Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pumpkin goulash soup

Autumn is an inspiring time for me. I love the warm colours and comforting sweetness of vegetables like winter squash.

With Halloween approaching, the shops are full of pumpkins. The type of pumpkins used for carving jack-o'-lanterns are generally not very tasty, so don't try to use them in cooking. Here's one I carved last year.

Instead, you can buy other multi-coloured varieties of winter squash, such as Blue Hubbard, Acorn, Kabocha, Delicata and Spaghetti squash, each with their own unique texture and flavour. I particularly like the orange ones that look like mini pumpkins (var. Kabocha).

Winter squash, like other richly coloured vegetables, are excellent sources of carotenes – the darker the colour, the higher the concentration. They're also a very good source of vitamins C and B1, folic acid, vitamin B5, potassium and dietary fibre; and a good source of vitamins B3 and B6.

Like other carotene-rich vegetables, winter squash have been shown to have a protective effect against many cancers, including lung cancer. Diets rich in carotenes also appear to protect against type 2 diabetes. Pumpkin seeds have been shown to be helpful in reducing symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia.

In this recipe, I combined sweet orange winter squash, with red and yellow bell peppers, tomatoes, potato, onions and smoked paprika to create a colourful, satisfying and antioxidant-rich soup, with a delicately smoky flavour.

Bell peppers are extremely nutrient dense. They are low in calories but high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin K, thiamine, folic acid and vitamin B6.

Bell peppers are also a very good source of phytochemicals with exceptional antioxidant activity, such as chlorogenic acid, coumeric acid, and zeaxanthin.

Studies in Italy have shown that consumption of bell peppers reduced risk for cataract surgery and also had a protective effect against cataracts.

Like tomatoes, red bell peppers also contain lycopene, which is known to protect against cancer and heart disease. Lycopene has been shown to be particularly protective against prostate cancer.

Bell peppers also contain capsaicin, flavonoids and vitamin C, which have been shown to prevent blood clot formation and reduce risk of heart attacks and stroke.


  • 1-2 tsp olive oil or 1 tbsp water
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 2 onions (200g/7oz), peeled and chopped
  • ½ winter squash (680g/24oz), peeled and chopped
  • 1 red pepper, washed, de-seeded and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 yellow pepper, washed, de-seeded and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 can (400g/14oz) chopped tomatoes
  • 2-3 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp sweet white miso, diluted in a little water
  • Chopped fresh herbs to garnish


Heat oil or water in a pan, add a pinch of salt and the onions and sweat for 5 minutes until onions are soft and translucent.

Add chopped winter squash, red pepper, yellow pepper, potato, tomatoes and smoked paprika and simmer on a low heat for 20-25 minutes, until vegetables are soft.

Partially blend soup with a hand blender, so the vegetables are reduced to small chunks. Add miso little by little to taste.

Garnish with fresh herbs and serve hot.


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Nutrient information

Monday, September 8, 2014

Chickpea (garbanzo bean), celeriac, squash, cabbage and fennel seed soup

September is the best month for celeriac in Europe.

Celeriac may appear as an ugly, uninteresting, knobbly root but don’t be fooled – it’s brimming with nutrients and adds delicate flavour and subtle texture to autumn dishes.

Celeriac is derived from wild celery, which has a small, edible root and has been used in Europe since ancient times.

It’s mentioned in Homer's Odyssey as selinon.

It’s unclear when celeriac was first cultivated but there are references to it dating back to the seventeenth century.

Its flesh is crispy when raw and smooth when cooked and has a delicate taste which suggests the flavours of celery and parsley with a slight nuttiness.

I love one pot lunches, so created this Tuscan-style satisfying and nutritious soup with celeriac combined with chick peas (garbanzo beans), winter squash and cabbage, flavoured with fennel seeds.

This dish provides 10 per cent of your daily protein needs but only 5 per cent of daily calorie needs. It's very high in dietary fibre and also contains substantial amounts of vitamins A, C, B1, B6 and folate and the minerals potassium, copper, manganese and iodine (the iodine comes from the vegetable stock which included the sea vegetable kombu). 

For more detailed information please read my article on the health benefits of celery and celeriac.

You can also try celeriac mashed with potatoes and garlic or in the French favourite Celeri Rémoulade, which is basically grated celeriac in mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and seasonings.


  • 2 tsp olive oil or 2 tbsp water
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 2 small red onions, peeled and diced
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ medium-sized celeriac (approx. 375g/13oz), peeled and cut into small (1cm/⅓”) chunks
  • ½ small winter squash (270g/9½oz), peeled and cut into small (1cm/⅓”) chunks
  • 400g/14oz can (240g/8oz drained weight) cooked chickpeas
  • 750ml/1½ pints vegetable stock (see instructions below)*
  • 1 tsp sweet white miso (diluted in a little water)
  • 250g/8oz savoy cabbage, washed and finely shredded


Heat oil or water in a thick-based pan with a pinch of sea salt, add onions and fennel seed and sweat gently until onion is soft and translucent.

Add chickpeas (garbanzo beans), celeriac, squash and vegetable stock* and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes until vegetables are soft.

Season with diluted miso, adding a little at a time until you’ve achieved the desired taste.

Right at the end, add the shredded savoy cabbage and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve in a bowl with a crusty roll or sprouted bread.

You can also make this one-pot lunch soup in a slow cooker. 

Just put onions, fennel seeds, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), celeriac, squash, and vegetable stock in a slow cooker and leave on a medium setting for 1-2 hours, or on a low setting for 5-6 hours. Season with miso to taste at the end. Lightly steam the shredded cabbage and mix into the soup just before serving.

To make your own vegetable stock


  • 2 leeks
  • 3 carrots
  • Outside cabbage leaves
  • 4 sticks celery
  • Mushroom stalks
  • Pea pods if available
  • Large handful of assorted herbs, e.g., basil, marjoram, lovage, parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 strip dried kombu sea vegetable
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 litres/3½ pints water


Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 1 hour.
Strain and discard vegetables.
Return liquid to pan and reduce to desired strength.


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Nutrition information

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Strawberry, blueberry and chia seed dessert

If you've got some strawberries which are slightly over-ripe and too soft for a fresh fruit salad, you can use them to make this simple cold dessert, which is very quick and easy to prepare and packed with nutrients.

Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamins C and K, dietary fibre, and flavonoids. Indeed, a handful of strawberries is sufficient to cover the vitamin C recommended daily allowance.

They’re also a very good source of manganese, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin B1, and iodine. They’re a good source of folic acid, biotin, and vitamin B6.

Folate is needed to synthesize DNA, repair DNA, and methylate DNA as well as to act as a cofactor in certain biological reactions. It’s especially important in aiding rapid cell division and growth, such as in infancy and pregnancy. Children and adults both require folate to produce healthy red blood cells and prevent anaemia.

Strawberries also contain fat-soluble vitamins (i.e. vitamin A and tocopherol) and carotenoids (i.e. lutein and zeaxanthin), which are known to be important for eye health.

The red colour of strawberries is due to a substance called pelargonidin, which is a powerful type of photochemical called flavonoids.

These flavonoids are anti-inflammatory and have a similar mode of action to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. They reduce the activity of the enzyme cyclooxygenase, or COX1. Unlike the drugs, though, strawberries don’t cause intestinal bleeding or heart disease.

Strawberries also have strong antioxidant activity and have been linked to lower risk of cancer.

Some of the known chemopreventive agents present in strawberries include vitamins (vitamins A, C and E and folic acid), minerals such as calcium and selenium, dietary fibre, carotenoids, phytosterols such as β-sitosterol and stigmasterol, triterpene esters and phenolic compounds such as anthocyanins, flavonols, flavanols, proanthocyanidins and phenolic acids 2 3.

Evidence from in vitro studies show that strawberry phenolics may have anti-inflammatory effects 4, and suppress mutagenesis through antioxidative and genoprotective properties 5.

Strawberry extracts also seem to modulate cell signalling in cancer cells by inhibiting proliferation of several type of cancer cells 6, inducing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis 7 1, and suppressing tumour angiogenesis 8.

Most of these findings come from in vitro studies, and further studies in human subjects are required.

Blueberries are also an excellent source of flavonoids, especially anthocyanidins. They have one of the highest antioxidant activity of any fruit.

In addition, they are a very good source of vitamin C, insoluble fibre and soluble fibre, such as pectin; and a good source of manganese, vitamin E and vitamin B2.

Chia seeds

Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, grown in Mexico dating back to Mayan and Aztec cultures. "Chia" means strength, and folklore has it that these cultures used the tiny black and white seeds as an energy booster. That makes sense, as chia seeds are a concentrated food containing healthy omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fibre, antioxidants, and calcium.

Chia seeds have useful properties in cooking. When water is added, a gel is formed which acts as a thickening agent, emulsifying agent, and as a stabilizer 9.


250g/8oz  ripe strawberries
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp agar agar
2 tbsp rice syrup or to taste (depends on how ripe the fruit is)
100g/4oz  blueberries


Put strawberries in a pan and cook over a gentle heat until they soften into a pulp. 

Add chia seeds and agar agar and stir until agar agar has dissolved; these ingredients act as thickening and setting agents. Add rice syrup to taste. 

Mix in half the blueberries and pour mixture into glass dishes. When cool, put dishes in refrigerator to allow the dessert to set.

Decorate with the remaining blueberries and serve.


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Nutritional information


1.         Seeram NP, Adams LS, Zhang Y, et al. Blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, red raspberry, and strawberry extracts inhibit growth and stimulate apoptosis of human cancer cells in vitro. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. Dec 13 2006;54(25):9329-9339.
2.         Duthie SJ. Berry phytochemicals, genomic stability and cancer: evidence for chemoprotection at several stages in the carcinogenic process. Molecular nutrition & food research. Jun 2007;51(6):665-674.
3.         Seeram NP. Berry fruits for cancer prevention: current status and future prospects. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. Feb 13 2008;56(3):630-635.
4.         Wang SY, Feng R, Lu Y, Bowman L, Ding M. Inhibitory effect on activator protein-1, nuclear factor-kappaB, and cell transformation by extracts of strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa Duch.). Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. May 18 2005;53(10):4187-4193.
5.         Xue H, Aziz RM, Sun N, et al. Inhibition of cellular transformation by berry extracts. Carcinogenesis. Feb 2001;22(2):351-356.
6.         Zhang Y, Seeram NP, Lee R, Feng L, Heber D. Isolation and identification of strawberry phenolics with antioxidant and human cancer cell antiproliferative properties. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. Feb 13 2008;56(3):670-675.
7.         Boivin D, Blanchette M, Barrette S, Moghrabi A, Beliveau R. Inhibition of cancer cell proliferation and suppression of TNF-induced activation of NFkappaB by edible berry juice. Anticancer research. Mar-Apr 2007;27(2):937-948.
8.         Atalay M, Gordillo G, Roy S, et al. Anti-angiogenic property of edible berry in a model of hemangioma. FEBS letters. Jun 5 2003;544(1-3):252-257.
9.         Coorey R, Tjoe A, Jayasena V. Gelling Properties of Chia Seed and Flour. Journal of Food Science. 2014;79(5):E859-E866.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Courgette (zucchini) and tofu fritters with avocado, cashew and lime dip

“Westley shrugged. "Welcome to the middle of nowhere. I'm more likely to come home to find someone's left a pie on my counter than to find my television's missing. Although—" He winced.

"What?" Jaylen looked ready to fight whatever threat had made its way into Westley's home.

"Last year the zucchini crop was really good and somebody left three bushels in my kitchen."

"Oh." Jaylen deflated. So there was an enemy he wasn't a match for.

"There's still zucchini bread in the freezer," Westley offered. "If you're hungry.” 

- Ryan Loveless, Wolf Hunter

So what on earth can you do with all those courgettes/zucchinis?

Fear not. 

Here's a real crowd-pleasing recipe, with plenty of scope for modification. 

Courgette (zucchini) and tofu fritters with a creamy avocado, cashew and lime dip are tasty and satisfying and ideal for summer picnics, packed lunches, snacks and to serve as a main meal with a green salad. 


Avocado, cashew and lime dip


½ cup cashews
1 small avocado
Juice of ½ small lime
Small pinch of salt if required


1. Soak cashew nuts in water for 1-2 hours. While the cashews are soaking, prepare the courgette (zucchini) fritters following the instructions below.

2. When the cashews have finished soaking, drain them. Cut avocado in half, remove the stone, scoop out flesh and blend with cashews, adding lime juice and salt to taste

Courgette (zucchini) and tofu fritters


2 medium courgettes (zucchini) 
1 small white onion (grated) or 3 spring onions (scallions) (finely chopped)
2-3 small new potatoes
½ tsp salt
60g/3oz firm tofu
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground paprika
1 tsp lime zest
1-2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp apple juice concentrate
1 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 2 tbsp warm water – this acts as a binding agent instead of using egg. You could also use 1 tbsp chia seeds + 3 tbsp water.
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
3-4 tbsp chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour (you can use regular wheat flour)


1. Grate courgettes (zucchini) and onion into a bowl (or add chopped spring onions (scallions)

2. Peel potatoes and grate into bowl with courgettes (zucchini) and onion

3. Sprinkle grated vegetables with salt and allow to sit for 30 minutes to draw out the juices. Squeeze out excess liquid with your hands and put mixture in a bowl

4. Grate tofu into the bowl with the grated courgettes (zucchini), potatoes and onion

5. Add ground cumin, ground coriander and ground paprika, lime zest, lime juice, apple juice concentrate and fresh coriander

6. Carefully fold in ground flax seed and water mixture and the flour

7. Shape into small flat rounds and gently pan-fry in a good quality oil that won’t burn. I used rice bran oil; olive oil would be fine.

8. Finish making the avocado dip (see above)

Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with the avocado, cashew and lime dip and a green salad 

Nutritional information

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