Roast cabbage and squash chunks with simple tahini dressing

I was reading an article in Wicked Leeks, the newsletter from Riverford Organics (if you’ve never seen it, it’s a really good, informative read – you can find out more here) this morning about how the warm, wet autumn has led to a bumper crop of brassicas like cabbage and kale. And the cabbages are particularly big, so more for your money – bargain! And bargains are what we need right now! Continue reading “Roast cabbage and squash chunks with simple tahini dressing”

Steve’s Saturday night squash curry

As much as I love cooking, it’s always a treat when someone else does it for a change. Because of work and travel commitments, my hubby Steve doesn’t get many opportunities to get creative in the kitchen, so when he offers to cook it’s always a treat, especially as I was out all day yesterday, so it was a real relief to come home and be served with a piping hot dinner.

Steve does what I call ‘man’s cooking’ – lots of ingredients all prepped before hand (often with lots of washing up!), loud music and always a beer on the go. Not that this is a criticism, just a little observation – whatever is needed to maximise the cooking experience (although the number of beers could potentially be directly linked to the outcome of the dish – “hic!”).

Having lived in India and spent time in South Africa, Steve has picked up a few tricks and makes a mean veggie curry, all dairy free of course. Aware of my veg box blogging challenge, he did check what I had planned to make – a sweet mama squash and chickpea curry – so now I’m writing about his version of what I had planned in my head!

Squash and chickpeas go together really well in terms of flavour, texture and nutrition. I’ve already talked about what nutritional powerhouses they are (Thursday stuffed squash and Friday’s pancakes), as well as fabulous sources of fibre that your gut will love. They also both work wonderfully with spices, and complement each other superbly.

Of course, spices add more than just colour and flavour to a dish; they contain amazing healing properties that have been used for thousands of years, but science is only just beginning to understand how.

Cumin, for example Turmeric has long been used for it’s anti-inflammatory and anti-septic properties, but the active ingredient – curcumin – has only recently been identified and researched. It seems that the amazing properties in turmeric can help relieve all sorts of ailments from period problems, to IBS, to joint pain to cancer. In fact, there is so much to say about turmeric, there’s no way enough room here, so let’s just say it’s amazing and should be included in your diet as much as possible!

Steve likes the base of his curry sauces to cook down over a period of time to concentrate the flavours; this doesn’t take that much longer, but really does deepen the flavour.

There are a couple of interloper ingredients again, but from the veg box he used an onion, two of the carrots and the second half of the sweet mama squash. There was (and still is!) loads, so this recipe feeds a hungry crew easily.

Play around with the spices to get the heat level you desire – I’ve only given approximations here, as I’m not really too sure exactly how much was put in! Needless to say, it was super tasty, and all the more special as I didn’t have to cook!

Steve’s Saturday night squash curry
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 cm piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
1-2 red chilli, chopped
3-4 tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder/garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 sweet mama squash cut into smallish chunks
2 carrots, diced
1 courgette, diced
1/3 small cauliflower, chopped (optional)
400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper
Heat a dash of olive oil in the bottom of a pan and cook the onion for a couple of minutes until soft. Add the garlic, ginger and chill and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring all the time so it doesn’t burn. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and let it cook down for a few minutes. Stir in the spices and add some water to make a thick sauce. Cook down on a low heat, adding a bit more water for 15 minutes or so until the flavours have developed.
Add the squash and carrot chunks, covering them well with the sauce, adding a little more water to almost cover. Pop on a lid, bring to the boil, and simmer for 5 -10 minutes until the veg begin to soften. Add in the courgette, cauliflower and chickpeas and simmer until all the veg are soft and the sauce has thickened up nicely. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with popadoms and steamed brown rice.

Stuffed squash for Thursday

Second day of my veg box challenge, and the beautifully voluptuous sweet mama squash just had to get on the menu! Like sweet potato, pumpkin and squash are high on my list of ‘important foods to eat each week’ list. Their bright orange flesh is just packed full of betacarotene which converts to vitamin A in our bodies, necessary for beautiful skin, hair and eyes (get that sparkle!) and readily available in a plant based diet.

Finding different varieties of squash and pumpkin in the supermarkets can be a challenge at times – often butternut squash is the only one on the shelf, so getting a veg box means variety in the squash department! I’ve sometimes bought a pumpkin box from Riverford which contains an amazingly eclectic mix to experiment with.

Sweet mama squash has a really hard outer skin, so needs attacking with gusto and a sharp knife! The flesh inside is dense and very orange, so you know it’s going to be good for you. Once cooked, it’s very sweet and works well with spices (spoiler alert – I’m saving half for a Saturday night curry!).
My decision on what to cook every day is influenced by what’s going on in the house, and what I’m doing work wise. This Thursday, everyone was coming home and going out at different times, and as I actually had a little extra time for cooking, I decided to do stuffed squash. Once all the prep has been done, it sits in the oven quite happily and so can be eaten as and when needed.

I tend to use brown rice for my stuffing, usually because there’s some left over in the fridge, and of course there’s so much more nutrition wise in wholegrain. But you could use quinoa, millet or even couscous if you’re not going gluten free.

You can see from the photo that there are a few interlopers in the stuffing ingredients – celery and courgette are still left over from last weeks box. Going away for a couple of days left me with more goodies to use up this week, although sometimes I do buy extras that are not in the box, just for variety. Trying to balance what we need with what we’re doing and what we’d like is tricky at times!

All these different lovely ingredients provide a whole array of fabulous nutrients that our bodies love. The squash alone has more than just the betacarotene I’ve mentioned above. For a start, it has masses of fibre formed from good starchy carbs that have a beneficial effect in the body and also help to keep the gut healthy. There’s a mix of B vitamins, and minerals, as well as a lovely dose of vitamin C, which will be retained better by being baked. Vitamin C is water soluble so is easily lost by boiling and even steaming.

My top tip for the stuffing is make sure you get the seasoning to how you want it. I used thyme as my herb of choice as I like it with squash, but mixed or Italian herbs would have worked too, along with a lengthy grinding of black pepper. Keep tasting your mix until you’ve got it right for you – the sweet and savoury flavours are seriously satisfying.

Stuffed sweet mama squash (served 3)
1/2 onion finely chopped
1 leek, diced
1 stick celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
handful mushrooms, chopped
handful chard leaves
1/2 courgette, chopped
1/2 sweet mama squash, deseeded
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon tamari (optional)
salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC and lightly grease a large piece of tin foil. Heat a dash of olive oil in a pan and sauté the onion, leek, celery and carrot until soft. Chop the stems of the chard and add them to the pan with the mushrooms and courgette. Cook for another couple of minutes until they start to soften, then add the garlic, stirring well so it doesn’t burn. Stir in the thyme, chopped chard leaves, rice, tamari, salt and pepper and cook for another couple of minutes. Sprinkle in the parsley, stir well, turn off the heat and leave to cool for a moment.
Wipe out the squash half with a damp piece of kitchen roll and season with salt and pepper and sprinkle a little extra thyme into the cavity. Pack in spoonfuls of the rice stuffing until full. Place the stuffed squash onto the tin foil, wrap it up loosely then place on a tin and into the oven for about 45 minutes. Once the squash flesh is soft and tender, it’s ready for eating. Remove from the oven and slice into 3 equal portions. Serve with accompanying vegetables of choice (we had potato wedges and peas – yum!).

Squash soup to celebrate Earth Day

Whilst every day really should be Earth Day, it is good there is a day once a  year which highlights the absolute amazingness and beauty of this gorgeously unique planet we live on.  We need a reminder to pay attention to something that we just take advantage of and abuse every moment. If there was a galactic Social Services, I think our precious Earth would have been taken into care by now!

Continue reading “Squash soup to celebrate Earth Day”

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.

Continue reading “Warming dairy-free squash soup (updated 10/2018)”