. Japanese kabocha is perfect for it, being very similar to the Buttercup squash I usually choose to make it with.
I know you can make gluten-free crusts that are acceptable, but with this pudding I think it better to let the filling be the star. It passes the test for gluten-eating folks too. And my aunt who hates soy, has eaten it with gusto, more than once.
Try it. Even, if you insist, put it into a crust.
Silky Squash Pudding
2 cups cooked squash
pinch of salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
pinch of cloves
1 and 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 and 1/2 cups Silk soy coffee cream
or 1 cup Silk cream and 1/2 cup soy milk
1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine, original flavour, melted
You might want to do this step ahead, so it has time to cool:
Prepare a medium-sized squash (enough to yield 2 cups, cooked) or Japanese pumpkin by cutting it in half and scooping out the seeds and discarding them. Invert the squash so the cut side is down on a baking sheet or pizza pan and jab a few times with a fork to make some small holes for the steam to escape.
Bake in a 425º F/ 218º C oven until a knife goes easily through the skin and it seems soft, 30-45 minutes, usually, depending on squash hardness and size. Take the squash out of the oven and let it cool enough to scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Don't sccrape off the caramelized bits; they give the flavour.
Put the squash, sugar, soy cream, spices, eggs and margarine into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. You can alternatively mash the squash with a fork and then beat all the other ingredients in by hand if you have to, but the blender is a lot easier.
Pour the mixture into a glass pie plate or Pyrex casserole dish. It should not be deeper than about 2-3 inches due to the amount of browning that will occur.
Put on a pizza pan or other baking sheet (only if on the pie plate) and bake at 425º F/ 218º C until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Close your eyes and enjoy!