Saturday, 2 January 2016

Kar Assaly (Egyptian pumpkin pie)

I've been woefully neglectful of my blog of late (but not of cooking and if anyone is interested in following my cooking experimentation I can be found here on Instagram). I've a ton of recipes that I've been meaning to upload, but I have been without a laptop, and unable to upload using my mobile phone, so they have had to languish a bit. Hopefully I'll be a bit more regular in my updates now! 

It’s winter and the grocery stores are filled with pumpkins and squashes, I normally prefer my pumpkins savoury, but had been intended on experimenting with sweet. I’d recently acquired a copy of an Egyptian cookbook, and one dessert recipe in particular caught my eye, Kar Assaly. It’s pie-like dessert with a sweet pumpkin base smothered in a creamy béchamel sauce and baked in the oven. The original recipe is quite heavy, and has a lot of added sugar, now… while I do like my desserts sweet, I decided to try and use as little sugar as possible, so to the base I added some grated sweet potato and carrot to add natural sweetness. I also went down the non-dairy route, mainly because my local supermarket was selling off some hazelnut milk, and I thought that would make a lovely addition to the béchamel. If you prefer to go with the original, then add sugar to taste to the pumpkin mixture, and substitute regular milk for the hazelnut milk.

1 small sweet potato (grated)
2 carrots (grated)
500g pumpkin (ideally butternut squash)
6 cardamom pods
1 stick of cinnamon
2 tablespoons orange blossom water
100g desiccated coconut
50g chopped nuts
Squeeze of honey (optional)
Handful of raisins (optional)

For the béchamel
50g margarine or ghee
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk (adjust according to thickness)

1. Add the grated carrots and sweet potato to a pan with the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick and enough water to cover and simmer until they start to disintegrate. While these are cooking, boil the pumpkin until tender and drain (if you want to go for the original recipe, boil the pumpkin in sugar water)
2. Remove the cardamom pods and cinnamon from the carrot and sweet potato mixture, mash the pumpkin and add to the pan. Stir in the coconut and orange blossom water. The pumpkin filling should have the consistency of thick mashed potato, if it’s too runny add more coconut, if too thick then add a little of the pumpkin cooking liquid
3. Spread a layer of the pumpkin in the bottom of an oven proof dish. Top with some of the nuts and raisins and then add the remainder and the rest of the nuts
4. To make the béchamel sauce, fry the flour in margarine or ghee until it loses the raw smell
5. Whisk in the milk, adding a small amount at first
Cook for around 10 minutes until thickened, if the sauce is too thick then just add more milk until it’s the desired thickness
6. Pour over the top of the pumpkin mixture (I sprinkled some flaked almonds on for a bit of extra texture) and bake until golden brown and bubbling (around 20-30 minutes) eat hot, warm or room temperature!

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