Halloween has just been (and the Christmas decorations are already appearing around the place!) but for all my U.S friends Thanksgiving is just around the corner. So I suppose it is still pumpkin season.
I was contemplating the other day how nature seem to have provided us with a natural harmony of flavour pairings. It seems like many foods that are in season at the same time, go well together.
Like apple and blackberries, or apples and pumpkins. Or hazelnuts and mushrooms. Each season has its own charm, yet there’s something so comforting about the foods that comes with this time of the year. I don’t know about you but I naturally yearn for more stodgy food when the weather gets colder. Spicy soups, roasted root vegetables, strews. Less salads more strifries. That kind of thing.
I think I read somewhere you need to live a full year somewhere, through all the seasons, before you are fully rooted in your new environment. Not sure where I read it, but regardless, it has been my lived experience. Would you agree?
There are more seasonal recipe ideas to share, like an apple and blackberry crumble I have made on repeat lately, but have yet to photograph, a purple salad and maybe this year my own version of a mushroom soup, will make it here too.
Until then, I hope you will enjoy this pumpkin soup recipe!
Apple & Pumpkin Soup
1 Hokkaido Pumpkin (Butternut Squash could work well too)
4 small or 2 big eating apples
1 yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp cumin, ground
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp cinnamon
½ pinch of ground cloves
Approx. 1 litre stock
Sea salt & Black pepper to season
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Heat oven to 200˚C. Make a few cuts in the whole pumpkin and then on a baking tray and roast for about 2h, until soft. Doing it this way, I’ve found make much less work than trying to wrestle with it in its uncooked state.
Once cooked and soft, set aside to cool. Once the pumpkin has cooled down, remove skin and seeds and roughly chop.
Chop onion, garlic and the apple into small pieces.
Heat a heavy based pan, add some olive oil. Then add garlic and onion and sauté until soft and translucent.
Add spices and fry off at a low heat for 1-2 min until fragrant. Add the apple pieces and the pumpkin pieces. Add the stock.
Bring to a lively simmer and cook for about 30min until the apple is soft. Let the soup cool somewhat, add the red wine vinegar and then blend until smooth.
Season to taste. Add more liquid if you find the consistency too thick.
This past weekend myself and my friend Jen Ardis from Blue Heron Mindfulness held our third Nutrition & Mindfulness 1 day retreat, locally here in Fermoy. The theme for this one, was Self care and Self compassion. Both pretty important topics if you ask me!
I hadn’t come across the word or the work of Self compassion as pioneered by researcher Kristin Neff, until a meditation teacher told me about her a few years ago. I immediately could see the value of incorporating it into our lives. The subtitle of her book is “the proven power of being kind to ourselves”. Such is the importance of this practice.
There is so much talk these days about both self esteem, as well as self love. However, neither of those virtues are easy to develop nor will they necessarily be there for us when we need to be there for ourselves.
The definition of self compassion is: ” To treat ourselves with kindness, like we would a dear friend”. So even if we are struggling with loving ourselves, we can always be kind to ourselves. Though this may sound counter intuitive, there are actually no research that being hard on ourselves works when we want to bring about change. So next time you catch yourself being overly critical, try to turn on the kindness tap instead. You may just be pleasantly surprised!
But it wasn’t the importance of self compassion that I wanted to write about for this blog post.
For each of these retreats we have also incorporated food, eating and recipes. This is the nutrition part(!) This time we wanted to go with something seasonal. The weather is still lending itself to soup and it so happened that Jen had some lovely wild garlic growing in her garden. And since I’d love to include a few more foraging type recipes here on the blog this year, we decided to go for a wild garlic soup this time. It seemed fittingly with the theme of the day as well as being seasonal, and a little bit different!
I didn’t want you to miss out on this delicious seasonal and cleansing soup, so here is the recipe!
Wild Garlic Soup
250g wild garlic – foraged & roughly chopped
300g potatoes (about 2 average size), peeled & cubed
1 yellow onion, peeled & finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1.5 liter of stock or water + 1 stock cube
Sea salt & Black Pepper, to season
Heat a large saucepan. Add a tbsp. of olive oil, then add onion and celery and sauté until the onion is soft and transparent. Add the cubed potatoes and then add the stock.
Bring to the boil and then reduce to a lively simmer. Cook for about 30 min, until the potatoes are soft. Add in the chopped wild garlic and let it wilt down. Blend the soup until it is smooth.
Re heat if necessary. Taste and season according to taste. Serve!
Wild garlic is also called Ramson or Ramps. They grow wild in large clusters in wet woodlands. To make sure that you have the right leaves, give them a gentle squeeze to make sure they smell of light garlic. They also have small white flowers that can smell quiet strongly. The flowers are also edible. It has some anti viral and cleansing properties so perfect to help us transition from winter to spring and hopefully to the warm days of summer soon.
I’m hoping to add some more of these types of recipes this year. Nettles next…?!
This week’s recipe is one that we shared with our participants at our Mindfulness & Nutrition Retreat in Fermoy, Co. Cork, last Sunday.
This was the third one I’ve done in collaboration with my friend Jen (Blue Heron Mindfulness), I think that we are both feeling blessed in how this joint venture is shaping up. And so far the feedback from each event has been great. Which kind of makes it challenging to improve on then…
Though it was a long day, with lots of prep the previous day, I felt really energised afterwards and ended up having a productive week, until I got to Friday and Saturday… Then I really felt it.
Challenged by some overwhelm over all the thing still on my to-do list, as well as a measure of guilt over the yet-to-be-completed ones, I actually let go and decide to take a short nap on each day. Getting to bed late several nights, haven’t helped either and even though I often get what feels like good quality sleep, it’s not always enough hours.
It always makes me marvel at all of you super women out there with children, who seem to be able to go on despite endless nights of little sleep. My body quickly says no to that. Would I cope?? Who knows… But I do know though that when we have little or no choice, we tend to be more resilient than we ever expected.
This miso soup is really quick and easy to make and best eaten on the day of making it, which is why I made it “on site”, and also to show our participants how quick and easy it can be to make something that’s nourishing as well as tasty. We can cook mindfully and creatively, but it doesn’t have to take all day!
I got the idea for this soup from scrolling through Instagram, and hadn’t made a miso soup in a very long time. Miso, made from fermented soya beans, has a salty umami flavour and is really nice as a stock for these kinds of clear broth style soups. Though I have yet to travel to Japan for an authentic taste experience, I believe that the traditional way is to serve it with just some seaweeds.
But seaweeds, though highly nutritious is not to everyone’s taste. So fear not, none included in this particular recipe!
Final note; if you are gluten intolerant or coeliac make sure you read the label of the miso paste you buy as some of them may contain barley. The one we used on the day did not. You will find miso in healthstores and in Asian grocery stores.
It keeps for a really long time too.
With this soup, I’m not all that particular with the measurements. You can adjust the quantities to your own taste preferences as well as to what you have on hand. This soup is fresh fast food, as it will be ready in 10 min!
Green Fusion Miso Soup
1 cup kale, stems removed & finely chopped or spinach, finely chopped
1 cup broccoli, chopped into small florets
½ cup frozen peas or edamame beans
1 leek, both white & green parts finely chopped
½ tsp chilli flakes
3-4 tbsp miso paste
Juice of 1 lime
A large bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
A small bunch of fresh mint, chopped
100g rice noodles
About 3 pints (1.5 litres) of fresh water
Black pepper, to season
Heat a large saucepan, then add a splash of olive oil. Reduce the heat, add the leek and chilli flakes then gently sweat until soft.
Add the water and the miso soup to the pan. Make sure that the miso paste is dispersed in the water. You can taste the broth at this point and decide if you want more miso paste to make it a little bit more salty.
Bring to the boil. Add the noodles and bring back to a lively simmer. Cook noodles for about 5 min.
Add the chopped broccoli, chopped kale and the frozen peas / edamame beans. Bring the soup back up to the boil.
As soon as the broccoli becomes bright green, remove the saucepan from the heat.
Add the chopped herbs, and lime juice. Taste and adjust with some black pepper, more lime juice or a little more miso, if your taste buds are asking for it.
I feel like February is a kind of threshold month. Neither here nor there. Some faint promises of Spring, yet Winter is not ready to lose it’s grip…
This time of the year, eating fresh foods, grown locally can be particularly challenging since not much grows this time of year. And wallets and bank accounts might feel equally barren, still be suffering from the aftermath of Christmas shopping sprees. Whether it is the end of the season, the end of the month or the end of the week, if money is tight feeding oneself well can be difficult. But…! If you know how to cobble a few store cupboard ingredients together, your body nor your tastebuds need not suffer.
This soup recipe sprung initially out of my desire and love of colour, to see if it would be possible to create a white creamy soup, without actual cream.
As you (may) know, white foods are often vilified as detrimental to our health and wellbeing.
Why? Because many “white” foods are the heavily processed ones, heavily refined where all the nutrients and fibre have been stripped off, and what’s left is a simple carbohydrate structure which is easily converted to glucose by the body. In the nutrition community we often call these foods “empty calories” since they don’t contribute any nutrition in form of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients or often neither good quality fats nor protein. Whereas vegetables gets the label “nutrient dense”, for (perhaps) obvious reasons.
So though it may be wise to limit your intake of highly refined and processed white foods, it may be equally wise to turn your attention to those in the plant kingdom that are naturally white, as they all provide health benefits in many various ways.
For this soup recipe I went with white beans, garlic, onion (yellow/white) and some cashew nuts. But of course there are other white gems, such as cauliflower (which is extremely versatile) and root veg such as celeriac and parsnips.
The cashew nuts and the beans, give this soup a really smooth and creamy texture. And as well as that, both are a good source of plant based protein. Which makes this soup lovely and filling. Oh and when it comes to store cupboard ingredients, as well as budget, keeping a few tins of beans + onion and garlic is definitely to be recommended for ease of creating simple, quick, versatile, nourishing and tasty meals that won’t cost the earth. I do admit that cashew nuts may not be the cheapest but if you are on a very tight budget, blanched almonds could work too, just make sure that you soak them for a few hours before throwing them into the saucepan.
I used fresh herbs here as we have some growing, but I can’t think of why dried ones wouldn’t work equally well.
White Bean Soup with Cashews
Serves 2 (Double the recipe if you are making it for a larger crowed)
1 tin of Butter Beans, drained & rinsed
1 yellow or white onion, peeled & finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled & finely chopped
1/2 cup of cashew nuts, preferably soaked for a few hours but it is not vital
4-5 sprigs of fresh rosemary, stems removed & finely chopped (or use 1 tbsp dried herb)
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
1 tbsp fresh thyme, stems removed (or use 1/2 tbsp dried herb)
Enough vegetable stock to cover ingredient about 1/2 inch
Sea salt & Black pepper, to season
Heat a large saucepan and add a splash of olive oil. Add the chopped onion and reduce heat to avoid burning. Gently sweat the onion until translucent and then add the garlic and stir for a minute.
Add the drained and rinsed white beans, all the herbs, the stock and the cashew nuts. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer.
Cook with a lid on for about 15 min. Remove pan from the stove top and allow it to cool down. Before blending remove the two bay leaves. Then blend until smooth.
In times of uncertainty, get creative…!
About 18 months ago I came across the work of a wise lady called Pema Chödron. She’s one of the more well known Buddhist teachers of the West. One of the books she’s written is called, “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change”. It is a book centered around some of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism, but I somehow feel that the deeper message that comes through, is one profound to humanity.
And though in a sense we always live in uncertain times, though currently I feel it is more intensely so…
This book starts with an opening quote from the famous American dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille, and I want share it with you all here as I think it is a beautiful reminder of life as well as a nice summary of the core message of the book;
“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.”
And do you know what? Cooking, or let’s call it kitchen creativity, is a bit like that. If you don’t follow a recipe blindly, or even sometimes when you do, you can’t be guaranteed a particular outcome. The best way, is to stay present with the experience, taste as you go along, keep you eyes peeled for the consistency you’re looking for and so on. Because when you do, you have the chance to course correct, and still end up with something that’s edible or better. Perhaps even extra ordinary.
And for those times when you don’t, you usually learn something in the process too.
You might be wondering where I’m going with this conversation, especially since this post is really about a soup recipe. Well, last week, whilst I was struggling away with my head-cold (yes, not so smug now, thinking I got away with catching any of the winter bugs around…) I got a burst of creativity, as well as a strong desire to take a break from my computer for a day or two. So last Thursday I spent all day doing some of the things I like the most, creating new recipes and photographing the result. It is something that puts me in the FLOW. Especially when I can do it, with no restraints, without a need for any particular outcome and simply have the opportunity to be there, present to enjoy and engage in the process.
The outcome of this creative experience this time? Several new soup recipes! Over the coming weeks, I’m going to continue on with my Soup Series, that I started last year, and since we are slowly transitioning from Winter to Spring, and it’s still wet a and dreary, cold and dark, I would say that it is the perfect time to enjoy soup. It’s also a neat way to enjoy a variety of vegetables in this way, when we may have less cravings for raw salads.
So hold on, let’s get out the big saucepan and get ready for some soup cooking!
This recipe came together as an experiment inspired by hearing about a friend’s juice combination. Since I don’t own a juicer, I thought; “Hmm, I wonder if these veggies will work as well together in a soup?”.
I added a couple of spices, an onion and rather than putting the beetroot into the soup as my friend had done with her juice, I sliced it really thin and made little beet crisps for garnish.
This recipe lends itself to practicing some mindful creativity as you can adjust the amount of cardamom, coriander seeds and ginger to your own taste preferences. My first attempt was just a tad ginger heavy, but whatever way you go, this soup still has a very fresh taste. Almost Spring-like…
An Uplifting Carrot Soup
6-8 carrots, peeled & chopped
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled & finely chopped (less if you want it less “hot”)
1 yellow onion, peeled & finely chopped
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
1/2 – 1 tsp ground cardamom (If you use pods, 3-4 should be enough)
About 1 litre vegetable stock, or water + 1 low sodium non MSG stock cube.
Juice of one fresh lemon
Sea Salt & Black Pepper, to season
Heat a large saucepan. Once the pan is hot add a splash of olive oil and then add in your chopped onions. Turn down the heat enough to avoid burning the onions. Instead gently sweat them until soft and translucent.
Then add the chopped carrots, the fresh ginger, and the ground spices. Sweat the carrot for a few minutes on low heat. Then add in the stock.
Bring the soup to boil and then reduce to a lively simmer. Cook for a further 20 min or so, until the carrots are soft. Remove from stove top and allow to cool a little before you blend it.
I tend to use a stick blender directly into the pan. If you are using a stand-alone blender you want to be sure that the soup is well cooled, otherwise you may end up with non intentional orange splatters everywhere… Which is not what I meant by creative cooking!
Once the soup is blended smooth add in the lemon juice. Start with 1/2 a lemon and then taste and season. If you think it needs more lemon, add the other half.
Enjoy the soup with some toppings if you wish! Here is a great recipe if you want to test out making some beetroot crisps. Though if you choose to make that recipe with the intention of adding it to this soup I would keep the seasoning simple with just sea salt or none.