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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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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Springtime Barley Risotto

Have you ever thought about the nutritional benefits of asparagus?  It’s a very unusual looking veggie and comes in thick stems (like the ones in the photo which I took at Borough Market) or with thinner stems which do not require peeling. The thinner asparagus are known as “baby asparagus”.

Spring is asparagus season in most of Europe.  Although, nowadays, it is not unusual to find asparagus in supermarkets almost all year round.

Is asparagus good for you?

If I say asparagus is a powerhouse, you probably say that I think most veggies are. But if I had to list all the vitamins and minerals found in asparagus you will probably agree with me.  So I’ll just highlight a handful of benefits which explain why I chose asparagus to be the star ingredient for today’s recipe.

Asparagus

  1. is a good source of Vitamin K, the blood clotting vitamin;
  2. contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties – protects your body against free radicals;
  3. acts as a natural diuretic – i.e. it makes you pass water which helps you get rid of excess salt and lowers high blood pressure;
  4. the nutrient inulin provides food for the good bacteria in your body, protecting you against colon cancer;
  5. provides you with folate, an essential requirement for the production of red blood cells;
  6. good source of fibre;
  7. good source of Vitamin B1 (thiamine);
  8. contains glutathione, an antioxidant which helps fight cancer.

The ladies attending my cookery classes asked if I can help them make a “healthy” risotto. We cooked two risottos – the typical Italian recipe inspired by Gennaro Contaldo and then we cooked a tweaked version, with barley. My springtime barley risotto is completely vegan too.

Springtime Barley Risotto
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Resting time
5 mins
Total Time
40 mins
 

This recipe requires less attention than the typical risotto as you do not have to stand by and stir continuously. I replaced the rice for barley, a grain which is by far healthier than rice.  It helps control your cholesterol levels and protects against heart disease. It also contains more fibre than rice and keeps you full for longer. 

I gave this recipe a vegan spin and left out the wine, butter and cheese.

It is inspired by the Springtime Risotto of Gennaro Contaldo, a chef I truly admire.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Plant-based, vegan
Servings: 4 people
Author: Colette Cumbo
Ingredients
  • 1 cup pearl barley rinsed
  • 1 medium-sized onion chopped finely
  • 3 cloves garlic crushed and chopped
  • 1/4 tsp smoked crushed chillies optional
  • 2 cups asparagus chopped
  • 1 cup fresh garden peas shelled
  • 1 1/2 cups zucchini sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ltr vegetable stock hot
  • 1 tbsp lemon rind grated
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint chopped finely
Instructions
  1. In a heavy-based pan heat the oil and gently fry the onion.  When it starts to soften, add the crushed garlic and smoked chilli flakes (if using). Stir to avoid sticking.

  2. Add the chopped asparagus and the sliced zucchini to the pan. Stir until the vegetables are covered with the onion mixture. Keep stirring gently for a couple of minutes for the vegetables to soak up the flavours.

  3. Add the rinsed barley and stir well into the vegetable mixture. After stirring for one minute or so, add 500ml of hot vegetable stock.  Give the mixture a good stir, bring to the boil, cover with tight fitting lid and lower the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes.

  4. After 10 minutes, check the barley, add more hot water as needed.  Do not let the mixture stick to the pan.  Add your peas, stir and cover.  Simmer for a further 10 minutes. Add more hot water as required, stir, cover and simmer for the last 10 minutes. Barley takes between 30-40 minutes to cook, depending on your preferred texture.

  5. After 30 minutes of simmering, check the texture of the barley. I like my grains al dente, but you may prefer a softer texture, in which case, add a little bit more hot water and simmer for a further 5 minutes. When barley is ready all your stock should be absorbed, but the mixture should not be too dry. Give the barley and vegetable mixture a gentle stir, cover and leave to rest for 5 minutes. 

  6. Add the chopped mint and lemon zest and give the mixture one final stir (if it is slightly dry add half a cup of hot stock and stir).

    Your barley risotto is now ready to serve.  

Recipe Notes

As the name implies this recipe is made with springtime vegetables which are in season. In this recipe, I used baby asparagus to avoid having to peel the stems. I just trimmed the very end of the stem and used the rest. When using seasonal vegetables you benefit from full flavour, better taste and less money.

You may wish to leave out the smoked chilli flakes for a truly fresh taste.  However I find that a tiny amount of smoked chilli flakes give the dish a nice kick.  

I would love to receive your comments after having tried my springtime barley risotto.

My thanks go to

Gennaro Contaldo for the inspiration

Dr Axe 

Food to Live

 

Spinach and Chickpea Korma with mushrooms

Does the story of spinach and Popeye ring a bell? I think it’s a good idea for children to be encouraged to eat leafy greens by assimilating to a “strong” persona. Spinach is one leafy green which is truly a powerhouse!

Spinach

Cooked vs raw spinach is a bit like swings and roundabouts – what you lose on one you gain on the other.  Raw spinach is rich in folate, vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin, and potassium whilst cooked spinach is richer in vitamins A and E, protein, fiber, zinc, thiamin, calcium, and iron. Beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin – antioxidants located in the eye – which are absorbed better from cooked spinach.

Chickpeas

On the other hand, chickpeas are a great source of plant-based protein, fiber, iron, zinc, phosphorus, B vitamins and more. I prefer cooking my own chickpeas to avoid preservatives and for the legumes to have a bite to them. Chickpeas are really simple to cook.  All you need to do is plan when you want to cook them and soak them from at least eight hours before.  Drain the soaking water, put the chickpeas in a large pot, cover with 5-6 cms of water and cover with a tight-fitting lid.  Bring to the boil then lower the heat and keep lid partially open.  Simmer for 25-30 minutes.  Turn off the heat and leave to stand in hot water for a further 15 minutes.  Drain, saving the water (called aquafaba) for use in the main dish.

Mushrooms

The last star ingredient of this recipe is mushrooms.  The trend these days is to “eat a rainbow” – i.e. vary your diet with colourful vegetables and fruit.  Although field mushrooms are white, they contain plenty of antioxidants as well as selenium, vitamin D and folate. In other words … treat this humble-looking fungus with respect.

Ingredients for 4 persons:

1 kg spinach chopped
250 grms dried chickpeas (cooked)
250 grms field mushrooms quartered
1 large onion finely chopped
5 cloves garlic crushed
4 cm-piece fresh ginger finely chopped
3-4 tsps Korma curry powder
250 grms tomatoes roughly chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
250 grms wholegrain basmati rice
 salt and pepper to taste (optional)

Method:

  1. Cook chickpeas as above.
  2. In a large pan, dry fry the onion, adding a quarter cup aquafaba (see above) to prevent it sticking to the pan. Using the water in which you boiled the chickpeas is a win win: you benefit from any nutrients lost in the water whilst cooking and it gives your dish a delicious, nutty taste.
  3. Add crushed garlic and chopped ginger, stir and continue dry frying for a further two minutes.
  4. When the mixture is fragrant, add the Korma powder and 2-3 tbsps aquafaba. Continue dry frying, stiring continuously to prevent sticking. Add a little bit more aquafaba, if necessary.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes, the tomato paste and 3/4 cup aquafaba. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer gently for a few minutes.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  6. Add the quartered mushrooms – stir and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  7. Add the chopped spinach and cooked chickpeas. Give the mixture a good stir and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Stir occasionally.
  8. Simmer gently until the spinach is completely wilted. Turn off the heat and leave to stand whilst the you’re cooking the rice.
  9. Steam the rice – rinse the rice under running water; bring 500ml of water to the boil; add rice and stir well; cover with a tight-fitting lid; bring the water back to the boil; lower the heat and leave the pot to simmer for 25 minutes.  Turn off the heat and leave the rice to stand for 5 minutes.  Uncover and give the rice a good stir.
  10.  Serve the spinach and chickpea Korma with steamed rice.

This is one of those recipes which I knocked together at 6am, before going to the office. It’s so quick and easy to make, especially if you cook the chickpeas from before.

Try it for yourself and let me have your comments.

My thanks go to:

Vegetarian Times

Dr Axe Food is Medicine

Medical News Today

Wikipedia