Pumpkin-licious dip

Over the last few years, pumpkin has become a regular component of our family meals. There is so much you can do with it – steam, boil, bake, roast. Each method brings out a different pumpkin characteristic – steaming keeps the water content as well as the nutrients, making it ideal to mash or puree, whereas roasting concentrates the flavours and the nutrients by removing some of the water content and caramelises some of the natural sugars.

Being pretty sweet, it’s great for both savoury and sweet dishes; it works brilliantly with spices too, creating a sweet and spicy base for various Asian dishes.

Generally, pumpkin and squash can be interchanged in recipes, although some varieties do have slightly different flavours and levels of sweetness. Depending on the time of year, supply in the shops may be limited to one type – often butternut squash over here in the UK – unless you can find a local farm that grows a wide variety and manages to store them well throughout the year.

Pumpkins and squash are part of the same family of gourds, and of course are really ‘gourd’ for you!! Despite their sweet flavour, they are pretty low in carbohydrates, contain no fat or cholesterol and are packed full of fibre, vitamin A (it’s back again!!), B vitamins, vitamin C and a little vitamin E. It also contains a pretty good whack of potassium and iron to complete the package. So, alongside sweet potatoes and tomatoes, pumpkin is great for maintaining eye and skin health, as well as fighting off signs of ageing and attacks by carcinogenic substances. Recent research also suggests two phytochemicals contained in pumpkin helps improve diabetes.

There are so many amazing pumpkin recipes – my favourites include my warming dairy free squash soup http://foodiesensitive.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/warming-dairy-free-squash-soup.html, pumpkin scones and pumpkin and spinach curry. Seems like I have a lot of pumpkin posts to come! As yet, I haven’t managed to create a good dairy free pumpkin pie recipe, although I’m sure it’s possible.

One dish I have created is a Moroccan inspired pumpkin dip. Eating dairy free can create some lunchtime challenges; as much as I love it, there are only so many times in a week I can have a hummus and salad wrap for lunch. This dip is a fabulous alternative.

The sweetness of pumpkin works brilliantly with coriander, cumin and cinnamon. Using sesame seeds as the base continues with the Moroccan theme, as well as adding in a good dose of manganese, magnesium, calcium and amino acids. If sesame seeds are not your thing, try using cashew nuts instead – it needs something to give the dip some structure, as pumpkin by itself creates a slightly watery dish.

Play around with the flavours, the spice amounts are just a guideline. Every time I make this, it’s slightly different. What doesn’t change is the overall yumminess of the dish – it is gorgeous! Serve in wraps, as a dip, with salad or just eat indulgently straight out the bowl with a spoon!

Moroccan style pumpkin dip
1 medium sized pumpkin or squash
dash of olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, coriander and cumin
>Heat the oven to 180oC. Chop the pumpkin or squash into slices, deseed but leave the skin on and place in a baking tray. Using your hands or a pastry brush, lightly cover the flesh with olive oil – you really don’t need much. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or so, until the flesh is soft to touch but not over roasted – you may need to turn the heat down a little if you have a fan oven. Once done, remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Place the sesame seeds (or nuts if using) into a blender and blitz until fine. You can roast them before hand if you like; this creates a richer, deeper flavour to the dip. Remove the skin from the roasted pumpkin and place the flesh into the blender with the ground sesame seeds. Blend again for a few seconds until loosely combined. Add the salt, spices and fresh coriander and blitz again until everything is well combined and smooth. Check the flavouring and add more spices if you need to. That’s it – it’s ready. Tip out into a dish and enjoy (this goes really well with the chickpea and sesame seed dippers –

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