Posts Tagged With: pumpkin

Pumpkin, Ginger and Kaffir Lime Soup

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At this time of year, I’d quite happily live on soup.

I just have time to squeeze this post in before driving to Durham and the sparkling NEVFest (North East Vegan Fest).  The first time that Jane and I have not been to a food festival this year together.

Durham is where all of my family are from and I’m very much looking forward to cooking and doing a talk in the Stadium of Light, the home of Sunderland AFC.  For my sins, I support the red and whites.  It will be quite surreal.  I never imagined talking and cooking vegan in a football stadium but learnt recently that at least one professional football team in the UK has gone totally vegan, so maybe its not so strange.  Lentil pies at half time with some miso broth.  Yum!  The future…..

You may think that the life of a food blogger is all hanging out by the fire, sipping a cheeky Oolong whilst leafing through a mountain of cookbooks, but it ain’t.  We all have busy lives these days and posts are normally squeezed in somewhere or other.  Janice (over at the sparkling Nourished by Nature blog) and I were just chatting about this the other day.  Blogging is a labour of love for many of us and we are just crazy about food and sharing our foodie inspiration.

This is not helped by the fact that I am a complete luddite.  I still do not have a phone (hence the lack of Instagram action) and only have a bulky laptop.  I’m trying.  But in reality, I am a techno caveman at heart.  I like paper and pens, books and postcards.  The occasional stapler.  I do love sharing things online though and hope you enjoy these little recipes.  I’ve met such a wonderful global community via the BHK.  The internet is an AMAZING place!

I’ve been cooking with loads of squashes and pumpkins (actually pumpkins are members of the squash family) at Trigonos and at home.  Our local organic veg farm Tyddyn Teg has been growing a wonderful variety of squashes; spaghetti, the mighty crown prince and even little acorns.  Some are even larger than my head.

Squashes are perfect winter fuel, high in energy with loads (I mean loads!) of antioxidants and beta carotene.  Just what our bodies crave and thrive on come the wintery months.  In darker times, eat brighter foods!  Squashes also store well, but I doubt they’ll be lasting very long around these parts.

COCO!

When I say coconut cream I mean the cream in a tin of coconut milk.  If  your coconut milk contains emulsifiers and the like, it will not separate and therefore you cannot extract the cream.

To extract coconut cream from a tin of coco milk, simply place it in a fridge for a couple of hours, turn it over, open the tin and pour out the coco water.  You are left with at least half a tin of very creamy coconut cream to play with.  Try whipping it up with some lime zest and juice or just add a little sweetener to make delicious, vegan whipped cream.   Use the leftover coco water in smoothies, on your morning cereal, add it to stews or even cook rice with it (one of our personal favs).

You may also like to use the hard, block variety of coconut cream.  Just follow the pack instructions.  Don’t worry about adding too much coconut cream to this soup, it will only make it even richer and more delicious.

Pumpkin Seeds before roasting in the oven....

Pumpkin Seeds before roasting in the oven….

ROAST YOUR OWN PUMPKIN SEEDS

I never waste my squash/ pumpkin seeds.  I always pick them out and quickly roast them in the oven with a drop of oil and salt.  Delicious!  Just place them on a baking tray and bake them for 8 minutes on 180oC.  Stir them and keep baking them for 5 minute intervals until they are dark golden and crisp.  Its so easy and each type of squash seed will taste slightly different and have their own texture.  Pumpkin seeds are nice and light, very crispy when roasted.  Perfect as a soup-topper.

...and after. YUM!

…and after. YUM!

I love adding ginger to soups and a little kaffir gives a vibrant fragrance to the rich, sweetness of the pumpkin.  You can use any type of squash here and you may like to half the recipe or freeze the leftovers.  I think cooking in big batches makes loads of sense.  We’ve also been experimenting with pumpkin smoothies and they are a real treat.  A pumpkin chai latte smoothie is a thing of beauty and I’ll hopefully get around to sharing it soon.

Enjoy and stay cosy,

LeeX

Recipe Notes

As I mentioned, experiment with different squashes, they are all wonderful and have properties of their own.  Some sweet and firm, some lighter and slightly blander, others intense and wonderful roasted.  There are so many varieties and this is still (just about) the time to enjoy them in season here in the UK.

You’ll need an extra big pan for this one.  As I said, half the recipe for something a little more manageable.

Pumpkins are ace!

Pumpkins are ace!

The Bits – Makes 10 large bowls
1 medium pumpkin – 1.75kg (peeled and cut into rough 1 inch chunks)
1.5 litres water/ light vegetable stock
7 kaffir lime leaves
50-60g fresh ginger (peeled and finely diced)
2 onions (finely diced)
200g coconut cream

2 teas salt

Do It

In a very large pan, add 2 teas cooking oil, warm and then add your onions and salt.  Fry on medium heat for five minutes until softened and then add your pumpkin, ginger and lime leaves.  Stir well and cook for another two minutes, then add the water/ stock.  Bring to a boil and pop a lid on, lowering the heat.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the coconut cream, stirring well and simmer for another 10 minutes, adding more hot water if needed.  The pumpkin should now be nice and soft.

Pick out as many lime leaves as you can.  Taste the soup, checking for seasoning.  Now give the soup a blend until creamy and smooth with a stick blender or in a food processor.

Serve

In warm bowls, scattered with freshly chopped chillies and some roasted pumpkin seeds.  A little fresh coriander would also be a delight!

The flavours here do lend themselves to sesame and I have been serving this at Trigonos with sesame bread rolls.

Foodie Fact

Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which means they are cousins to melons, watermelons, cucumbers, squashes.

Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of anti-oxidants and minerals, they even contain a good amount of iron and of course, plenty of protein.  Surprisingly China is now the worlds largest pumpkin seed producer.  Who knew!

Categories: gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Recipes, Soups, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The B.H.K Awards – Top 15 Seasonal Superfoods (Winter)

Beat those dark winter nights. Blow away those frosty morning blues. Hah! These foods give your body a super kick and are packed full of a feel good vibes. Spring is getting closer, but these beauties will help you across the dark season finish line.

Everybody seems to love a ‘Top 10’.  So surely a ‘Top 15’ is better?!  I was looking into healthy eating and came across several sites claiming to have the definitive selection of ‘Top 10 Superfoods’. I don’t know who or when the term ‘Superfood’ was created, but I like it. It simply suggests food that is super packed full of goodness.

Superfoods come into their own in the busy modern world, when we don’t always have time to prepare meals. They can be grabbed and munched, giving a nutritious boost.  This is especially important during winter when the sun retreats early and the cold can chill you to the bone. It’s a strenuous time for body and mind.

I’ve compiled my own Winter ‘Top 15’ (better than 10) below. The criteria are simple. Is it tasty? Is it also super healthy? Do we eat it regularly? Is it local(ish) and seasonal? I haven’t added things like spirulina, goji berries, wheatgrass etc, although they are very healthy they don’t have the delicious-ness. They are just not your everyday hero.

Our selection will inevitably change towards summer, expect another instalment.

All of these contenders are packed with goodness and if eaten with other healthy bits and some regular exercise, will keep you shining all winter.

15) Red Wine – Dodgy start you may say.  Well yes and no.  I’ve managed to stem the tide of wine in recent years.  Everything in moderation.  Grapes provide vitamin C, vitamin  B1 and vitamin B6–red grapes also contain powerful phytochemicals (especially  phenolics) that may help decrease risk of cardiovascular disease. These compounds are housed mostly in the skin of the red grapes, which gives red wine its colour. Resveratrol, found in the skins of red fruits has been shown to have anti-oxidant, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory activity.

14) Green tea – Not exactly a local crop, but this brew has a serious ‘feel good’ effect in the mornings.  Green tea contains polyphenols, which may reduce heart disease, cancer and stroke risk. Green tea also supports brain health and memory, likely due a key compound in green tea called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), a flavonoid. EGCG is thought to boost the immune system and prevent tumors. Aim for at least two cups daily.

12)  Whole grains (whole wheat, barley) – Bread and beer, not healthy really, but ever so British.  Two of the myriad of uses for the humble, yet essential whole grain.  Whole grains help stabilize blood sugar and insulin and may protect against heart disease. They include all three parts of a grain kernel: the bran, germ and endosperm. Whole wheat flour, brown rice and barley are all whole grain foods. Look for the words “whole grain” on the label, and the word “whole” immediately before the name of the grain in the list of ingredients.  Contrary to popular perception, the benefits of whole grains go well beyond fiber and fiber’s role in digestive health. Whole grains contain vitamins B and E; the minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc; phytonutrients; that appear to work together in powerful ways.

Panamanian Bean Mix (Good name for a band)

11) Beans –  A staple.  Anybody who knows me, understands my passion for these little beauties.  A fabulous source of vegetarian protein and fibre, two nutrients that help you stay full and satisfied.  Important to feel fully sustained in winter.  The protein and fibre in beans also tempers the rise in blood sugar that occurs after a meal, which can help stabilize mood. The fibre in beans helps keep you regular. Beans are low in fat and a good source of magnesium and potassium, nutrients that work together to lower blood pressure and keep your heart and blood vessels healthy. Added bean bonus: They’re cheap and when growing add vital nitrogen back to the soil.

10) Pumpkin – Orange veggies are all loaded with Vitamin A, vital in the winter when the sun is so shy. We are lucky to have two different varieties growing locally to give us some variety.  Pumpkin is loaded with nutrients that will help your heart, bones, eyes, and skin shining.  Beta-carotene and potassium are the two standouts here: Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that helps rejuvenate skin, protect your vision, and may even reduce risk of arthritis. Potassium is a mineral involved in lowering blood pressure and maintaining healthy bones.  There is nothing sweeter than a well roasted pumpkin?

9) Oats – Are technically whole grains, but get their own section in these parts.  Britain, this windswept little island, has been fuelled on the stuff since early man first landed here.  I don’t think any food better sums up our predicament and history.  The oats in porridge acts as central heating for your body, one bowl in the morning and you’ll be simmering all day.  Eating oats is good for those with high cholesterol.  Whole grain oats are one of the best sources of soluble fibre, which, in addition to lowering cholesterol, helps keep blood sugar levels under control.  No peaks and troughs, just plain sailing.

8) Olive oil – Reminds me of my other home in Spain.  My heart generally resides there, as my body does the rounds.  The freshly pressed oils of Murcia are hard to come by here, but with our uber consumerist ways, good olive oil is easy to find.  One of the best types of fat you can opt for in your diet.  Olive oil helps to protect against heart disease and cancer. Recent research shows that heart-attack survivors on a Mediterranean diet had half the death rates of those on an ordinary low-fat diet.  Nice to know.  Spaniards do eat a lot of fish, which keeps them healthy, but normally drink like one too.  However olive oil is also high in antioxidant activity.  Is there nothing this golden amritar is not capable of?!

7)  Crucifers (broccoli, kale, cabbage) – This family thrives around here.  They are so tasty and versatile.  Trigonos (our organic veg farm) grows the finest red cabbage and kale imaginable.  In fact, all of their vegetables are rather special.  Cruciferous vegetables contain indole alkaloids that may help prevent the big C.  They are high in fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  Foods from the cruciferous and cabbage family (including broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards and turnips) may help bolster memory as you age.  Something I need help with right now!

6) Tomatoes – Grown in a local poly-tunnel.  We are so blessed to be surrounded by die hard green fingers.  These wonderful orbs contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant shown to help stimulate the immune system and protect from certain cancers, especially prostate. Lycopene is more highly concentrated in cooked tomato products including tomato paste, passata or tomato sauce.

5) NUTS (Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, cashews etcetc)Generally, limit yourself to a handful of nuts per day.  But what a handful!  Nuts are so precious.  They are not local, but are one of our favourite treats.  Adding a dose of almonds daily helps the intake of key nutrients, lowering the intake of dietary detractors like trans fats, excessive sodium, sugars and cholesterol. Eating nuts may help protect against heart disease and inflammation, enjoying 11 walnuts daily reduces total cholesterol by up to 4 percent.  Walnuts also look like a brain, so are good for your brain (Ayuvedic wisdom).  They are a rich source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, as well as a compound called ellagic acid that has been shown to reduce artery-forming plaque.  Love NUTS!

4) Leeks – It goes without saying that this gorgeous Allium would crop up.  We are in Wales after all.  Regardless of that fact, leeks are one of my favourite vegetables.  Packed with flavour, vitamins, minerals and flavanoid anti-oxidants.  They are low in calories and contain both soluble and in-soluble fibre.  They contain lots of folic acid, essential in DNA synthesis and cell division.   Vitamin wise the are packed with A (hooray) and C, which not only protects against infections, but also harmful free radicals.  Wear your leeks with pride!  So much tastier than a rose (not to mention a thistle).

3) The Cuppa (Tea) – Another tea?  Why not!  The elixir of the B.H.K.  Without it, we’d be lost and flaccid. The caffeine content in tea is useful for stimulating alertness, mood and motivation, but is also a rich source of the antioxidant called catechins. Studies suggest that catechins protect the artery walls against the damage that causes heart disease and prevents the formation of blood clots. It also does wonders for the spirit on a dark winters day.  Avoid drinking too much milk, try a slice of lemon or drink good quality tea black.  It’s one of those things that will grow on you.

2) Dark Chocolate – The finest of news.  Believe it or not, chocolate is a healthy treat, as long as you choose wisely. Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, antioxidants that have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and boost overall heart health. Choose chocolate that is at least 70 percent cacao or cocoa to optimize the antioxidant power and health benefits. Dark chocolate may even boost your mood. The rich taste and sensuous mouth-feel of a decadent piece of dark chocolate may be to thank (remember the Flae advert Brits).  Just don’t eat a whole bar. Our favourite is Green and Blacks.

1) Beetroot (or beta vulgaris) – King Crimson!  The dark purple avenger!  Anything that comes out of the dark soil this colour, is bound to be packed full of good.  The pigment that gives beets their super-beautiful fuschia depth (betacyanin) is a powerful cancer-fighting agent. Beets’ potential effectiveness against colon cancer, in particular, has been demonstrated in several studies. Beets are also particularly rich in the B vitamin folate (see above) and the mighty vitamin C.  If you’re lucky enough, use the leaves.  They are higher in vitamin A and anitoxidants than the root.  We roast them up, put them in cakes, pickles, pies…..They add amazing hues of purples and pinks to anything they touch (including your chopping board) and generally brighten up any day.  Truly our winter king.

So Beetroot is the winner.  What drama!  I wonder who it will be in the summer (strawberries).

Heart of the 'root

Categories: Ayurveda, Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, Nutrition, photography, Superfoods, Tea, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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