Tess’s Pumpkin Pie recipe

This is a photo of me picking wild raspberries from the biggest raspberry bush I have ever laid eyes on with my closest friend, Josie, and my partner, John.

Tess is an amazing baker, she surprised us with lovely baked goodies for staff and volunteers when she came to pick up her harvest boxes from our Maxwell Centre community garden. We had the chance to meet her properly at our harvest tour in the garden and she shared this lovely and very seasonal recipe with us “My mom and I worked together on this particular recipe, so it is quite special. I hope plenty of other people can enjoy it too.”


I am originally from Redwood City, California; a city about 45 minutes south of San Francisco. People are always shocked that someone would leave sunny California for such cold, rainy weather here in the British Isles. I’ve never much minded the rain, though, and I certainly prefer cold weather to hot. Ultimately, however, I didn’t leave sunny skies just for the rain: I was unhappy with my life and felt stuck due to a variety of factors. So in an effort to drastically change things, I applied to universities in Scotland because I had never been here before. I was accepted to the University of Aberdeen and then ten months (three of which I spent backpacking) later I moved to Scotland. I arrived in Aberdeen, where I didn’t know a single person, on my 25th birthday and ready to start my new life. I haven’t looked back since.

This is me hugging a redwood tree I found while taking a walk in Balgay Park, here in Dundee.

I loved my degree – English and Philosophy – and I had always dreamed of studying English at a higher level. My heart and soul have always lain with literature and language so I enjoyed it wholeheartedly, but seeing as philosophical discussions about black feminist literature is quite a niche passion…I chose to pursue my more profitable and practical passion of baking. I got a job as a baker here in Dundee, my partner also found a job as a secondary school music teacher in the city, so we moved here. It also doesn’t hurt that my closest friend, met by chance in my first year anthropology course at uni, also lives in Dundee.


We asked Tess about what she loves about Dundee; There is a lot packed into such a small city. After living in Aberdeen for four years, I found myself tired of the same old city with very little to do. Dundee, by contrast, is full of so much life, art, food, and character. Dundonians are also much friendlier than Aberdonians.

Wild strawberries we found!

A very good friend of mine told me about the veg boxes from your garden, so I decided to look into it. Seeing the photos on Facebook really sold me on going to collect one. Also, I am very new to gardening so being able to reap the harvest of such talented gardeners was a treat!

We are really happy that Tess has offered to help with cooking or baking events. Even gardening every now and again! She is also going to be one of our Grow Dundee blog editors and guest bloggers. 😀


I love baking, especially for other people. Nothing says thank you or warms people’s hearts more than a freshly baked treat. So knowing the amount of effort that was going into the vegetables you were giving me for free, I felt that the least I could do was bake you something!

I have grown carrots, celery, peas, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, rocket, fennel, and many more! My favourite has been tomatoes; they are surprisingly resilient and they produce a lot of fruit! My current pride and joy, though, is my lovely apple tree I grew from a seed. She’s about 1.5 feet tall at the moment.

When asked about what else she would like to learn about Tess said: Quite frankly, I would love to learn anything and everything about gardening and cooking! You can never know everything there is to know about one thing, there is always room to grow and learn. I know very little about gardening and up until fairly recently, I only managed to kill every plant I ever touched… so I know I have a fair bit to go with my knowledge in that regard.


Pumpkin is probably one small piece of home that is easy for me to cling to, being as far away as I am. I loved going to the pumpkin patch as a kid and choosing the one I’d carve. I look forward to Autumn rolling around when pumpkin pies, cakes, breads, and even ice cream are readily available. It’s a piece of home, my childhood, and just deliciousness.

My mom and I have always been very close and have always enjoyed each other’s company. One of the ways we enjoy spending time together is cooking and baking, so leading up to my leaving the United States we decided to master a pumpkin pie recipe. One of the things we didn’t like about most of the recipes we found over the years was that they all used sweetened and condensed milk – lending a sickly sweetness to the pie that neither of us like. So we settled on double cream instead, making for a much nicer and subtler custard filling. 

My mom probably loves pumpkin pie just as much as I do so being able to work on this recipe together was a great way to send me off with something I love. More than that, she sent me away with the means to recreate my favourite piece of home from the one person who will always feel like home, no matter what.


Shortcrust ingredients: 

75g butter, softened 

150g plain flour, sifted 

¾ tsp salt 

4-6 tbsp ice cold vodka (ice cold water also works fine) 

1 egg white, beaten 

Filling ingredients: 

4 eggs + 1 yolk, lightly beaten 

½ cup (100g) dark brown sugar, packed 

¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar 

1 tsp salt 

425g (15 oz) pureed pumpkin 

1 tsp cinnamon 

½ tsp nutmeg 

¼ tsp ginger 

¼ tsp cloves 

½ cup (120ml) double cream 

¼ cup (60ml) milk 

Shortcrust – method: 

Preheat oven to 170C.  

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the vodka with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs. 

Next, sprinkle a tablespoon of cold vodka over the mixture. Very gently scrape your hands flush along the sides and bottom of the bowl, then gently toss the mixture until the vodka has been absorbed. Repeat this process one tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together (anywhere from 4-6 tbsp but you may find you need more here and there). 

Once there are no more crumbs roaming freely in the bottom of the bowl, shape your dough into a ball. Turn out onto a floured surface and roll out into a 10 in circle. Place into a 9in tin.  

Crimp edges and brush the crust with the egg white (don’t brush the inside). Line the inside of the pastry with greaseproof paper and fill with rice.  

Place the crust into the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until slightly golden brown. 

Remove rice and greaseproof paper and set the crust aside.  

Filling – method: 

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs and salt until light ribbons form. 

Stir in pumpkin and spices. 

Stirring gently with a whisk, slowly pour the milk and cream into the egg mixture. 

Pour into partially cooked pie crust and bake at 170C/340F for 45 min or until the center does not jiggle when shaken. 

Published by manuelagrows

Community garden mentor at the Maxwell Centre

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