Pumpkin Spice - two words that now quintessentially bring up the amber and golden warm hues of Autumn, if not another name for the season itself, with pumpkin-flavoured drinks, snacks and even home decor items - candles, potpourri, fragrance diffusers, you name it - sprouting at every street corner. I cannot help but wonder whether the love for this spice has grown to be just another trend. Even shop decors are made to evoke the alluring aroma. Is there such a thing as pumpkin spice overdose? This sweet mellow warm spice seem to be pushing season boundaries by emerging earlier every year. But would we reach a point where pumpkin spice would merely be just another plain old flavour like vanilla?
As a kid, I have never known pumpkin spice. Being born and raised in a tropical island with only one and a half seasons - Summer and summery-Winter - this spice was uncommon and does not evoke any childhood memories related to pumpkin. As a matter of fact, the orange-skinned pumpkin is an uncommon vegetable in Mauritius. We only have the thick dark-green-skinned variety that is mostly used in savoury dishes, the flesh being a lot less sweet. So, pumpkin-spiced-anything is a relatively new thing for me, and me being a foodie, I feel drawn by curiosity more than anything else. With a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and allspice, I would tend to use this spice more in savoury dishes like biryanis or kalias although I do think it will work well in a halwa recipe.
That all said, imagine my delightful intrigue when I had the chance to have a taste of the So Delicious Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk that was delivered to my door, along with two other flavours - Mint Chocolate and Nog.
So Delicious produces a range of products that are mostly coconut-milk-based. Since my local store only carries a few of their icecreams that contain carrageenan, I do not tend to buy this brand as often. But because of people's concerns over this red seaweed, the company is doing a lot of effort to replace carrageenan from their products. They already have a range of coconut milks that are carrageenan-free and I can't wait for all the rest to become carrageenan-free too; I'll be able to stock up on great icecreams when I make the trip to the health store once a month!
Back to our flavoured milks, the Mint Chocolate and Nog are still awaiting the taste test, since all the drinks in this range can conveniently be stored unrefrigerated on the shelf. But as for the Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk, I have taken my time and tried it in a few ways - as a drink on its own (hot, room temperature and cold), mixed with other ingredients (tea, coffee, hot chocolate and smoothies) and in recipes.
The first thing I noticed - when I had it at room temperature right after I opened the box - is that it is a tad bit too sweet for my taste. But, mind you, this is just me because Boyfriendlovlie did not find it too sweet (he takes two sugars in his tea and I take none in mine!). In general, I don't like sweet milk unless it is really cold. So, for that reason, I found that it tasted a lot better once very chilled. Indeed, I much preferred it cold. The second thing to note is the consistency which is quite thick. On its own, I can hardly manage to drink more than 1/4 cup. This isn't a bad thing though since you can dilute it with plain coconut milk/water, another non-dairy milk or even ice cubes if you are having it cold.
In other beverages, I much preferred it in coffee and hot chocolate than in tea, one of the reasons being, like I said, I don't take sugar in my tea but I do take a little in coffee and hot chocolate. In coffee and hot chocolate, this pumpkin spice drink does what it's suppose to do - make you feel all mellow and fuzzy inside, just wanting to curl up on the sofa with a good book or some crochet project (in my case).
The smoothie test turned out great with ingredients like raw butternut squash, banana, apple/ripe pear, a pinch of cocoa powder and a dash of cinnamon.
To use it in a food recipe, I tweaked my old halwa recipe, which is my favourite kind of halwa, and made a Butternut/Spaghetti Squash & Carrot Halwa; I didn't have enough carrots to make a 100% carrot one but I did have half a butternut squash and about a cup of cooked spaghetti squash leftover in the fridge for a good week now. If you don't have the squashes, go ahead and just replace them with carrots in the same amount as in the recipe.
After making this halwa, I must say that this So Delicious Pumpkin Spice Coconut Drink has won me over. I admit to having been conquered by the Spice! Just this once, this year: the Spice is with me!
Butternut/Spaghetti Squash & Carrot Halwa (a sweet dessert recipe)
Ingredients (serves 2)
1/4 cup soft brown sugar
1 1/2 cup butternut squash, cubed (or half of a medium squash)
1 cup cooked spaghetti squash
1 medium carrot, grated
5 - 6 cardamon pods
2 - 3 Brazil nuts, ground (or about 1/4 cup ground almond. I am only using Brazil nuts because I am less allergic to them.)
2/3 cup So Delicious Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Raisins and nuts for garnish
- In a thick bottom or non-stick pan, add sugar along with 2 tablespoons of water. Do not stir with a spoon but just let it heat and melt until sugar turns into a thick caramel syrup and starts to slightly bubble. You may grab the pan itself and tilt it to gently swirl the sugar around, helping it to melt.
- At this point, add all the vegetables along with the cardamon pods. Stir and mix well with the syrup. Then cover and let cook on low-medium heat for about 15 minutes. Add a couple tablespoons of water if it is drying up too fast.
- After 15 minutes, the butternut squash would have soften enough. Mash them and let cook for another 5 minutes.
- Next add the coconut milk and add the ground Brazil nuts (or almond). Cover and simmer for another 15 minutes. Check on it occasionally and give it a stir. Increase the heat and allow the liquid to reduce. The halwa should look like a thick paste.
- Lastly, add the coconut oil. Stir and mix well and turn off heat.
Halwa can be eaten warm or cold in bowls. They can be placed in a square dish, refrigerated then cut into squares. Garnish with raisins and nuts when serving.
Enjoy a little halwa treat this Fall and may the Spice be with you! Have you tried any of the So Delicious seasonal range yet? Share your thoughts and stay tuned for a review of the other two flavours: Mint Chocolate and Nog.
"Through the ages, the Prophecy told us that the Spice will Rise!"