A therapeutic, spicy, pumpkin soup to help eat up your pumpkins!

 

October 31st is here again and I’ve collected all my pumpkins into the safety of my green house before the first frosts.

It’s been a terrible year for growing pumpkins and all other Winter squash here in the Lake District. They thrive on late Summer sunshine and, although we had a beautiful Spring, July onwards rained more than I like to admit. The one squash that did well was a tromboncino, a beautiful squash that left the remains of my climbing bean supports draped in little, twisting, lime green trombones.

But Halloween has its needs, and I sacrificed two of my small collection of round squash to light up my clinic window for tonight. These, in the photo, are a delicious Rouge Vif d’Etampes and a little, blue Crown Prince.

Now both of these are far too tasty to throw away, so I’ve put together the recipe for the therapeutic, spicy, pumpkin soup that I’ve made with my pumpkin innards.

Here you go. Remember, the key with pumpkins is to do everything you can to add flavour. These two types of squash are sweet and nutty without too much help, but if you’re carving a big round American pumpkin, then up the quantities of spices a bit and keep tasting

  • Cut the top off your pumpkin and scoop out the innards with your hand (very gruesomely appropriate for Halloween!
  • scoop out the flesh with a spoon and knife, cut up the big chunks a bit, place on a baking tray with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast until it begins to brown. This step really helps boost the flavour.
  • Meanwhile slowly fry up four chopped red onions until caramelising.
  • Add four chopped garlic cloves, a half thumb sized, chopped piece of ginger,  the same amount of washed and grated fresh turmeric (or three teaspoons of dried turmeric powder) and continue to fry for a couple of minutes.
  • Add 3 chopped sticks of celery, three chopped, large carrots, a chopped, red pepper and a small red, chopped, chilli pepper. Stir, add a slosh of water to stop it burning and cook with the lid on and occasional shaking or stirring for 10 mins.
  • Add three teaspoons of marigold bouillon, three heaped teaspoons of baharat spice mix, one and a half litres of water and all the baked pumpkin (I hope you started with your biggest saucepan!)
  • Add a mug of red lentils and simmer for twenty mins.
  • Add 2 cans of chopped tomatoes, a slosh of red wine vinegar and a few handfuls of spinach or chard leaves and cook for another ten mins.

Whizz it before eating and grate some cheese on top when you serve. I like a blob of rose harrisa too.

So from a therapeutic point of view the squash is a fantastic Yin tonic, which is just what we all need for going forwards into Winter with our batteries fully charged! It’s packed with minerals and vitamins;  lots of immune-supportive vitamin A, folate, B6 and potassium as well as loads of free radical- scavenging vitamin C. The spices in the Baharat (one of my favourite spice mixes) are warming and help fend off Winter colds. The turmeric is anti inflammatory and the chilli and ginger balance its coolness to keep the soup warming. So delicious and good for you too.

Now off to squeeze into my Witches costume (Oh I’m in it already!)

 

Spiced plums for late Summer aches.

My Victoria Plum tree is nearly toppling over with fruit this year.

Plums always make me long for the sour pickled plums that were served almost every meal time when I worked in Japan. Such an intense sour flavour that it was almost impossible to take a mouthful without pulling a face; and then long for some more!

In Chinese Medicine the sour flavour of plums is used to help with sore, stiff tendons and ligaments, and late Summer is often a season of aches and pains.

I took a few of my plums and had a go at creating a sour, full of flavour, plum dessert which could also be therapeutic at this time of year as the mists start rolling in. I’ve used a version of a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe for poached quince which is one of my all time favourite puddings, but taken the sugar away, replaced the quince with plums, and altered it here and there. Sorry Yotam!

The astringency of the pomegranate helps clear Damp, the Star Anise helps stop Phlegm accumulating (get one step ahead of those chesty coughs) and the orange rind makes things easy to digest. The sour flavour from the cooked plums helps keep tendons and ligaments free and relaxed. The clotted cream doesn’t do much therapeutically but it brings the flavours together in complete mouthwatering deliciousness!

Grab some plums while they’re still perfect and here you go;

Therapeutic, Late Summer Spiced Poached Plums

  • 2kg ripe plums (I used Victoria Plums)
  • 700ml 100% pomegranate juice (I like POM)
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 vanilla pod or 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
  • shaved rind of 1 large orange
  • juice of the same orange
  • a little freshly shredded mint
  • clotted cream

Cut the plums in half and take the stones out. Put the plums, pomegranate juice, vanilla, star anise, orange rind and orange juice in a thick bottomed sauce pan and simmer for 10 mins. Take the plums out with a slotted spoon and put to one side. Keep simmering the juice and spices for 30 mins until the mixture has reduced so much that it has thickened quite a bit.

place the plums in bowls, pour the hot juice over them (straining out the bits and pieces) and serve with a little shredded mint and clotted cream.

Yum!

Then have some more!

 

 

A Warming, Therapeutic Chai for late Summer

I’m just back from my yearly trip to the wonderful Womad festival. There were some inspiring new stalls selling healing teas, balms and herbs and I drank more Chai than I though one person could in a day! All delicious but some were really special.  I’ve been trying out different ways of recreating a really  healthy, therapeutic version to make at home and yesterday evening I think I cracked it!

The key for me was working out how to get really fresh, ground, dried ginger. Dried ginger comes in rock hard lumps that defied every way I’ve ever tried breaking it up! Yesterday evening, sitting chatting to the amazing, inspiring Kay Hebbourn while pestle and mortars, sharp knives and gadgets all failed to make a dent yet again, I had a go at grating it and Wow! So easy!

It really is worth doing. The flavour and scent are out of this world and perfect for fresh Chai. Drying ginger makes  it even warmer therapeutically from a Chinese Medicine point of view. I’ve added star anise to stop phlegm building up as the season starts its mists and heavy dews. Green cardamom is a spleen Qi tonic so helps prevent Damp accumulation too, and is good for the digestion. Cinnamon and cloves helps with seasonal aches and pains and lemon rind balances the flavours. You could swap to orange rind if your digestion needs a helping hand. I’ve used unsweetened almond milk as a Yin tonic and to avoid the Damp nature of cows milk.

So here you go! Put some music on and dance around as you grate and stir for a complete Womad recreation!

 Therapeutic and Delicious, warming Chai

 

  • One whole nutmeg finely grated
  • Two pieces of dried ginger, finely grated
  • The finely grated rind from one whole, organic lemon. No pith if possible
  • One cinnamon stick
  • Half a teaspoon of cloves
  • One teaspoon of green cardamon pods lightly crushed
  • One litre of unsweetened almond milk
  • local, untreated honey (if possible) to taste. Suma do an amazing, organic, forest honey which I used in the cafe.  I’m lucky enough to still have some honey from my own bees

 

 

Acupuncture relieves pain.

Hurray!

It’s always a problem raising enough funds to carry out good  research into interventions like acupuncture. The main problem being that acupuncture treatment is inexpensive to carry out, and doesn’t make much money for big companies that usually fund that type of research.

But the National Health and Medical Research Council recently funded just such a study involving 528 patients with acute low back pain, migraine or ankle sprains who presented at the emergency departments in four Australian hospitals.

Really excitingly, this is the world’s largest randomised controlled trial into acupuncture for pain relief in Accident and Emergency. And even more excitingly the study has found that acupuncture is as effective as pain medicine in providing long-term relief for patients who come to hospital emergency departments in considerable pain.

This is so important. Acupuncture carries virtually no side effects and it isn’t habit forming. It really is inexpensive and easy to deliver and, in my experience of over 20 years of giving acupuncture treatment,  people love having it. They really do! Even the most anxious or sceptical people end up calm and relaxed  and leave with a sense of well being.

What’s not to like!

Pain is such a complicated package, and the longer it goes on, the more complicated it can become. I do get to see people sometimes who have only just hurt themselves; pulled a muscle in their back or neck or shoulder; but mostly I see people where the problem started weeks or even years previously. By that time things have moved on, and the original problem now has some tricky add-ons bolted to it. Long term use of pain medication can definitely be one of these, but there are lots of others. Anticipation of pain which has been around for a while can cause anxiety, a loss of confidence in our bodies ability to sort things out for us, and changes in our ways of moving.  It can overload other parts of our bodies which are being overused to help out, stop us sleeping and start problems with our immune responses.

The use of acupuncture to help with these types of complicated or chronic pain is well documented.

What I love about this new piece of research is that it shows acupuncture to be just as good as usual hospital emergency treatment for pain relief. After an hour of either acupuncture treatment or drugs, the pain relief is the same.

It would be great to see more research funded into non drug related approaches to health care. This is a big and really exciting move in the right direction!

A Therapeutic, High Protein Granola for Early Spring

A photograph of homemade granola

Another beautiful weekend of perfect, early Spring weather!

My bees have been gathering pollen from local willow, crocus and daffodils; I can’t wait to taste the honey!  A few bumble bees about too.I spent some of the weekend digging in the last of the teapot, bumble bee houses that I started off over Winter thanks to a huge teapot donation from a very generous client!  Fingers crossed for tenants!

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Early Spring; a balancing act!

A photo of Lilla slacklining.

It’s that time of year again! Some days still feel like Winter and then the weather throws a day of pure early Spring!

Today was definitely Spring. My bees agreed and were out in force; honey bees on the snow drops, daffodils and willow and some bumble bees on the crocuses. I’m making some nests for bumblebees; digging cracked teapots stuffed with old nest material into an overgrown bank. I can’t wait to see if I get some takers!

Continue reading “Early Spring; a balancing act!”