Squidgy Pumpkin Spice Cookies

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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Ultimate Thai Green Curry

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Thai curry is just one of those things. If you go to an authentic Thai restaurant and order their staple dish it’s just bursting with flavour and I always love it. I went to a Thai place in Brixton the other day for a friend’s birthday lunch and we all sat outside – yep, that’s right we sat outside in Britain in January. But along came our big bowls of steaming Thai curry and everyone was happy – warmed, satisfied and chipper, if a little numb in our fingers and toes.

As a general rule Thai curry comes in the form of chicken or prawn, or it’s been made with fish sauce, which isn’t so fantastic for vegetarians and vegans. For a while now I’ve wanted to create a truly veggie Thai green curry, spiced with all the authentic Thai flavours and creamy coconut milk, but with good seasonal British vegetables as the principal feature. So here you have a kale, cauliflower and broccoli curry, both super healthy and tasty, and 100% vegan.

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Kale rules the health food world at the moment, and for a good reason – it’s chock full of iron (it actually has more iron than beef per calorie!) which is essential for processes in the body such as the formation of haemoglobin and enzymes, and for cell growth. Kale is also high in vitamins K, A and C and contains powerful antioxidants. Cauliflower kicks arse as well – it’s a great source of minerals and vitamins such as manganese and phosphorus, and it’s an important source of fibre which aids in digestion. And they’re both in season here in the UK – bought from my local organic greengrocer, these winter veggies are the most wonderful thing.

The secret to this curry is making the paste yourself. Using fresh ingredients gives it so much more flavour than those supermarket readymade ones in a jar that also have added sugar, colour and acidity regulators, which you just don’t need. Whizzing up the paste is so easy and you can make a big batch and freeze the rest ready for your next Thai curry. Combining this with coconut milk, delicious vegetables and a few peas for a protein boost, this curry is spicy, creamy and zesty.

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Serves 6

For the paste:

  • 3-4 medium green chillies (25g)
  • 1 shallot (60g)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (12g)
  • 5cm piece of fresh ginger (30g)
  • Small handful of fresh coriander (15g)
  • Small handful of Thai basil (18g)
  • 1 lime (75g)
  • 1 lemongrass stalk (22g)
  • 1½ teaspoons of coriander seeds
  • 1½ teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1½ tablespoons of coconut oil
  • ½ tablespoon of sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon of tamari soy sauce

For the curry:

  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 5/6 heaped tablespoons of curry paste
  • 2 tins/800ml of coconut milk
  • 3 large handfuls of kale (70g)
  • 8-10 florets of broccoli (200g)
  • 8-10 florets of cauliflower (230g)
  • 150g of frozen petit pois
  • ½ a lime
  • A few sprigs of fresh coriander and Thai basil

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First, deseed and roughly chop the chillies. Roughly chop the shallot, garlic and lemongrass stalks. Peel the ginger and again roughly chop. Grate the lime zest and then squeeze all the juice out. Place the coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar and grind them until they’re completely crushed. Place all of these ingredients and the remaining Thai basil, coriander, coconut oil, sunflower oil and tamari into a food processor and blend until smooth – it should take about a minute. You may have to scrape down the sides with a spoon a couple of times to make sure it’s all combined.

Place the paste in a bowl and chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes. After that, place a large pan on a medium heat and add the coconut oil. Once it’s hot, add 5-6 heaped tablespoons of the paste, depending on taste or spiciness required (the amount of paste should be about right but you may have some left over – simply place in the freezer for another curry). Let the paste fry in the oil for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. At this point, add the coconut milk and stir.

Once the milk comes to the boil, reduce the heat to low, put a lid on and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes. This will let all the flavours from the paste infuse into the coconut milk and will really bring them out – ideally you should leave it for at least 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the broccoli and cauliflower so that they’re all small to medium sized florets. At this point, squeeze the juice out of the ½ lime ready for adding later. Once the coconut milk’s simmered for at least 30 minutes, place a small amount of water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. When it’s boiling add the petit pois and simmer for 4 minutes, or until tender. At this point, steam the broccoli and cauliflower for not more than 1½ minutes before adding them to the coconut milk. Add the cooked peas and the fresh kale as well.

Give the curry a good stir and then let the vegetables simmer gently for about a minute (making sure the kale has a chance to wilt). While they’re simmering, add the lime juice to the curry along with the fresh coriander and Thai basil. Stir it all round once more and then finally serve – I like to soak up the luscious, spicy coconut sauce with a portion of wholesome long grain brown rice.

Carrot, Ginger & Turmeric Juice

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Carrots are super – they’re probably the vegetable that’s in season for the longest in Britain, growing naturally and happily in our soil from June right the way through to February. That’s a whopping 9 months, over three quarters of the year. You might think they almost don’t have a season, but it’s so good because whenever I crunch on one or press a bit of carrot through my juicer it’s a great feeling because I know they really are local and seasonal, a true English food.

They’re also pretty bloomin’ healthy as far as vegetables go. They’re great for vision because they’re rich in beta-carotene, which also helps slow down aging through acting as an antioxidant to cell damage. Moreover, carrots promote healthier skin through their vitamin A content, this wonderful vitamin helping to protect the skin from sun damage, premature wrinkling, dry skin and pigmentation. In addition to carrots, this juice is bursting with ginger and turmeric, which both add a lightly spicy tang that’s really stimulating. They’re both anti-inflammatory; ginger containing potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, which can be beneficial to chronic inflammatory diseases. Turmeric contains curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant.

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I woke up with a pretty bad headache on Christmas Eve so I decided to make a carrot juice with a ton of fresh ginger and turmeric, and you know what? It really worked! My headache didn’t disappear completely but it was 95% gone, which is an amazing result, especially as it all came from plants – no drugs, nothing synthetic, nothing artificial. Things like aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen are just so far from anything natural and when we swallow them our bodies have no idea what they are or how to process them. I’d so much rather sip on a juice, knowing that everything I’m putting into my body can only have a positive effect, in both the short term and long term. In simple words, this juice is an easy and great way to flood your system with vegetables, minerals and vitamins, giving it a good alkaline boost, so don’t hold back – especially if you have swollen glands, tonsils, sinuses or are generally feeling under the weather.

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Makes one large glass:

  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 apple
  • 1-2 inch piece of ginger (depending on how gingery you like it!)
  • 2 inch piece of turmeric root
  • Half a yellow bell pepper

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Simply press all the ingredients through your juicer, pour into a glass, give it a little stir and enjoy!

P.S. I like to save the pulp and make raw carrot cake