So the nights may be drawing in and the days getting cooler but you can’t help feeling inspired by the amazing colours of the autumnal landscape. The season of ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness’ brings not only an explosion of coloured foliage but also an accompanying array of brightly coloured earthy fruit and vegetables to tempt your palate.
Eating with the seasons
Changing your diet with the seasons is a fantastic way to eat; one reason being that seasonal food is usually fresher and so tends to be tastier. For many people, seasonal eating is also about reconnecting to nature’s cycles, cutting down on food miles and supporting the local economy. For children it’s a lovely way to encourage them to try some unusual vegetables by making their plates look as Autumnal as their surroundings. So here’s a few tips to help you to incorporate some of the beautiful colours of Autumn onto your dinner plates!
Ready, Steady, Squash!
No collection of colourful autumnal vegetables would be complete without mentioning the squash family of vegetables, so if you’re starting to think about hollowing out pumpkins to make your children’s Halloween lanterns, then you may well be looking for some inspiration on how to best use its brightly coloured orange flesh in the kitchen. One of the best ways to incorporate lots of vegetables into your diet, especially in the colder months is through a hearty homemade soup. Best of all, you can easily make a big batch and freeze portions for those times when you need a nutritious meal or snack in a hurry.
The bright orange flesh of pumpkin & butternut squash is a good clue to the fact that they contain relatively high levels of the nutrient beta carotene, the plant form of vitamin A, which is essential for optimal skin, lung and gut health and an important nutrient for a robust immune system, especially important at this time of year.
Tasty Pumpkin Soup
You will need:
1 medium onion chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed
6 tbsp oil
1.5 kg pumpkin cut into 1cm pieces
2 bay leaves
½ pt milk & ½ pint cream or vegetable stock
Season to taste
- Saute the garlic & onion in the heated oil until the onion is transparent
- Add the pumpkin, bay leaves and seasoning & then cover and cook for approx 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft
- Transfer to a liquidiser, add the milk and then blend until smooth. Add the cream or stock and reheat gently before serving
You will need:
1 butternut squash
2 sliced red onions
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 red chilli finely chopped
1 sprig rosemary finely chopped
- Cut squash in half lengthways and peel and slice across into lengths about 1cm wide.
- Place sliced onions on a shallow baking tray, lay squash slices on the onions and sprinkle with olive oil.
- Bake in a medium oven (about 200°C) for about 30 minutes or until squash is just cooked.
- Sprinkle garlic, red chilli and rosemary over squash and return to oven for another 10 minutes, until garlic and chilli is cooked but not brown.
B is for Beetroot
The official family name of beetroot is ‘goosefoot’, which is to do with the shape of its leaves and not because of any relation to a feathery bird! Beetroot has a relatively high sugar content and so is a good source of energy, packaged with fibre and plenty of nutrients. Beetroot are particularly high in folic acid and powerful antioxidants and are considered one of nature’s wonderfoods for their role in promoting healthy detoxification and protection against heart disease and cancer.
Beetroot with Garlic & Lemon Juice
You will need:
450g beetroots with leaves
75ml olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic thinly sliced
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Cut off the leaves about 2cm above the beetroot, rinse, shake dry and chop coarsely. Peel the beetroots and slice thinly
- In a large pan, heat the oil, add the onion and fry for about 5 minutes to soften slightly. Add the garlic, beetroots and enough water to just cover them.
- Season and cook gently until the beetroot is tender (25 – 30 minutes depending on size). Add the chopped leaves and cook for an additional 5 minutes
- Check the seasoning, pour into a dish, leave to cool to room temperature and then sprinkle with a little lemon juice (You could serve this with some puy lentils and chilled plain yoghurt).
Going Back to Your Roots – The Mucky Carrot…
There’s something really homely about knocking the dirt off a bunch of carrots and giving them a good scrub; in fact I still find it rather amazing that such a colourful vegetable does all its growth under the ground!
So, it’s 2012 and we’re still encouraging our children to eat carrots by telling them that they’ll help them to see in the dark; but is there any truth in this? In fact, this little bit of food trivia is actually grounded in scientific fact as the rich beta-carotene content of carrots is converted into vitamin A in the body and used to make rhodopsin in the eye, which is essential for seeing in the dark! Carrots also contain silica, which is an important nutrient for healthy skin and high amounts of easily digestible fibre (especially when lightly cooked).
Root Vegetable Stew
You Will Need:
2 large onions chopped & 2 garlic cloves crushed
250g puy lentils
3 tbsp oil
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
250g of each; carrots (sliced 2cm), turnips, swede, parsnips (all peeled and chopped)
900ml vegetable stock
1 x 400g chopped tomatoes
- Saute onions and garlic in hot oil until onion is transparent
- Dry fry coriander & cumin seeds in a separate small pan for a few minutes, stirring occasionally and then crush with a pestle and mortar
- Add seeds to onions & garlic and cook whilst continuing to stir for 2 minutes
- Add carrots, turnips, swede & parsnips to onions & garlic mixture and cook for a few minutes
- Wash lentils and add to pan, stir well. Pour in chopped tomatoes. Season
- Cover and simmer gently for 40 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the lentils are soft
Crushed Carrots with Cumin & Goats Cheese
You will need:
1 bunch carrots, scrubbed, trimmed & cut in half lengthways
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds, lightly toasted and ground
2 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
75g goats cheese, crumbled
1 tbsp chopped mint
- In preheated oven (approx 180°C), roast carrots in oil until slightly brown with a caramelised appearance
- Mash roasted carrots roughly and mix with ground cumin
- Spread mashed carrots on a plate, sprinkle with pine nuts, goats cheese & fresh mint. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil
- Serve with toasted pitta bread
Apples, apples and more apples!
We’re used to eating apples all year round, but locally sourced apples seem to taste at their best around this time of year, and I’m not just talking about the ‘Bonfire’ variety covered in toffee and chocolate! The old saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ certainly has a ring of truth around it, not least because apples are absolutely packed full of nutrients. They are a wonderful source of both soluble and insoluble fibre, essential for a healthy gut. They also contain an important flavanoid called quercetin, which can help to reduce inflammation and allergic reactions. Apples are naturally sweet which also makes them a good source of slow releasing energy. Loved by adults and children alike, the humble apple should be an absolute daily staple for all. Here’s a lovely warming recipe for mulled apple juice, a family friendly alternative to mulled wine, and lovely on a cold evening; enjoy!
Mulled Apple Juice
You will need:
2 bottles of sweet apple juice
2 mulling spice bags
Warm the apple juice in a large pan with 2 spice bags, allow to infuse for 10 minutes and then serve. Lovely!
Watson G & Baxter J Riverford Farm Cook Book
Savona N Wonderfoods for Kids