Savoury pumpkin scones

I often get asked where the ideas for my recipes come from. Sometimes, I just make things up on the spot, others are inspired by something I have read or seen in a magazine or on the internet. Occasionally, an idea rumbles around in the back of my mind for a long time then suddenly comes together. These pumpkin scones are in that category.

Before my dairy-free and plant-based days, I had an amazing recipe for pumpkin scones that I think appeared in a Riverford veg box. They were delicious. It disappeared when we packed up our house for storage whilst we were overseas never to be found, and no longer on the Riverford website (or not that I could find anyway). Now I cook mainly fat-free as well, I wanted to work out how to successfully replace the fat ingredient, using pumpkin puree as an oil and egg replacement; a few attempts resulted in very dense, bullet-like scones. Not  for general consumption!

Finally, I cracked it! These savoury pumpkin scones are seriously satisfying and tasty, as well as super healthy. And they are just like normal scones in texture and weight, not a bullet in sight! Perfect for lunch or afternoon tea, they’re also fabulous dunked in a warming winter soup.  Definitely worth the time spent thinking about them!

Savoury pumpkin scones (makes 6x7cm wide scones)
400g spelt flour (use plain gluten free if needed)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dried thyme or sage
150g pumpkin puree*
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed mixed with 6 tablespoons of water
4 tablespoons rice or soya milk
a few pumpkin seeds for decoration

* I make my pumpkin puree by roasting a few slices of pumpkin or squash with the skin on in the oven, covered with tin foil (the steam helps it cook and retain it’s fluid). When cooled, I removed the skin and then mashed it in a bowl before adding the other wet ingredients.

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas mark 6. Line a baking tray with parchment or a silicon baking mat.

Mix the pumpkin puree, olive oil, flaxseed and water and the rice milk together in a bowl. Make sure they are well combined. In another bowl, add the flour, baking powder, salt and herbs and mix together well. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and cut in with a knife until the mixes start to combine, then use your hands to bring it all together.

Remove from the bowl and knead gently on the worktop until you have a soft dough. Carefully flatten the dough with your palm until it’s spread a bit and 3cm thick. Using a 7cm wide cookie cutter, cut out your scones and place onto the baking tray. Re-knead the dough and flatten a couple of times until you have used it all up. Brush the tops with dairy free milk and add pumpkin seeds for decoration. Bake in the oven for 14-18 minutes until lightly golden on top and firm on the bottom. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a tray. Enjoy!

Portuguese pumpkin soup

It’s grey and damp outside, a dull October day. It’s only a few weeks since I returned from the sunny skies of Portugal, but it already seems like an age ago. But the memories are still bright and clear and all the photos transport me back to sunnier climes.

The fresh fruit and vegetables were gorgeous in Portugal. Blessed by the hot days, the flavours were intense after ripening in the bright sun. One of the things that surprised me about the local produce was the amount of squashes grown in home vegetable gardens. Driving along the narrow country roads, having a nose at people’s gardens, I could see the squash plants spread out over their patch, the bulbs nestling in the fading leaves; some were even grown as climbers, clinging to walls or trestle. I’m not sure why I was surprised, as there were plenty grown in India, but butternut squash and similar always strike me as something for a cooler, more Northerly climate.

But hey, what do I know? There are lots of Portuguese recipes using this lovely, nutrient-packed vegetable, including jam, fritters, cake (that one has to be tried!) and, of course, soup. This recipe is delicious and the veggies are the star, naturally plant-based and dairy free – perfect!

The ingredients are very simple, the technique super-healthy and it tastes gorgeous. The difference to the way I normally make soup is that none of the vegetables are sautéed at the beginning, everything is just simmered together. No oil is added, and nothing can get burnt (which can create potential toxins in altered fats, or excess carbon). With the right seasoning, it tastes clear and fresh.

And instead of throwing away the seeds hiding in the centre, use them as a garnish for the soup. These fresh seeds offer a good amount of fibre and healthy fats as well as minerals like magnesium and iron, plus vitamin E and K. On top of that, whole pumpkin seeds contain more zinc than the shelled variety. Zinc is vital for good immunity, perfect for warding off winter colds. Remove any excess flesh, rinse and pat dry, then pop on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes or so in a hot oven. You can sprinkle paprika or chilli powder over the top to give an additional kick.

I made this out on my friend’s covered patio, cooking it on her trusty camping gas stove – simplicity all the way! Now back in the UK, it’s not really the weather for outside cooking, but give this lovely soup a go and let the sun shine on the inside even it it’s not out the window!

Portuguese pumpkin soup (serves 4 big portions)

1 large onion, chopped
1 small pumpkin or butternut squash
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 courgette, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 handfuls parsley
1 litre vegetable stock
salt and pepper

Peel, chop and deseed the pumpkin or squash – cut into medium chunks. Keep the seeds for decoration (optional, see above). Place all the prepared vegetables into a large pan. Cover with the stock, add a little salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes or so until all the vegetables are well cooked.

Leave to cool. Remove a couple of ladles full of vegetables, then blend the rest until smooth. Add more stock if too thick. Return to the pan with the reserved vegetables, season and reheat. Serve with a glug of flaxseed oil and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Autumnal delights – pumpkin and squash

This is the first year I’ve tried to grow squash in my little vegetable patch. A bit late in planting them out, they’re still not quite ready despite the weather beginning to change. They seem happy where they are though, for now, and will hopefully grow and ripen a little more than this!

You will find a number of links to different pumpkin or squash recipes on my blog – I have a bit of a thing for this wonderful veg! During the autumn and winter months, it’s a staple in our house, appearing in recipes at least twice a week. Apart from their versatility, sweet flavour and smooth velvety texture, these wonderful vegetables are an amazing source of nutrients, bringing a burst of veggie sunshine in the long, grey months.

Pumpkins and squash really can help to keep the body healthy during winter. You only have to look at the amazing orange coloured flesh to know it’s packed full of goodies. Winter squash have been found to have the highest percentage of beta-carotene of any vegetable. Beta-carotene is the plant form of vitamin A (easily converted in the body), essential for healthy eyes, skin and immune system. There are many types of beta-carotenes, wonderful little phytonutrients that acts as co-enzymes and catalysts for metabolic processes – all things that keep us functioning properly. On top of that, pumpkin and squash also contains an amazing array of anti-oxidants, including vitamin C, that help mop up harmful free-radicals, and a great selection of B vitamins, and essential minerals like magnesium, manganese, potassium and calcium.

And it doesn’t stop there. The sugars in pumpkin and squash are super-healthy too. Not only are they full of fibre, they also contain a specific type of polysaccharide sugar called homogalacturonan (I haven’t just made that name up, honest!) that has special anti-inflammatory effects on the body particularly for heart disease and diabetes. The fibre also contains pectin, a favourite food for friendly gut bacteria, so benefiting gut health too.

So what’s not to love? Unfortunately, all good things have a not so good side – with pumpkins and squash, it’s how they’re grown. These water-loving veggies can be used to de-contaminate land, as they readily absorb anything in the soil and water. So if there is a lot of soil pollution, that will end up in the final product – and inside you. So it’s best to buy organic whenever possible, or from a reliable source. There is a small organic farm near me that always has a wonderful selection – here’s their Facebook page

To celebrate this pumpkinlicious time of year, I’m going to add some extra recipes over the next few week. In the meantime, why not check out one of the yummy recipes already here on the blog? They’re all fully plant-based, dairy free and really tasty. Here are the links to take you there.

Pumpkin pancakes, perfect for breakfast, lunch or any time!

These tasty pumpkin scones are easy to make and freeze well

How about this tasty dish that matches squash with the nutrient power-house of brussel sprouts!

Pumpkins and squash work wonderfully in soup. Here’s two to try – a gorgeous soup to warm you through and a filling winter warmer

Try this stuffed squash for a satisfying and filling supper

This hubby-inspired curry is a winner every time

Watch this youtube video about a family friendly dip

Happy eating!


Pumpkin pancakes

Pancake Day, or rather Shrove Tuesday, is coming up, the last day before the beginning of Lent and the start of the lead up to Easter. I’ve written about this before in this blog post:

I’ve never been that keen on traditional pancakes, even when I’ve managed to give them the Sensitive Foodie makeover! But I do like thick and spongy American style pancakes. The problem is they are often packed with dairy and refined sugar and oil. So these pumpkin pancakes are a real winner as they not only taste great and have a lovely soft fluffy texture, but they’re also full of whole foods and are dairy free and gluten free too.

As a parent, I know it can be hard to get your kids to eat vegetables at times; a contentious issue that can create family stress, especially if your child just refuses to eat the food you have prepared for them. Using vegetables like pumpkin in popular kids foods like pancakes is therefore a win win situation. The pancakes taste great; sweet and fluffy and a choice of toppings helps them be creative in the kitchen. Win for them. Super healthy ingredients like pumpkin (packed fully of betacarotene and other helpful phytonutrients as well as natural fibre and vitamins and minerals), buckwheat and cinnamon mean that you know they are getting powerful nutrients that are good for them – a win for you.

If you think it’s a bit odd using pumpkin in pancakes, it’s actually really useful as it takes on a couple of roles. One is it’s natural sweetness reduces the amount of sugar you need to add in to the recipe – complex sugars always win over refined. On top of that, pumpkin can be used to replace eggs in a lot of egg free and vegan baking, as it acts as a binding agent, one of the major roles eggs play in baking.  Practical and healthy all in one.

I’ve noticed that a lot of American recipes with pumpkin use canned pumpkin in their list of ingredients. Whilst I’m sure you can buy it in the UK, the only time I’ve ever seen it were some exceedingly expensive tins on the self in the local expat supermarket whilst we were living in India!  If you do find canned pumpkin, make sure there’s no added sugar (it really doesn’t need it). For me though, the key thing about buying tinned pumpkin puree is that much of the vital nutrients and anti-oxidants are lost in processing. So even if I saw it on the shelf, I would always make may own to ensure it’s as fresh as possible. And it’s so easy – for these pancakes, I peeled half a butternut squash and chopped it into chunks, then steamed it for 10 minutes or so until soft. Once cool, it got popped in the fridge ready to be mashed to a pulp for these pancakes. There’s even some chunks left over, so they’ll get added to a rainbow salad later on today.

So, for Pancake Day this year, why not make a new tradition and try these gorgeous pumpkin pancakes? And of course, you don’t have to keep them for one day a year! Once you’ve tried these out, I’m sure they’ll become a firm favourite throughout the year.

Pumpkin Pancakes (makes 12 smallish pancakes)
300ml soya or other dairy free milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice or cider vinegar
95g pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 tablespoons maple syrup or coconut sugar
160g buckwheat flour (or flour of choice)
1 teaspoon baking powder (gluten free if needed)
pinch of Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of mace or nutmeg
toppings of choice (blueberries, maple syrup, banana etc)

Pour the dairy free milk into a bowl and add the lemon juice or vinegar to make it curdle, creating a non-dairy buttermilk. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and spices in another bowl and mix well. Then pour the pumpkin puree, oil, vanilla essence and maple syrup into the dairy free buttermilk and whisk well to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, whisk again and ensure all the ingredients are mixed well then leave to rest for 5 minutes.

Heat a crepe pan or a light frying pan to a medium heat. Pour two tablespoons of mix onto the pan and spread slightly. Cook on one side for a few minutes until bubbles appear, turn with a fish slice then cook the other side until lightly browned and firm to the touch. Turn out onto a warmed plate and repeat the process until all the mix is used up.  Serve warm with topping of choice.


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, 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 –

Warming dairy-free squash soup (updated 10/2018)

Soup is an all year round staple in our house, but particularly during winter. And at the moment, I need all the help I can get to warm up, on the inside as well as out! When my children were small, the vegetable eating battle commenced as they started to express their opinion over what they would or would not eat.  I discovered that soup didn’t seem to count as a problem. As long as it was smooth and didn’t look like it might be too good for them (ie: not green!), they guzzled down fresh vegetable soup with no problem.

Over time, certain soups have become associated with specific events. There’s ‘Holiday Soup’ – red lentil and tomato soup taken away in a big flask to eat on the journey to our holiday destination. ‘Lunchtime With Friends Soup’, a marvellously hearty vegetable and tarragon soup which never fails to impress. So feeling cold and missing the warm, sunny days of a Bangalore winter, I’ve turned to one of my favourite soups I’ve made over the last couple of years whilst we’ve been away – pumpkin (or squash), ginger, garlic and coconut soup – ‘Warming Soup’!

Eating soup in India may seem a little odd, and I must admit it wasn’t on the menu during the extreme summer heat, but somehow it didn’t feel out of place. Small pumpkins are readily available all year round, as of course are the other main ingredients, so it was easy to buy and simple to make. And it’s utterly delicious as well as dairy free, and pretty much free of any allergens which makes it suitable for anyone.

It’s the perfect soup for a cold winters day, as the ginger warms you from the inside and the coconut makes you think of warmer climes! In ayurvedic medicine, ginger is used to fuel the body’s ‘fire’, so it really does warm you up on the inside. It’s well known for aiding digestion and apparently helps improve circulation, reduce inflammation and ease colds. Garlic also has warming properties and is great for helping to improve circulation and fighting off colds. Ginger and garlic together are the perfect winter pairing!

I used butternut squash for my soup but this works with any orangey pumpkin or squash. Butternut squash is pretty good for you too, with no fat, low in carbohydrates and offers a good amount of vitamin A and C along with  potassium, manganese and a tad of magnesium.

The weights and measurements for this recipe are approximates – it all depends on what squash you are working with, how much you have and how much ginger and garlic you like. I do like my ginger fairly pungent, so you may want to use less to start. It’s important to add the coconut milk at the end and don’t let it boil otherwise it may split. The soup tastes ok, but doesn’t look as appetising! If your accidentally put in too much stock and the soup ends up too runny once the coconut milk has been added, don’t worry – serve it in a mug instead of bowl, it still works brilliantly.

Warming winter squash soup
1 butternut squash/small pumpkin, skinned, deseeded and cut in to small chunks
1 onion finely diced
3 cm chunk of ginger, peeled and finely chopped (add more or less as desired)
2-3 cloves of garlic (varies according to size or taste) finely chopped
800mls – 1 litre vegetable stock (or water if you have a yeast intolerance)
200ml coconut milk (omit if you follow the Overcoming MS programme)
salt and pepper

Heat the a couple of tablespoons of water in a large saucepan and sauté the onion until it starts to soften. Do not brown. Add the ginger and stir constantly for a couple of minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn. Add the garlic and fry for a minute or so. Tip in the squash, stir to incorporate then pour over the stock or water until the squash is covered (you may need more or less water depending on how much squash you have).

Bring to the boil then reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer until the squash is soft. Add the coconut milk If using and heat through without boiling. Turn off the heat and leave to cool slightly, then pour into a blender and blitz until smooth. If it’s really thick, add some more water or stock. Season with salt and pepper then reheat gently.

Serve with a glug of flaxseed oil and swirl of dairy-free cream if you haven’t used coconut milk.