Those spiced sweet potato cupcakes that I mentioned on Friday did indeed get rid of my October pumpkin-baking itch, but they also opened up a whole new little obsession: roasted pumpkin seeds. I’d never tried roasting pumpkin seeds before, mostly because I never have pumpkin seeds to roast. In fact, I bought pumpkin seeds for the first time a couple of weeks ago, on a whim. I read somewhere that pumpkin seeds are appetite suppressors (but don’t take my word for it – I can’t remember where I read it), so I thought it might be a good idea to keep a packet in my desk for when I get peckish mid-afternoon but didn’t bring a snack. A flawless plan but for the teeny tiny minor detail that I discovered that I don’t really like raw pumpkin seeds. To me, they’re bland and a little bit chewy and not particularly enjoyable to eat. Oh. Bummer.
So what do you do with a pack of pumpkin seeds that is taking up cupboard space? You add spices and a little bit of sugar and roast them. Obviously. After my first successful attempt last week, I decided that roasted pumpkin seeds were the way forward, and started to think of other flavours to try out. I remembered that the special ingredient for this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge (which is being hosted by Nat at HungryHinny) is “pumpkin.” Now, pumpkins and other squashes aren’t in season here anymore, but pumpkin seeds also count… So what about roasting pumpkin seeds with some cocoa powder? (Which I realise may actually be the most basic and straightforward way to combine pumpkin and chocolate.)
I decided to take a leaf from the Aztec flavour bible and add cinnamon and chilli powder to the cocoa powder. I was already familiar with the marvellous combination of chocolate, cinnamon and chilli, and adding the flavours to pumpkin seeds turned out to be a fabulous idea, even if they do look as if they’d just been dug out of the earth (thanks cocoa powder!). I particularly love the gentle, but satisfying, crunch of the seeds followed by the aftertaste of warmth from the chilli powder. Now I keep a little tupperware box of roasted pumpkin seeds in my desk and they do the trick nicely if I get the mid-afternoon munchies. The chilli is especially handy on a cold day. Oh and they take about 3 minutes to prepare (plus roasting time), so it’s an easy snack to throw together. So easy and straightforward in fact, that I almost feel like I’m cheating by sending this in as my entry to We Should Cocoa – it’s hardly even a recipe!
Aztec roasted pumpkin seeds
Makes about 100g
Based on Serious Eats
This recipe would work with fresh pumpkin seeds, too – don’t worry too much about cleaning them perfectly as the stringy pumpkin bits will just add flavour (although try to get rid of any big stringy bits as this will make it easier to mix). You can adjust the amount of chilli powder depending on how much you enjoy spiciness (I’m not a huge spicy person, so the amount specified is just right for me) – I’d suggest tasting the seeds before roasting and adjusting the spices as necessary. The roasted pumpkin seeds will keep for about two weeks in an airtight container.
100g pumpkin seeds
20g unsalted butter
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
¾ tsp cocoa powder (at least 70%)
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
Just under ¼ tsp chilli powder
1. Line a baking tray with tin foil. Preheat the oven to 175°C/fan 155°C.
2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Place the pumpkin seeds in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the melted butter and stir until the seeds are fully coated in melted butter.
3. Add the brown sugar, cocoa powder, ground cinnamon and chilli powder to the seeds and stir until well mixed and coated. Spread in a single layer on the lined baking tray and bake for 30 mins, stirring every 10 mins.
4. Allow to cool on the baking tray (the popping noises are normal) and serve or store in an airtight container.