Whole-roast munchkin pumpkins with pumpkin and sage risotto

Pumpkin risotto

I made this for the family this weekend as part of a Halloween lunch and it went down really well, especially with the littlest Munchkin!  We ate this as a main course but if you reduced the amounts it would also work well as a starter at a dinner party.


Good old autumn comfort food…

(Serves 4)

  • 4 Munchkin pumpkins
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 6 shallots – peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves – peeled and finely chopped
  • Drizzle of maple syrup
  • 1.5 mugs of Arborio rice
  • 1 cup of dry white wine or dry Vermouth
  • Couple of pints of vegetable stock (I use Kallo stock cubes)
  • 1 mug of pureed roast pumpkin or, if you’re feeling lazy a jar or tin of pureed pumpkin (I bought mine from Ocado)
  • Chopped fresh sage (dried will be fine if you don’t have any fresh herbs)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place the whole, munchkin pumpkins on a a baking tray and in an oven at 180° for about 45 minutes
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan and then add shallots and garlic for a few moments until they soften and then add the maple syrup, allow them to caramelise for a few minutes.
  3. Add the rice on a high heat for a few moments until the edges of the rice start to go translucent then add the wine/Vermouth.  Reduce the heat and then gently massage/stir the rice with a wooden spoon to help release the starch.
  4. Have a pan of simmering vegetable stock at the side and slowly keep adding stock to the risotto, stirring as you go for around 30 minutes minutes.
  5. Remove the pumpkins from the oven and carefully remove the tops and scoop out the insides, removing the seeds as you go.
  6. Mash the pumpkin flesh with the back of a fork and stir into the risotto.
  7. Add the pumpkin puree and sage and cook for a further 15 minutes, stirring and adding more stock as you go.
  8. The risotto is ready when you have a nice, creamy texture but the rice grains still have a bit of a ‘bite’ to them.
  9. Season the risotto to taste.
  10. Spoon the risotto into the scooped-out pumpkins  before replacing the tops and then arrange the rest of the risotto on the plate, alongside the pumpkin.
  11. Happy Halloween!

Penne with an aubergine ragu

IMG_9097Yes, I know that strictly speaking a ragu is made with meat but this is it’s healthier, happier aubergine cousin.  I always crave wholesome, hearty fare at this time of year and this definitely hits the spot.  Happy autumn-eating folks!

(Serves 4)

  • Olive oil
  • 3 medium-sized aubergines
  • 2 medium-sized red onions, diced
  • Drizzle of maple syrup
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1-2 tablespoons of smoked paprika, depending on taste
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (I use the sundried tomato one from Waitrose)
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • Small glass of dry red wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Penne – enough for four people, depending on how greedy you are (we are very greedy!)
  1. Dice the aubergines into approx 1cm squared cubes.
  2. Place the aubergine cubes in a baking dish with a generous splash of olive oil, toss to ensure all aubergine is covered evenly.
  3. Bake at 180° for approx. 45 minutes until browned and slightly caramelised
  4. Meanwhile, heat a splash of olive oil up in a pan and add the onions and garlic
  5. When the garlic and onion is softened add a drizzle of maple syrup, smoked paprika and tomato paste, stir through and cook for a few more minutes until onions begin to caramelise
  6. Add the red wine and simmer for approx 10 minutes before adding the tin of tomatoes, continue to simmer for approx 45 minutes
  7. Combine the sauce and aubergine and season to taste
  8. Combine with the cooked penne and serve

The Liebster Award – Eleven Questions…

First of all, thank you very much to The Cheeky Vegan for the nomination!  I hadn’t heard of the Liebster Award before but from what I can gather it seems like a great way of sharing great blogs that you might otherwise not get to hear about.

The Cheeky Vegan is Siân, a Bristol-based blogger who was inspired to go vegan after a trip to Thailand. Her blog is packed with delicious and inspirational recipes so do check it out.

I may have to respond to this nomination over a few separate posts as work is a little crazy at the moment but I will do my best to reply in full ASAP.

So, as part of the nomination I firstly need to answer 11 questions, set by The Cheeky Vegan, so here goes….

What made you decide to start a blog?

I’ve been vegan for a while now (about four years) and I’m always getting asked “but what do you eat” and “I’d love to eat less meat/go vegetarian/go vegan but I don’t know what I’d cook”.  I used to spend a lot of time emailing over recipes and inspiration for plant-based meals to various people and a lazy part of me figured it would be less work if I just posted these recipes somewhere central and people could access them in their own time.  The other reason was that I’m very much a throw-a-little-bit-of-everything-in-the-pot-and-see-what-happens kind of a cook, which is fine except you can never quite remember what you made or how you made it and if a recipe actually works out and you would quite like to eat it again at some point it helps to have it written down somewhere!  The blog is a way for me to record what I’ve made and means I can make it again, fairly reliably.  So up to now we’ve established that I’m lazy and a little forgetful.  Hmmmmm….

In all seriousness though I am absolutely passionate about veganism.  I love animals, not to mention this amazing planet that we all live on and it makes no sense to me to live my life in a way that would cause harm to another living being, if I can help it.  On top of that I truly don’t believe that our bodies are designed to need animal products.  Since going vegan I’ve spent a lot of time reading up on nutrition and physiology (mainly in order to articulately field the inevitable “but where do you get your protein?” and “but surely you can’t live without meat, can you?!” questions) and I feel so healthy and full of energy eating this way that I want to share that experience and help other people to discover the joys of plant-based food for themselves.

I’d been talking about starting a vegan food blog for a while amidst lots of encouragement from some lovely friends but it took a long-weekend in Italy and a few glasses of wine to actually motivate me to finally get on with it.  In addition to that we lost our beloved rescue-cat Humphrey earlier this year and I needed something positive to focus on as I was missing him like crazy.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a vet for a long time but the realisation, aged 16, that I would need to achieve an A in both maths and chemistry A-levels meant that I switched to Physiotherapy.  As it happens I actually don’t know if I’d have made a very good vet as I think I’d have been far too emotionally-attached to my patients!  

What is your earliest memory?

I could make this up but the honest answer is that I very distinctly remember throwing up on my Nanna and her beautiful, dry-clean-only vintage skirt, aged two.  Sorry Nanna.  Sorry readers.

If you could jump on a plane and fly anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?

Probably somewhere hot, with amazing beaches, lots of incredible wildlife and not too many people.  I went to Panama earlier this year and it was incredible – I would love to go back there again.  Although I also love India for the food, the culture and the general craziness of the place.  Hmmm, decisions…..

Which three foods/ingredients could you never live without?

Curry.  I love spicy food, the hotter the better!

Lemons.  We always seem to have dozens of them in our fridge as I use them all the time and I sneak them into almost everything, even when they probably don’t really belong there!

Coconuts.  Coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut ice-cream, coconut flakes, coconut water, fresh coconut…… Love them.  Can’t get enough!

(And I know it said three but I’m also addicted to avocados!) 

Have you had any big kitchen disasters that you can share?

Er, yes, most weeks!  In all seriousness though I love experimenting with food but it does mean that sometimes it goes a bit wrong!  I’m not a very good cooking-loser either and I do get annoyed with myself when a recipe doesn’t go my way.  (Apologies to my husband – I suspect that this kitchen-disaster-related grumpiness may occasionally get projected towards him a little too….!)

Other than the usual experiments-gone-wrong I do clearly remember redecorating my new (and previously very lovely) open-plan flat once when i forgot to but the lid on a blender containing a curry sauce…. It turns out that orange splattered walls/floor/ceilings/furniture actually isn’t that good a look.  Who knew?!

If you had one opportunity to time travel, which time period would you go to?

Probably either the 60’s (I’ve always been a bit of a hippy at heart) or the 20’s (for the jazz and beautiful dresses).

If you could be a member of a TV sitcom family, which one would you pick?

One of the Friends gang! I’ve loved the show since I was about 14 and I still watch the DVD’s if I’ve had a bad day and need cheering up.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?

Hmmm, maybe Alicia Silverstone.  Also a vegan, also blonde and also an actress, which probably helps in these things.

If you could un-invent one thing, what would it be?


What is one thing you always wanted as a child, but never got?

A Playmobil pirate ship.  But it’s my birthday this weekend so you never do know….


Liebster Award

I was really chuffed to have received a mention earlier by The Cheeky Vegan and a nomination for a Liebster Award. I will be blogging about this soon, answering the set questions and nominating my own blogs… Watch this space!

The Cheeky Vegan

While I was on holiday last week I received the most lovely comment on here from Laura over at Incredibly Edible to say that she had nominated me for the Liebster Award!

First off, thank you so much Laura, it was such a nice surprise and it totally made my day. I think I had a genuine Julie Powell moment, because while my blog does receive steady traffic, I don’t often receive comments and so I’m not always aware of my readership. Laura’s comment came completely out of the blue, and really took me by surprise! So really, thank you.

Your comment that my story almost makes you want to go vegan is really encouraging (now for that final conversion! Haha).

Incredibly Edible is a lovely blog where Laura’s focus is on “using the freshest, most natural, organic, unprocessed, nutrient dense – as nature intended – ingredients available”. Laura’s blog…

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