Food to make you happy, part 3: Spicy Pumpkin Soup and Trish’s Brown Bread

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For ten long days, I had a Crown Prince Pumpkin sitting in the middle of my kitchen table, it was slowly becoming a permanent feature. We ate around it, silently admiring its pale, flawless green flesh. I kept thinking it was too beautiful to butcher and too grand to dice or cube! It wasn’t until one afternoon, sitting in The Cake Cafe on Dublin’s Camden Street, that it occurred to me what weird and wonderful things I could do to my prince. Ultimately it is a food, an ingredient to be shaped and utilised into a pumpkin head, pumpkin pie, fritters and soups.  So I decided, to be turned into something delectable is surly a better way to go then rotting on my table top! 

I’ve no doubt it was the gorgeous atmosphere of The Cake Cafe that inspired these notions of culinary adventure. Situated to the rear of Daintree Paper Mill,  everything about this little cafe tickles the senses; the smiling staff, kooky furniture, leaking teapots and parade of mouth-watering cakes swept me away in a creative wave. Inspired by the smells and sounds, I furiously began jotting down comforting food combinations into my notebook. One of my favourite recipes from that afternoon, and one of life’s most simple pleasures, is Piping Hot Pumpkin Soup with Home made Brown Bread. It’s my belief that soup can heal both mentally and physically, in my experience, it can have the same effect on your serotonin level as a double chocolate brownie! ♥

The soup is my own creation but I can’t take credit for the brown bread, it came compliments of Trish from Mullingar. She is famed amongst her friends for her rustic brown bread and was very generous in letting me in on her baking secrets. Trish firmly believes that behind every good recipe, are good ingredients and this is why she uses only the finest Irish produce to bake her bread; Macroom Wholewheat Stoneground Flour and Howards One Way Stonegrond are combined with bran and pinhead oats to create a nutty and robust loaf. She encouraged me to play around with the dry ingredients and so I’ve added some sunflower and linseed for increased seedy goodness. The results were sublime, this recipe is simple and delicious and should definitely be attempted at least once in a life time!

What I love about this recipe is its simplicity, but also it’s adventure, it gave me ample excuse to play around with some less familiar ingredients and cooking methods. I have an abundance of sage growing in a large Belfast sink in my back garden and can rarely think of anything interesting to do with it except onion and sage stuffing and I’m not a huge fan of stuffing. Thankfully, fried sage is a beautiful garnish for pumpkin soup, it’s a strong and robust herb that marries well with the sweetness of the pumpkin. It’s also good for you ♥. The Latin for this often neglected perennial is salvia, which means “to heal”, it has been credited with the ability to relieve inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and even enhance memory. It is also reported to support digestion which is why it is commonly combined with fatty meats like pork and beef.

Another excellent reason to buy and cook a pumpkin is for its seeds. I think I may have raved on about the brilliance of these seeds before so I will briefly recap – they are nutritional gold –  25g of pumpkin seeds can provide over 20% of the our daily allowance of iron. They contain a vast amount of both manganese and magnesium which are crucial for bones, cartilage and tissues maintenance. Magnesium deficiency is also symptomatic of depression and insomnia so fortifying your diet with these little beauties will aid sleep and stabilise your mood!

As always, enjoy enjoy enjoy xxx

Recipe creation: Caroline Murray and Trish Malloy

Food styling and photography: Caroline Murray

Prep/cooking time (soup, garnish, bread): 2 hrs

Serves: 6

Spicy pumpkin Soup
Ingredients

  • 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
  • 40ml olive oil
  • 900g (2lbs) pumpkin
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 300g of ripe tomatoes, or 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 pints of good vegetable stock
  • Finely grated nutmeg to taste
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp coriander seeds
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preparation
  1. In a heavy-based saucepan, toast the coriander and cumin seeds for 2 minutes, grind the seeds in a pestle and mortar and add 30ml of olive oil; reserve for baking.
  2. Wash the pumpkin under warm water, removing all dirt. Cut in half and scoop out all the seeds and soft fibre. NB: Do not discard! The seeds are gorgeous roasted, check out recipe below.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200C, cut the pumpkin into chunks and put in a roasting tin. Drizzle with the cumin and coriander infused olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes, or until soft and coloured around the edges. Turn and shake the chunks once or twice during roasting.
  4. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and allow it to cool, when cool enough to handle, remove the skin from the flesh.
  5. In a heavy-based saucepan, sweat the onion in the remaining oil until soft but not browned, add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  6. Add the roasted pumpkin, chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock and simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. Blend the soup until smooth and transfer to a clean saucepan. Heat the soup until piping hot and garnish with the fried sage. Serve with brown bread and real butter.
 

To garnish: Fried Sage and ground peppercorns with cumin and coriander seed
 Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp rape seed oil or sunflower oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 12-16 sage leaves
Preparation
  1. Heat the oil in a small pan, when the oil starts to bubble add the sage leaves, fry for 5/7 seconds or until crisp.
  2. Transfer the fried leaves to some kitchen towel to soak up the excess oil.
  3. Before serving your Spicy Pumpkin Soup, throw a few fried sage leaves on top of the soup.
  4. Grind a tsp each of the peppercorns, cumin and coriander and lightly sprinkle over the soup with the fried sage, this really lifts the flavour with every mouthful!

 

Trish’s Brown Bread, Makes 2 loaves
 Ingredients

Preparation
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add the buttermilk to the dry ingredients.
  4. Mix well, if the ingredients seems too dry, add a little more buttermilk.
  5. Grease the bread tins generously with butter and flour and divide the dough between the 2 tins.
  6. Sprinkle any remaining sunflower and linseed mix on the top, they will toast up beautifully in the oven.
  7. Bake in the oven for 1hr
  8. 20 minutes before cooking time is over, turn the loaf upside down to brown the bottom, reducing the heat to 160C, this will give you a nice crunchy crust while ensuring that the loaf is baked perfectly.
TIP: Macroom Wholewheat Stoneground Flour is widely available in artisan food shops nationwide and can be bought online from The Ballymaloe Shop in Cork for 2.95. if you either can’t be bothered or simply can’t find any Macroom flour, don’t hesitate in using Howards instead, it has a great bite and is a good substitute.
TIP: Don’t attempt to cute the loaf straight out of the oven; try to control yourself! Cutting while the loaf is still hot may cause your beautiful loaf to go ‘soggy’ inside. Give it almost 2hrs, then dig in.
TIP: If like me, you suffer from mild anxiety when removing a loaf from the oven; get a bread thermometer! The internal temperature of a cooked loaf should be 85C / 190°F. This is a worthwhile investment and will encourage you to bake more and with greater ease 🙂
Here’s a simple recipe to use up all those delicious pumpkin seeds, use as a garnish for sweet or savoury dishes and as a light snake for when you get peckish.

Roasted pumpkin Seeds
Ingredients

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sea salt

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C
  2. Remove the seeds from the fleshy fibres and rinse under cold water.
  3. Lay the pumpkin seeds on a baking tray in a single layer.
  4. Sprinkle with sea salt and roast for 30 minutes.

TIP: it can be a bit of a job removing the seeds from the flesh! I did it by adding the mulch to a colander and massaging it with cold water, the flesh disintegrates down the drain and your left with beautiful pale big seeds to roast.

TIP: Soaking the pumpkin seeds in salt water for 24hrs before roasting them, this deactivates enzyme inhibitors in the seeds. These enzyme inhibitors can irritate the stomach and prevent the absorption of essential nutrients. Soaking the seeds also enhances their flavour as the seed becomes more porous. There are lots of variations on the typical salted pumpkin seed, try adding cinnamon or nutmeg for a sweeter garnish over yogurt and fruit or soya sauce and chilli powder for stirfrys.

 I hope you enjoyed the recipe, now get cooking!

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Food to make you happy, part 1: Baked French Toast and Warm Raspberry Compote with a Seed and Nut Brittle

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Physical anomalies like lethargy, back pain and brain fatigue are an habitual experience for a large percentage of the Irish population and are routinely disregarded as common place. It’s only when other symptoms present such as shortness of breath, weight fluctuation, insomnia, headaches and even more alarming, reduced libido that we begin piecing things together…..STRESS has become Ireland’s neoteric epidemic and if left unchecked can contribute to far more serious and chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes!

I can’t remember where I read this, but I repeat it often to remind myself of our personal responsibility to how we feel; “All situations are neutral, its how we respond to them that counts”. If we react negatively to a situation our body will respond accordingly; signals stimulate the adrenal glands to produce adrenalin; our fight or flight antagonist. Immediately, stores of glucose are released into the blood resulting in increased heart rate and rapid breathing putting huge demands on our heart and lungs, even our pancreas and liver are distracted from their regular maintenance to produce insulin and glucagon to help control the blood sugar racing around our system. This can actually happen ten or twenty times a day, depending on your ability to deal with stressful situations……no wonder everyone is soooooo exhausted!!

So if your one of the many now suffering from either adrenal exhaustion or chronic bouts of brain fatigue, please read on: some of the solution is in the food we eat; nourish the mind and heal the body people. ♥

My first recipe in this series of stress busting antidotes is Baked French Toast and Warm Raspberry Compote with a Seed and Nut Brittle: Yummy!

This recipe is a brunch must, not only because it taste gorgeous, but because it’s so good for you! The compote is made from fresh raspberries which I believe are mother natures sugar; they are flagrantly sweet with a subtly tart overtone which pairs beautifully with baked french toast. The bread is jam-packed full of linseed, millet, poppy-seeds and rye; this combination of seeds and grains will ensure the slow release of sugar into the blood, which means you will feel fuller for longer, therefore less hungry! My brittle recipe is an elite blend of brown linseed, blanched almonds, chopped walnuts and hazel nuts; adding these ingredients to any meal will not only support digestion and prevent weight gain but also provide you with the all important EFS’s; essential fatty acids. These little gems are reported to improve intelligence, reduce aggression and enhance mood…ahhhh serenity at last!

The sweetener chosen for this recipe is Agave. Agave syrup is a real sugar, unrefined and untreated. It is produced from the Blue Agaves that thrive in the volcanic soils of Southern Mexico,  and is a storeroom favourite among foodies trying to reduce their glycemic load.

Gi is a modern concept and was developed by Dr. David J. Jenkins in the early 80’s while researching the relationship between food and diabetes. The glycemic index is a clever way of measuring the relative impact of foods on blood sugar levels. ‘High’ Gi foods release quickly into the blood stream, triggering the release of the hormone insulin. ‘Low’ Gi foods, such as agave are slow releasing which provide sweetness without the unpleasant “sugar rush”.

It’s all genius if you ask me, I follow a Gi diet more by default as I simply prefer whole foods to refined ones. Where it has helped me, is understanding the simply chemistry behind the food we eat and its impact on our health and wellbeing; making better food choices can change how we look, how we function and how we feel…so go on, get happy, make yourself some french toast this weekend x

Recipe creation: Caroline Murray
Food styling and photography: Caroline Murray
Prep/cooking time: 50 minutes
Serves: 4

Baked French Toast

Ingredients

  • 5 freerange eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Salt to taste
  • 8 thick slices of multi grain bread
  • Zest of 1 orange

Preparation

  1. Beat together the eggs, milk, and cinnamon in a bowl.
  2. Whisk in the orange zest and pour the mixture into a shallow bowl.
  3. Dip the bread into the egg mixture, allowing each slice to soak up some of the mixture. (5 minutes per slice).
  4. Pre heat the fan oven at 180C.
  5. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and lightly spray with sunflower oil.
  6. Lay the soaked bread on the parchment paper and place into the oven for 20minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and serve with warm raspberry compote and seed and nut brittle (see recipes below).
Warm Raspberry Compote

Ingredients

  • 200g (7oz) of fresh raspberries, rinsed
  • 3 tbsp agave
  • 100ml of water
  • Juice of ½ lemon

Preparation

  1. Combine the agarve and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring continuously until the syrup has completely dissolved.
  2. Add the lemon juice and raspberries to the saucepan and cook for a further 2 minutes on a low heat until the compote has a syrup consistency.
Seed and Nut Brittle

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp agave
  • ½ cup of brown linseed
  • 1 cup of  blanched almonds and coarsely chopped hazel nuts and walnuts
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Zest of 1 orange

Preparation

  1. Combine ½ the agave and the linseed into a bowl, mix until well coated.
  2. Add remaining nuts, cinnamon, salt, and orange zest.
  3. Add the remainder of the agarve and mix well.
  4. Spread mixture on the parchment paper (1/2 inch deep) and bake in the middle of the oven at 180C for 15 minutes.
  5. Check after 7/8min that it’s not burning, rotate parchment paper if it is browning too much on one side.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave it to cool. Don’t worry if the brittle doesn’t seem set, it will become crunchy goodness 10 minutes out of the oven.
  7. When set, peel off and break over the baked french toast and raspberry compote.

TIP: Store the remaining brittle in an air tight jar, but be warned, it will not last long. Combine with yogurt (Glenilen Farm if you can…totally addictive) and muslie in the morning, or if in a rush, just grab a handful and eat on the run!

 
I hope you enjoy this recipe, I know I loved making it and as always, the eating of it!

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