Curried Pumpkin and Lentil Soup

What is your take on curried pumpkin and lentil soup? As autumn is slowly creeping in, I have definitely replaced my salads with soups.

Last night we had a very bad thunder storm, and the rains came down in bucket-fulls. But the temperature is still in the low 20s (celcius) which is pretty warm. Having said that, I’m done with my salads and today I had another go at my curried pumpkin soup.

I wanted to use the pumpkins I bought at the farmers’ market on Saturday. I used some pumpkin yesterday in my Moroccan Vegetable Couscous, and today I thought of using the rest of my pumpkin.

My 12-year old granddaughter fancied a soup after school so I  thought a mild curry would do the job.  I was after something filling, which doubles up for both supper and lunch on the go tomorrow. I had no stale bread to hand to make croutons. Quinoa crossed my mind, but on second thoughts I went for red lentils.

Preparing the pumpkin can prove kind-of fiddly, but once you’re past peeling and chopping the pumpkin into cubes, the rest is a breeze.

Here’s the recipe to check out for yourself.

Curried Pumpkin and Lentil Soup
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Resting time
5 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

A warm and filling soup which easily doubles up for a quick supper or lunch on the go.

Course: lunch, Soup, supper
Cuisine: Plant-based, pulses
Keyword: curry, lentil, pumpkin
Servings: 4 people
Author: Colette Cumbo
Ingredients
  • 1.5 kg pumpkin (peeled and chopped)
  • 1.5 cups red lentils (rinsed)
  • 1 medium-sized onion (chopped)
  • 3 garlic cloves (chopped)
  • 3 tbsps coconut oil
  • 3 tsps Korma curry powder
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • 1 ltr vegetable stock
  • pumpkin seeds (sprinkle - to serve)
Instructions
  1. Saute onion in coconut oil until soft and translucent. Add chopped garlic and saute for a further 2-3 minutes.

  2. Add the curry powder. chopped pumpkin and lentils and stir until pumpkin and lentils are mixed with the curry and onion mixture.

  3. When mixture is fragrant, tip in the coconut milk and stir. Add vegetable stock, stir and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes until both lentils and pumpkin are soft.

  4. Mash the pumpkin and lentils with a potato masher. For a smooth soup, blitz in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Rest for five minutes before serving.

  5. Serve with pumpkin seeds (or chopped roasted cashews).

Recipe Notes

You can manage the consistency of the soup by adding more or less stock according to your preference.

I’m sharing this pumpkin soup recipe with The ReDux Community. Check out the linky below for some mouth-watering recipes shared by these outstanding bloggers.

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Vegetarian shepherd's pie (with vegan option)

Shepherd’s pie with pumpkin mash topping

Has autumnal weather reached you in your part of the world? In Malta, the weather is slightly cooler but still fairly warm … typical! Having said that, at the farmers’ market, pumpkins and squash are in abundance.

Do you find pumpkins aesthetically pleasing? Could it be their connotations with jack-o’-lanterns? Or is it their rich, warm colour which makes them appealing to look at?

In my mind, pumpkins (oh, by the way, pumpkins are a type of squash) project an image of warmth and comfort.

The soup season in Colette’s kitchen is invariably inaugurated with a pumpkin soup of sorts. This year it was a curried roasted butternut squash soup which I promise to bring to this blog next time I’ll cook it.

Pumpkin makes for a perfect ingredient in sweet and savoury dishes alike. You can use it in muffins, cookies, soups, pies, salads, casseroles and tagines.

Pumpkin is relatively inexpensive and a pumpkin-based meal is usually kind to your pocket.  Above all, pumpkin provides you with a good source of dietary fibre, vitamins (A, E, B6, riboflavin, niacin, thiamine and C), minerals (iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese) as well as folate.

In the recipe below, I used mashed pumpkin as a topping for my vegetarian shepherd’s pie. I added two potatoes to the pumpkin to help bind the consistency as pumpkin tends to be watery.

This recipe is my contribution to The Recipe ReDux community. Please check out the linky at the bottom of this page for plenty of delicious recipes shared by other bloggers.

Shepherd's pie with pumpkin mash
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 30 mins
Resting time
30 mins
Total Time
2 hrs
 

Pumpkin is a versatile vegetable which lends itself suitable for both savoury and sweet recipes. In this vegetarian version of shepherd's pie, I used pumpkin mash to give my pie a warm, seasonal feel.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: fusion, Plant-based, vegetarian
Keyword: grains, pie, pulses, pumpkin, quinoa
Servings: 6 people
Author: Colette Cumbo
Ingredients
  • 1400 grms pumpkin
  • 2 potatoes (medium sized)
  • pumpkin spice
  • 150 grms feta cheese (optional)
  • 3/4 cup green lentils (rinsed)
  • 1/2 cup quinoa (trio - white, red and black) (rinsed)
  • 3/4 cup pearl barley (rinsed)
  • 1 onion (large) (chopped)
  • 2 carrots (chopped)
  • 2 zucchini (chopped)
  • 1 cauliflower (small) (cut into florets)
  • 3/4 cup garden peas (frozen - slightly defrosted)
  • 1 red chilli pepper (ribs and seeds removed)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper (ribs and seeds removed)
  • 4 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder (mild)
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
Instructions
  1. Prepare the grains and pulses: bring a medium-sized pot of water to the boil and put in the lentils and barley. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

  2. After 10 minutes increase the heat again and add the quinoa. Bring back to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and drain in a colander. Put the cooked grains and pulses to one side.

  3. Next prepare the mash. Cut the pumpkin into wedges, then cut further into chunks. Remove the strings and the seeds and peel. Rinse and pat dry. 

  4. Scrub the potatoes under running water (do not remove the skins) and cut into chunks.

  5. Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil and add the potatoes. Boil for 8 minutes then add the pumpkin chunks. (You may add a teaspoon of cooking salt - I prefer not to). Cover and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Pierce chunks with a fork to check if they're cooked (do not over-cook cause they fall apart). When  potato and pumpkin chunks are soft, turn off the heat and drain the water. Leave  to drain for at least 30 minutes.

  6. In the meantime, prepare the rest of the pie filling. In a large skillet or similar, heat the oil and saute the chopped onion until translucent and slightly soft. Add the chopped chillies, crushed garlic, chilli powder, ground cumin and cayenne pepper (if using). Stir gently to avoid sticking. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until fragrant.

  7. Add the chopped carrots, zucchini and cauliflower florets. Stir well so that the vegetables are coated with the onion mixture. Add one cupful of vegetable broth, stir, bring to the boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes, or  until carrots are cooked. (Do not over-cook. Vegetables will cook further during baking).

  8. Add the grains, pulses and garden peas to the skillet and mix well to ensure the grains are thoroughly coated with the spicy onion and vegetable mixture. Leave uncovered and simmer gently for further 8-10 minutes or until the broth is  completely absorbed. When the grain and vegetable filling is dry, turn off the heat and leave to rest until you prepare the mash for the topping.

  9. Gently squeeze out excess water from the pumpkin and put it in a food processor, together with the potato chunks. Whizz until smooth. Add the pumpkin spices (1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1/8 tsp ground cloves) and whizz again to make sure the spices are blended into the pumpkin mash. (If your mash is a bit watery add I tsp of cornstarch blended into 1 tsp water and stir into the pumpkin mash. This helps the mash to thicken).

  10. Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Prepare a large casserole dish (3.85 ltr). Brush the inside of the dish lightly with olive oil and spread the grain and vegetable mixture evenly across the dish. Top the vegetable mixture with the pumpkin mash and even out on the pie filling. If you are using feta cheese, crumble on top. (For a vegan version, omit the feta cheese). 

  11. Bake in a hot oven for 30 minutes or until a crust begins to form. When you turn off the oven, leave the pie to rest in the oven for a further 30 minutes for the pumpkin mash to dry and set completely.

Recipe Notes

This pie can be eaten warm or at room temperature. You will notice that the cooler it gets, the easier it is to cut without the filling falling apart.

The pie contains enough vegetables. Unless you really want to add a side of veg or salad, the pie has all the nutritional value of a full meal. 

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How to make your own Buddha bowl

It seems like the “Buddha bowl” is the latest buzz word in the world of food and nutrition. 2017 was the year of the Buddha bowl and restaurants started offering this trendy option on their menus.

At first, Buddha bowls (or grain bowls) were associated with veganism.  However, judging by the numerous photos on instagram, it is clear to see that Buddha bowls are not necessarily vegan.

How did the term “Buddha Bowl” come about?

In her article “How the Buddha Bowl got its name“, Katherine Sacks makes reference to the book “Buddha’s Diet”. The authors of the book say Buddha was a thin person. At dawn, he’d go round the streets with an empty bowl and people donated whatever food they could afford. It is very likely that the food donated was simple and inexpensive. Buddha’s diet was therefore made up of food donations.

Why are Buddha bowls so popular?

Accoring to Charles Spence, food psychologist, as quoted in The Guardian, eating out of a bowl offers comfort and is more satisfying. “That weight is likely to make your brain think the food is more substantial and you are likely to rate it as more intensely aromatic than exactly the same food sat passively on a plate.”

What is the concept of a Buddha bowl?

In my mind a Buddha bowl is “comfort” food; whatever, you have available and whatever ticks the box for you. From a nutrition perspective, as long as it provides you with the right balance of macronutrients – carbohydrates, fat and protein – it is good for you.

How can you make your own Buddha bowl?

Think on the lines of carbs, fat and protein – all three in moderation. Here’s an example of a Buddha bowl I prepared yesterday. This “bowl” was for sharing at a BBQ and the only container I had which was large enough was a dish.

Buddah-Bowl-to-share.jpg
Buddha Bowl to share

Ingredients:

  • steamed quinoa with roasted walnuts
  • green beans
  • red kidney beans
  • rocket leaves
  • cucumber
  • black olives
  • cherry tomatoes
  • roasted vegetables (peppers, courgettes, garlic and aubergine)
  • cooked beetroot
  • raw buckwheat and toasted sesame seeds sprinkled on top
  • Tahini dressing – mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, salt and pepper
  • feta cheese (optional)

I am not giving quantities or a method of how to do the recipe. You are free to add or remove ingredients, according to your preferences. Vegetables – raw or cooked – rice, grains, pulses, seeds, nuts, fruits (fresh or dried), pasta are all good for your Buddha bowl. If you prefer, you may also add, cheese, meat or fish.

The binding ingredient is the dressing. Keep it simple so it does not over-power the taste of your other ingredients.

The secret of your Buddha bowl is variety: plenty of colour and texture. Try it, and share your comments.

My thanks go to:

@veggininthecity

Epicurious.com

Theguardian.com

 

 

Freekeh salad with sumac dressing

For those of you who are not familiar with “sumac” here’s the definition: its a powder made from the fruits of the flowering plant Rhus coriaria. It is generally used in Middle Eastern and south Asian cuisine.

Sumac has very high antioxidant levels. It helps lower blood sugar levels and sumac juice is high in vitamin C.

This spice has a tangy, lemony taste and can be used with fish, meat and salads.

I bought my sumac from Borough Market in London. However, if you do not find it locally, you can get it online.

In this simple freekeh salad I used sumac to give the salad a fresh citrussy flavour.

Freekeh salad with sumac dressing
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 

This is a very light and simple salad. It can be used as a standalone for lunch or supper or as a side served with grilled fish or meat.

Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Middle Eastern
Keyword: Freekeh, salad, Sumac
Servings: 4 people
Author: Colette Cumbo
Ingredients
  • 200 grms Greenwheat Freekeh
  • 2 tsps Lebanese Sumac
  • 1 telegraph cucumber
  • 15 teardrop cherry tomatoes
  • 2 spring onions
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh mint
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Boil freekeh grains in 200ml of water for 15 minutes (or according to packet instructions).

  2. Drain the grains and stand them in a colander to cool down whilst you're preparing the other ingredients.

  3. Rinse the tomatoes and mint and scrub the cucumber and lemon.

  4. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and chop the mint. Cut the cucumber into small cubes and slice the white part of the spring onions.

  5. Put the freekeh into a salad container and add the chopped ingredients - mix well.

  6. Grate the lemon rind and extract lemon juice. Add the rind to the freekeh mixture and put the lemon juice in a screw-top jar.

  7. Add 3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil to the lemon juice, 2 tsps sumac and salt and pepper to taste. Close the jar and shake well.

  8. Divide the salad into four portions and serve each portion with 2 tbsps of sumac dressing.

Recipe Notes

Some facts about freekeh - it has four times the amount of fibre as brown rice and twice the amount of protein as white rice. It's a low GI food which means it keeps you full for longer. Freekeh is also high in magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron.

Freekeh has a nutty taste and can be used in pilafs, soups and salads.  

How to benefit from Medjool dates

Have you ever used Medjool dates to sweeten your cereals or smoothies? I use Medjool dates as a sweet treat, either on their own or paired with walnuts … heavenly!

These very large dates are native to the Middle East and North Africa. They’re the first ever cultivated fruit and their cultivation dates back some 6000 years. Historically, they were known as “the king of fruits” or “the fruit of kings”, however nowadays they’re widely available all year round.

Medjool dates are soft, chewy and juicy. There’s a hint of caramel in their taste (without the added sugar). These dates are sweeter than the regular Deglet Noor dates which are smaller, firmer in texture and have a delicate taste when compared to the full, rich taste of the Medjools.

Nutritional benefits of Medjool dates

Medjool dates are rich in vitamins and minerals.  They contain 50% more potassium than bananas. Both Medjools as well as Deglet Noors are good sources of selenium (helps anti-aging process in the body), copper (together with iron enables the body to form red blood cells), potassium (helps lower blood pressure) and magnesium (supports healthy immune system). Dates also contain vitamins B3 and B6 and are rich in fibre.

This is a very simple recipe. It requires very little prep time and no cooking, just setting in the fridge. After whizzing a refreshing banana,berry and almond milk smoothie, I showed my client and her seven-year old son, Beni, how to prepare these energy-packed balls.

This recipe is inspired by Dr Axe.  The original recipe calls for hemp seeds. I replaced them with chia seeds, simply because hemps were not available. The result was great!

I am sharing this post with The Recipe ReDux community. This is my first post on this website … fingers crossed all goes well! Check out the linky at the bottom of this page for plenty of delicious recipes shared by other bloggers.

Pecan Coconut Balls
Prep Time
15 mins
Total Time
15 mins
 

This recipe is so quick and easy to make. It's the ideal recipe to involve children help in the kitchen. 

Course: Dessert, Sweet treat
Cuisine: gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 10
Author: Colette Cumbo
Ingredients
  • 1 cup pitted Medjool dates roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes
  • 3 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Process pecans in food processor until ground.

  2. Add roughly chopped dates and process further until mixture is sticky and binds.

  3. Add the chia seeds, coconut flakes and the vanilla extract. Pulse process for a few seconds.

  4. Roll mixture into small balls and refrigerate for an hour until firm.

  5. (pulse processing does not break the coconut flakes completely and the white bits of coconut contrast nicely with the dark brown colour of the dates)

Recipe Notes

Makes 40 small coconut balls.

I used these balls as a sweet treat after supper on the terrace. They can also be used as a snack.

 

 

 

 

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Is it time Governments introduce a tax on junk food?

Statistics issued in May 2018 reveal that Malta has the highest rate of child obesity in Europe, the highest rate of type II diabetes and the lowest level of activity (1).

Similarly, UK stats for 2017 show that 617 thousand admissions in NHS hospitals were obesity-related. And in 2016, 26 per cent of British adults were considered obese (2).

 

 

How does it compare to 50 years ago?

In the 60s only one per cent of men and two per cent of women were considered obese in the UK (3).

The major differences are attributed to a more sedentary lifestyle and a higher consumption of processed foods.  Despite the fact that in the 60s gyms were hardly heard of, people were significantly more active. They walked more and spent less time in front of TVs and computers. Children played active games as opposed to hours spent on a tablet and ready-made foods were hard to come by.  The majority of households cooked their meals from scratch, using fresh products. People’s diets were not full of preservatives and dining out was an occasional treat.

Another factor that contributed towards weight gain is food portions. The average dinner plate in the 60s had a diameter of 7-9 inches (17.78-22.86 centimetres). Nowadays, plates have a diameter of 11-12 inches (27.94-30.48 centimetres) in Europe and 13 inches (33.02 centimetres) in America (4).

Public Health vs Votes?

Do you think it’s time Governments take serious action?  In the same way taxes were imposed and regulations enforced on cigarettes and alcohol,  it may be high time something’s done about the amount of junk food consumed.

If there is more awareness about the consequences of fat, sugar and salt in junk food and ready-made meals and if fresh food is more affordable, maybe people will be in a better position to make healthier choices.

Why are fast food chains allowed to be become richer and the average tax payer has to foot the bill of obesity-related diseases?  Why doesn’t junk food packaging come with sickening images, similar to the ones found on cigarette packets? Should junk food companies be allowed to brainwash children and youngsters thanks to their strong marketing position?

In the UK, Jamie Oliver is campaigning to control the advertising of junk food, especially for children (5). You would think it’s in the interest of Governments to promote the health of its citizens by making fresh food more affordable.

No; I’m not kidding myself into thinking that if junk food is more expensive than healthy food, people will make an overnight change – they won’t.  Besides, as we’ve seen above, there are various factors that lead to obesity.  Junk food is just one of them.  However, in a similar way awareness and levies brought down smoking rates (6), serious campaigns, taxes on junk food (including ready-made foods) and subsidies of good fresh food, may lead to health improvement.

What do you think?

 

My thanks go to:

(1) Bay.com.mt

(2) NHS Digital

(3) The Telegraph

(4) Quora

(5) Jamie Oliver – #AdEnough

(6) Economicshelp.org

Infographic thanks to Gastrosurgeon.com