The monster mash

[Recipe 1] SNEAKY CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN MUFFINS transform into
[Recipe 2] SNEAKY TUNA CASSEROLE with SEVEN HIDDEN VEGIES

……………..
For this week’s recipes you’ll need a mountain of mashed pumpkin (or pumpkin purée for our American friends). I’m a big fan of disguising vegies, and mashed pumpkin absolutely rocks as it’s so easy to sneak into baked goods.
The first recipe is for delicious and slightly kooky Sneaky chocolate pumpkin muffins. These are my take on the weirdest recipe I’ve ever found on the internet – pumpkin chocolate cupcakes with two ingredients: mashed pumpkin and packaged chocolate cake mix. I made them once, and although the concept seemed completely grosse, they were actually ok, and my 4-year old devoured them, completely oblivious to the pumpkin. I prefer not to use packet cake mixes though; so, with a bit of experimenting I’ve devised a way to make chocolate pumpkin muffins using ‘normal’ ingredients. My 4-year old loves these too. I’m all for deception of small children if it helps to get the vegies in; but if you can’t live with the guilt, go ahead and fess up to the pumpkin after they’ve tasted one.
Reserve some of the puréed pumpkin from the muffins (see the orange diamonds for quantities) and you can hide it in a creamy sauce added to a fab Sneaky tuna casserole with seven hidden vegies (eight, if you count the onion). Both my boys love this, and again have no clue there is pumpkin in it. I don’t know what it is about pumpkin. The boys positively hoover Maple roasted pumpkin and carrot soup or Creamy pumpkin fettuccine, but turn their noses up at pumpkin if it’s in a recognizable form.
Tuna casserole is the ultimate retro daggy dinner – mine even features curry powder (Keens of course), a back-of-the-cupboard spice I only ever pull out for this dish. It’s a fab weeknight dinner as it takes no time to put together, especially if you’re making it with leftover rice, and leftover steamed vegies. You can use any combination of vegies, as long as they add up to about 2½ cups in total (plus the onion and zucchini). Enjoy.

Chocolate pumpkin muffins

[Recipe 1] Sneaky chocolate pumpkin muffins

Ingredients (makes 18 muffins, plus extra puréed pumpkin for recipe 2):
1¼ kilos (2½ lb) chopped pumpkin – you’ll need one large 1½ kilo (3 lb) pumpkin
125 grams (4 oz/1 stick) butter, melted
1¼ cups firmly packed (250g) brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups (300g) self-raising (self-rising) flour
¾ cup (75g) cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (50g) rolled oats
1¼ cups (310ml) buttermilk
2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips (2 or 3 to poke into each muffin)
Icing sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Steam the pumpkin pieces until soft. Purée until completely smooth, with a stick blender or food processor. You’ll need 3 cups (800g/28 oz) of puréed pumpkin for these two recipes. Allow to cool completely, in the fridge.
Reserve half of the puréed pumpkin, 1½ cups (400g/14 oz), for the Sneaky tuna casserole with seven hidden vegies.
Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing well before adding the next. Fold in 1½ cups puréed pumpkin until well incorporated. Don’t worry if it looks a bit curdled.
In a separate bowl, sift the flour and cocoa powder together. Stir through the salt and oats. Fold this into the wet ingredients, a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Stir lightly, until the mixture is just combined. Don’t over mix! Streaks are fine.
Divide mixture among 18 lined muffin pans. Push 2 or 3 chocolate chips into the top of each muffin.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of a muffin. Allow to cool in tray for ten minutes, then turn onto racks to cool completely. Dust each with icing sugar if desired.

  • As a rough guide, 1½ kilos (3 lb) pumpkin when peeled, de-seeded and chopped yields approximately 1¼ kilos (2½ lb) pumpkin pieces which will give you approximately 3½–4 cups (950g/2 lb) of mashed/puréed pumpkin, depending on the variety.
  • Pumpkin purée can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
  • 
I use a large bamboo steamer over a wok to steam my pumpkin. If you don’t have one, you may need to steam your pumpkin in two batches.

Tuna casserole with rice base

[Recipe 2] Sneaky tuna casserole with seven hidden vegies

Ingredients (serves 4–6):
1 x 425g (14 oz) can tuna in olive oil
1 medium zucchini, chopped into 5mm (¼-inch) pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped into 5mm (¼-inch) pieces, steamed
½ cup corn kernels, steamed
½ cup broccoli florets, steamed
½ cup cauliflower florets, steamed
½ cup peas, steamed
1 tablespoon (15g/½ oz) butter
2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
1¼ cups (310ml) milk
♦ 1½ cups (400g/14 oz) reserved puréed pumpkin, cooled
3 cups cooked medium-grain white or basmati rice (you’ll need 1¼ cups dry rice)
1 teaspoon mild curry powder
1 cup (100g) grated extra tasty cheese
½ cup dry breadcrumbs
Extra virgin olive oil (or melted butter) for drizzling

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Drain oil from tuna and reserve.
Lightly oil a large casserole dish with some of the reserved tuna oil, and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved tuna oil in a small frying pan. Cook the zucchini and onion for about 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and transparent. Transfer to a large bowl, and stir in the steamed vegetables and drained tuna.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add flour, and cook, stirring for 1 minute until smooth. Remove from heat. Gradually add the milk, stirring continuously. Return to the heat and stir for about 3–4 minutes until thickened.
Stir through the reserved puréed pumpkin.
Transfer pumpkin sauce to the vegetable/tuna mixture and stir until well-combined.
Place rice in a large bowl and add curry powder. Mix thoroughly and place into the prepared casserole dish. Pour over tuna and vegetable mixture.
Mix cheese and breadcrumbs together and scatter on top. Drizzle with oil or melted butter.
Bake for 25–30 minutes, until golden and bubbling. You can pop it under the griller for a few minutes if you like an extra-toasty top.

  • The broccoli and cauliflower should be cut into tiny florets.
  • For a change, replace the cooked rice with 3 cups leftover cooked macaroni with a little olive oil stirred through.
  • The tuna casserole can be completely prepared up to a day ahead, and baked when required. Sprinkle the cheese and breadcrumbs on top just prior to baking. Leftovers are fab to take to work.

4 thoughts on “The monster mash

  1. Pumpkin is a somewhat unusual vegetable where I live. so, i would love to make the pumpkin recipe to impress my luncheon guests. nothing is more exciting than an unusual ingredient!

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