Squidgy Pumpkin Spice Cookies

IMG_2772 adjusted 2

Pumpkin pumpkin pumpkin. Just perfect pumpkin. Bulbous and bright and carroty orange, the emblem of autumn and the vegetable you Americans have a somewhat obsessive yet endearing affection for. They are pretty amazing – the archetypal seasonal food – so I just had to create something with their tangerine tissue. And these delightfully spongy pumpkin spice cookies deserve a place amongst all those pumpkin pies and pumpkin breads and pumpkin cakes, if I’m allowed to make such a self-promoting claim.

IMG_2817 adjusted

There’s something of an incongruity surrounding pumpkins – on the one hand they’re a wonderful symbol of seasonal produce promoted by a worldwide Hallows’ eve tradition, and yet they’re also (as a direct result of this quirky age-old tradition) one of the most wasted vegetables on the planet. This just doesn’t seem right at all, so what better way to remedy the injustice than to encourage people to eat pumpkins? By all means carve out your scary faces for some spooky fun, but eat pumpkins and squashes too. Eat and gobble and swallow to your stomach’s content. They’re too delicious to chuck into landfill and they’re growing in abundance right now – guaranteed somewhere nearby, so get on out there and source a glowing orange globe in some local soil.

And here’s some inspiration for you – simple, spicy and sweet. With no trace of refined sugar, gluten or dairy. In short; local, seasonal, sustainable wee beauties. These cookies will be all the tastier if you chop up a Hokkaido pumpkin (or butternut or any member of the pumpkin/squash family!) and give it a steam or roast, but canned pumpkin puree works a (trick-or)treat too.

IMG_2777 adjusted 2

Makes about 20 cookies:

  • 425g/1 can of pumpkin puree (unsweetened)
  • 120g/1 cup oats
  • 100g/½ cup chestnut flour (if you don’t have any use brown rice flour)
  • 60g/½ cup ground almonds
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 4-6 tablespoons agave syrup (or maple syrup or raw local honey), depending on how sweet you like it
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • A pinch of sea salt

IMG_2763 adjusted 2

If using a pumpkin or squash from scratch; peel it, scoop out the seeds and chop up the flesh into chunks. Place these in a steamer and steam for about 20 minutes, or until they’re really tender and mushy.

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Place the oats in a blender or food processor and whizz up into a flour. Pour this into a large mixing bowl along with the chestnut flour, ground almonds, all the spices, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and sea salt. Mix well and set aside.

Measure out 425g/1 cup of pumpkin puree and place this in a food processor. Melt the coconut oil in a pan on a medium heat then pour this into the pumpkin puree along with the agave syrup. Blend until they’re all well combined.

Add a third of the wet pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to combine, repeating twice more until all the pumpkin’s stirred in to form a dough. Line a large baking tray with parchment and lightly grease with a little coconut oil. Scoop out about a tablespoon’s worth of dough and place on the parchment, repeating until you’ve used it all up. Then, using your fingers, gently squash and smooth the balls of dough into round or oval cookie shapes.

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the edges are firm and they’ve turned a lovely orangey golden brown. Remove from the oven and let them cool for 2 minutes on the baking tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Then munch away!

IMG_2743 adjusted

Turmeric Tangerine Porridge with Blackcurrant Compote

IMG_1477 smaller adjusted

Turmeric should be called a superspice. It’s got the most amazing colour, distinct flavour and even better it’s one of the best things you can eat, especially in these winter months when your body needs a good immune boost. It has a host of medicinal properties and nutrients – the most significant of which is curcumin. This compound is both a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, and recent studies have shown that it can prevent heart attacks, delay the onset of diabetes and fight cancer by helping to kill cancer cells and shrink tumours.

You most probably associate turmeric with curry and savoury dishes, but it’s such a warming spice that it goes perfectly with porridge and, in general, with sweet, fruity flavours. Tangerines have a citrusy sweetness with subtle sour tangs, which combined with the turmeric creates a unique, mildly exotic taste, making every spoonful of porridge delicious. Tangerines are such a great seasonal fruit – they’re my go-to for a naturally sweet afternoon snack in the winter. Not only are they chock-full of vitamin C, they’re also grown in Spain, so they haven’t had to travel too far to my greengrocer in southern England.

IMG_1551 smaller adjusted

Swirling blackcurrant compote through this porridge really is the cherry on top of the cake. Blackcurrants are so overlooked as a berry, which is mad because they’re so good for you – packed with iron, as well as B vitamins and vitamin A. I use blackcurrants handpicked from my very own garden, which to me is just the most wonderful thing – truly organic, local and with no one else involved in the growing and gathering apart from me. These babies have been frozen since last summer, so if you can’t get your hands on any right now then try alternative berries for the compote and be ready for the blackcurrant season this year. They’re little gems.

IMG_1421 smaller adjusted 2

Serves 2

For the porridge:

  • 1 cup of oats
  • ½ cup of coconut milk or almond milk
  • ½ cup of water
  • 2 tangerines
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • A pinch of ground nutmeg

For the blackcurrant compote:

  • ½ cup of blackcurrants (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 1½ teaspoons of yacon syrup, maple syrup or honey

IMG_1516 smaller adjusted

First of all, place the blackcurrants in a saucepan along with the water and sweetener of your choice and turn to a medium heat. Once the pan’s hot, keep stirring the blackcurrants until their juices start to come out and the berries are just starting to burst. At this point reduce the heat to low.

Juice the tangerines either by peeling their skins and squeezing out the juice from the segments by hand, or by putting them through a juicer if you have one. In another saucepan, pour in the oats, water and milk and bring to the boil. Once the oats are starting to absorb the liquid and break down, add the tangerine juice, turmeric, cinnamon and nutmeg. Give it a good stir to make sure everything is combined.

After 5-10 minutes, depending on whether you’ve used jumbo or porridge oats and how soft you like them, pour the porridge into two bowls and then top with the blackcurrant compote. I like to serve mine with a sprinkling of desiccated coconut.

Apple Purée, Cinnamon & Nut Granola

IMG_0377 adjusted 2

Homemade granola trumps shop-bought granola in every single possible way. The taste, the crunch, the nuttiness. You can throw in whatever you like and it isn’t stuffed with refined sugar or synthetic honey or palm oil or preservatives such as sulphur dioxide. In the past when I took a bite of Tesco own granola or even brands such as Jordan’s or Dorset Cereals, I was always overwhelmed by how sugary it tasted. You can literally feel the granules of sugar melting on your tongue, going all over your teeth and straight down into your body. Which is really not good in any way.

I was trying to think up a new granola recipe with a seasonal element and my mind immediately jumped to apples, since they’re in season and full of their own subtle fruity sweetness. I love having stewed apple for pudding so I thought why not try baking it with oats and see what happens. The result is super and makes a delicious, fruity, crunchy yet squishy granola which I think you’re all going to love. It’s so easy to throw together (despite what looks like a long ingredient list!) and if you haven’t got the time to peel, core, chop and stew some apples then you can simply use apple sauce. And, even better, it’s probably one of the healthiest and most nutrient dense granolas out there.

Untitled-1

As well as oats (an excellent source of fibre and slow-burning energy) and apple, it’s brimming with pecans, almonds and walnuts, all of which give a great protein boost for first thing in the morning, as well as minerals such as iron and magnesium. On top of that, the pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds not only enhance the protein content of the granola further but are a great source of the really good, healthy fats omega 3 and omega 6 which our bodies need and love. The cinnamon gives that yummy hint of spice which is the perfect partner for apple and the blackstrap molasses add a further fruity flavour and a little bit of extra sweetness. Blackstrap molasses is actually the by-product of the process of making refined sugar from the sugar cane plant and consequently contains all of the vitamins and minerals which white sugar lacks. It’s highly nutritious, containing healthy amounts of copper, iron, calcium and magnesium. It’s so great for vegetarians and vegans who often have trouble getting iron into their diet (I certainly do), but the combination of blackstrap with the nuts, seeds and currants makes this granola an iron-filled feast.

IMG_0300 smaller adjusted

Makes two large containers of granola:

  • 2 large cooking apples (or 3 medium sized) or 450g/1½ cups of apple sauce
  • ⅓ cup of water
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1 cup of jumbo oats
  • ½ cup of walnuts
  • ½ cup of pecans
  • ½ cup of almonds
  • ½ cup of pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup of sunflower seeds
  • ⅓ cup of flaxseeds
  • ⅓ cup of flaked almonds
  • 3 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 3 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 4 tablespoons of sunflower oil
  • 3 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses
  • ½ cup of currants or raisins
  • 2 tablespoons of yacon syrup/raw honey/maple syrup (optional – for sweeter tooths)

IMG_0369 adjusted 2

Preheat your oven to 175°C. If making the apple purée from scratch, peel, core and slice the apples into small sized chunks and place in a fairly large saucepan along with the water. Put this on the hob at a medium heat, watching it until the water starts to boil. At this point put the lid on and reduce to a low heat to allow the apples to stew for about 15-20 minutes, checking them every five minutes and giving them a quick stir.

While the apples are cooking, place the oats in a large mixing bowl. Add half the walnuts to a pestle and mortar and give them a good bash until they’ve broken up into small pieces. Pour them into the mixing bowl with the oats before breaking up the other half in the pestle and mortar. Do the same to the pecans and whole almonds, and then add the flaked almonds and all the seeds to the mix. Give it a stir around and then add the cinnamon, mixed spice and ginger before stirring once more.

When the apple has stewed down into a purée, add your 3 tablespoons of coconut oil and blackstrap molasses so they melt nicely down into it too, giving it a stir so it’s all mixed well. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for a minute or two before pouring it into the granola mixture along with the 4 tablespoons of sunflower oil and the currants. Using a large spoon, stir the whole mixture up so all the oats, nuts and seeds are well and coated with the apple, oil and blackstrap (if you like your granola on the sweeter side add the yacon syrup, honey or maple syrup at this point too).

Line a large baking tray with a sheet of baking paper and then pour on the granola mix, spreading it evenly across and squashing down gently. Place this in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how brown and crispy you like it. Every 10 minutes or so take it out and give it a little stir to make sure it toasts evenly and none of it burns, and you get good sized nuggets of granola not one massive piece. When you’ve reached the desired crunchiness, remove from the oven, allow to cool and then store in an airtight container so it stays crispy and fresh for days, weeks or even months (depending on how fast you gobble it down) to come.

Roasted Cobnut Banana Bread

IMG_0049 smaller adjusted 2

Banana bread has been one of my go-to things for years when I’m feeling like a bit of squidgy, gooey comfort food. I usually used a recipe which was literally just bananas, flour, eggs and a bit of spice if you wanted it – so great because it’s totally sugar free, with the only sweetness coming from the bananas themselves. But I thought it was time I experimented and made banana bread with a bit of panache and a unique flavour, and so came up with this roasted cobnut banana cake. And it really tastes divine, if I’m allowed to say so myself! What’s even better is that it’s vegan, gluten free and uses a seasonal, local, very English ingredient – cobnuts.

Cobnuts are very similar to hazelnuts and you can find cobnut trees over much of the countryside in Britain. Lots of cobnuts are grown and cultivated in Kent, so you might have heard the term Kentish cobnuts, which some greengrocers and supermarkets offer at this time of year. But you can pick cobnuts straight off the tree (if you beat the squirrels to them) and the best thing about picking them yourself is that they’re free. Wild food is something which seems to have been completely forgotten about in the modern western world – it’s as if people are afraid that if it doesn’t come from a supermarket it can’t be safe or edible. But that’s just not true at all. There’s an abundance of wild food out there for us to gorge on and enjoy, from berries and nuts to mushrooms, herbs and flowers.

IMG_0022 smaller adjusted

You can eat raw cobnuts but roasting them really brings out a delicious, toasted flavour. And by combining them with hazelnut oil, it turns this banana bread into something else. Both hazelnuts and cobnuts are packed with protein, and they’re very high in energy so they’re great for providing an energy boost either in the morning at breakfast or as a snack in the mid afternoon lull which many people suffer from. They’re also a rich source of vitamin E and a load of minerals such as manganese, potassium, iron and zinc. The last thing I’ll say about this banana bread is that it’s super easy to make, so there’s no reason not to like it.

IMG_0060 smaller adjusted

Makes one loaf:

  • 6 medium to large bananas (overly ripe is best)
  • 1 cup (150g) of brown rice flour
  • ½ cup (50g) of ground almonds
  • 3 tablespoons of hazelnut oil (if you don’t have any sunflower oil works too)
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • ½ cup of almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons of yacon syrup/date syrup (optional – I don’t feel the bread needs it but most people seem to have a sweeter tooth than me!)
  • A large handful of cracked and shelled cobnuts (if you can’t lay your hands on any use hazelnuts)

IMG_0139 adjusted 2

Start by preheating your oven to 150°C. Then, crack and shell the cobnuts until you have enough to make a large handful. Simply lay these on a baking tray and roast for about 45 minutes, turning half way through to make sure they roast evenly.

While they’re roasting, mash the bananas and set aside. Then place the flour, ground almonds, hazelnut oil, coconut oil, almond milk, baking powder, cinnamon and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Mix this all together before adding half the squashed banana. Stir this in then add the other half and stir again to make a batter.

When the cobnuts are roasted, remove them from the oven and turn it up to 170°C. Place all the nuts in a pestle and mortar except about 3 for use later. Bash them up into small chunks and then add to the bread batter and stir in until everything’s combined.

Grease a loaf tin with coconut oil and then line the bottom with greaseproof paper before greasing that as well. Then pour in the mixture. At this point crush the 3 remaining cobnuts in the pestle and mortar and then scatter the pieces over the top of the mix.

Bake the bread in the oven for an hour or until a knife comes out clean. You may want to lay a piece of foil over the top about 45 minutes in to stop the top from burning. Finally, remove it from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before slicing and enjoying!

IMG_0031 smaller adjusted