Pumpkins are usually carved at this time of year, break tradition and make some soup

Pumpkins are usually carved at this time of year, break tradition and make some soup

We hardly think of a pumpkin as a food, never mind a superfood.

They start to make appearances at this time of year, in the run up to Halloween, ready to be carved out for decoration. But have you realised just how healthy they are to eat and all of the extra nutrients they carry?

It's not just the inner meat of a pumpkin that's virtuous but its seeds are super nutritious too and contain a wealth of health-promoting properties - that's why they're the perfect snack.

They're classed as a superfood because of the high level of carotenoids which are found in them. Carotenoids are so powerful that they have the ability to reduce the risk and prevent many types of cancer and also heart disease. They have also been shown to ward off the development of degenerative eye conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration.

Dr. Steven Pratt, author of Superfoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life: "Well, pumpkin is one of the most nutritionall valuable foods known to man. Moreover, it's inexpensice, available year round in canned form, incredibily easy to insorporate into recipes, high in fiber, low in calories and packs an abundance of disease fighting nutrients."

See the two recipes below and try and eat more pumpkin in your diet.

Pumpkin pie

1 x 23cm short crust pastry case
500g peeled and deseeded pumpkin, cut into 2.5cm chunks
3 eggs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Splenda granulated sweetener
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of sea salt
thick natural yogurt, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Prick the pastry case with a fork and line with a large piece of greaseproof paper. Fill the paper with a single layer of baking beans or dried pulses, then bake for 10-15 minutes. Lift out the greaseproof paper and beans. Turn the oven temperature up to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7.

To make the filling, steam the pumpkin until softened, then place in a coarse sieve and press lightly to extract any excess water. Mash it into a purée.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and sweetener together until light and frothy. Add the mashed pumpkin, all the spices and the salt and blend into the egg mixture, stirring thoroughly.

Fill the pastry case and level the top of the filling roughly. Cook in the oven for around 8-10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3 and continue cooking for another 30 minutes or until the filling is set.

To check that the pie is cooked on the inside, insert a skewer into the centre and, if it comes out clean, the filling is cooked. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Spread the cake with the yogurt and sprinkle with a little extra cinnamon if you like. Keep in the fridge.

Shallot, Pumpkin and Red Pepper Soup with Candied Shallot and Pumpkin Seeds served with Low Fat Crème Fraiche

Serves 4
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes

For the soup:
4 red peppers, deseeded, cut into quarters, roasted for 25 minutes and skins removed
30g butter
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
6 shallots, diced peeled
750g pumpkin, peeled and diced into 2 cm pieces
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Leaves of one sprig of thyme
1.2 litre good vegetable stock
100ml double cream (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper

For the candied shallots:
250g unsalted butter
¼ tsp of cumin seeds
8 (250g) shallots, peeled and sliced
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp paprika
1 tsp honey

To serve:
2 tsp chives, finely chopped
30g pumpkin seeds, toasted
120ml low fat crème fraiche

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

To make the soup:
Place the peppers skin side up, on a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until the skins are charred. Remove from the oven and place in a bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to cool. Once cool, peel off the skins, and reserve the flesh.

Meanwhile, melt the butter with oil in a large, heavy based saucepan. Add the shallots, pumpkin and red chilli, season with sea salt and black pepper and sweat the vegetables for 5-10 minutes without browning. Add the garlic and thyme and cook on a low heat for a further minute. Pour in the vegetable stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add in the red peppers and cook for a further 5 minutes.

For the candied shallots:
Melt the butter in a small pan over a medium heat, add the cumin seeds and shallots and fry until soft. Add the ground cumin and paprika and cook the shallots for a further then 1 minute, stirring the shallot mixture all the time to prevent burning. Fry until caramelised for approx. 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with sea salt and stir in the honey.

To finish and serve:
Blend the soup in a food processor or with a hand blender and adjust the seasoning to taste. Return to the pan, if a little thick add more stock and if you wish, stir in the cream. Gently reheat the soup and ladle into warmed bowls. Place a spoonful of low fat crème fraiche in each and sprinkle with the chives, toasted pumpkin seeds and candied shallots.

Femalefirst Taryn Davies

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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