Sunday, April 15, 2012

Stuffed Baby Pumpkins ... inspiration from the produce section

I was browsing the produce section the other day, looking for some inspiration for dinner ~ I often see something that looks particularly fabulous, and decide to base a meal around it. Then I came across these...

... oh happy days :)  So teeny and adorable - I just had to use them. I was thinking, Middle Eastern flavours, brown rice and ??? Had to be a pistachio crust! So - despite posting 2 recipes in a row that take a while to prepare - I wanted to share this with you all. As always, it was an experiment - so feel free to experiment yourself! Turned out pretty beautifully though...

               Stuffed Baby Pumpkins

Ingredients (serves 4 as a large side dish)
2 ‘baby’ pumpkins
2 cups of shelled pistachios
1 cup brown rice
2 chicken-flavoured stock cubes
2 1/2 cups filtered water
Olive oil
1 large onion (preferably red)
4- 5 cloves of garlic (depends on your taste)
I lemon (use a potato peeler to remove 4-5 strips of lemon peel, then juice)
4 Cardamom pods
1 teaspoon of Coriander seeds
4 Cloves
1 teaspoon of Cinnamon
2 teaspoons of Cumin
1/2 teaspoon of Paprika
Pepper & salt to taste
Fresh Coriander (half a bunch)

Before you do anything, put on some really cool music...

(anything by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan would work particularly well!)


If you're going to shell the pistachios yourself, do this first - it takes time.

Preheat oven to 200°C

Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the pumpkins in half. Scoop seeds and membrane from pumpkin and discard. 

(I love the way they look like little love hearts!) 

Place pumpkin halves cut side-down on a lightly greased baking tray. Cover the tray with foil. Bake for about 30mins or until flesh is just tender. When cooked, remove foil, turn over and press down slightly with a spatula so that the bottom flattens enough to allow the pumpkins halves to stand up (so they can be filled).

When pumpkins go in the oven, boil the water and add stock cubes – mix well. Add rice to a medium sized saucepan and add stock and lemon peel to the pan, stir. Cook uncovered on med-high, without stirring, until all the stock is absorbed. (pay close attention near the end - about 12 mins - listen for a slight crackling sound, which indicated that the stock is almost gone). Remove from heat, cover and leave for 5 mins. After 5 mins, fluff with a fork and remove lemon peel.  

Use a food processor or mortar & pestle to grind pistachios to a fine crumble consistency. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix. Put aside.

Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook onion, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. While onion is cooking, grind up the cardamom pods (remove outer shell once ground), coriander seeds and cloves in a mortar & pestle. 

Add the cinnamon, cumin and paprika and pepper, and mix (you could add some chilli here if you like it spicy). Add the spice mix and the garlic to the onion mixture and stir for a few minutes. Remove from heat and put aside.

Remove some flesh from the pumpkins (leaving a 2-3 cm border) and chop, then add to a large bowl. Add rice, onion/spice mix & coriander and lemon juice to the large bowl & mix. Taste and add a little salt if needed.  Fill pumpkin cavities with rice mixture, pressing down firmly with the back of a spoon. Carefully sprinkle pistachio mix over the top of each pumpkin and press down with hands (creates a crust). Return to oven and bake for about 15 mins (until crust is browned a little). Remove from oven and sit for 5 mins before serving.

I served this with other roasted vegies ~ YUM! Enjoy. 

(just between you and I, this meal almost begs to be enjoyed with a nice glass of red wine...I'm just sayin')

Next time, I will probably add some chopped up chickpeas to the rice mixture for some added protein. This recipe can of course be done with large pumpkins, with varied oven times. 

Let me know if you try any of your own versions of this ~ there are lots of other spice combinations that would work. 

Have an amazing week. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

to the winners of the
Celebration Competition!!!

RACHEL PATTERSON ~ wins 'It's So Natural' by Alan Hayes

ANNABELLA H ~ wins 'The Complete Secrets of Happy Children' by Steve Biddulph

REBECCA MUGRIDGE ~ wins 'Gourmet Vegetarian' by Jane Price

Thanks so much to everyone who got on board and shared with others - your beautiful comments and encouragement has been really inspiring! I'm so grateful to be running my own business and sharing my writing with you all. I'm always open to suggestions for blog posts, so don't hesitate to let me know.   :)  Have a great week!

I think Albert says it best...  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Competition Closing today ~ hurry!

My Celebration Competition ends at 4pm today ~ go to for details. If you choose to follow one of my Blogs to enter, make sure you let me know if you follow 'via email' (left hand side, half way down the blog), as your details don't show up my end unless you follow via your Google account (top left hand side of blog). Good Luck!!!

A great vego recipe for a lazy Sunday...

Dreamy Vego Pie…

Last Sunday, I decided to make a savory pie. It had been a bit cooler for a few days and my son, Jess, was looking for some hearty food. I was feeling pretty smug about the pie when it was done - making a great vego pie isn't easy and takes a bit of time, patience and love. So when Jess said to me the next morning "Mum, that pie was so awesome - I dreamt about it last night!", I was positively glowing! I knew I had to share it as the first official recipe on my new blog :) It does take some effort, but for that kind of praise, it's worth it!!

Ingredients  Serves 4-6 people (4 if you have teenagers with a voracious appetite!) 
I     3 Sheets of frozen puff pastry (see Pastry Notes below)
I     3 medium/large potatoes, diced into small squares
I     4 slices Sanitarium Deli Slices (or Bacon Style Rashers), chopped into small pieces
I     1 large (preferably red) onion, chopped roughly
I     1 can of corn (preferably organic)
I     1 cup of frozen peas
I     Small bunch or bag of baby spinach, chopped roughly
I     1 can of butter beans or cannellini beans (preferably organic)
I     2-6 cloves of garlic (depending on your taste), crushed or chopped finely
I     3-4 beef flavoured stock cubes (I use ‘beef’ Oxo’s – they are the best tasting, but they do have msg in them)
I     2 heaped tablespoons of plain flour (or cornflour)
I     500 mls water
I     Large handful of parsley, finely chopped
I     2 tablespoons of tomato sauce (yep, good old tomato sauce!)
I     1 ‘sachet’ of Bouquet Garni (in the herb section)
I     3 tablespoons of olive oil (or other good quality oil)
I     Salt & Pepper

This recipe can be done 2 ways. If you have a slow cooker, begin preparing in the morning and allow the slow cooker to do its thing until you are ready to make the pie (the flavour will be amazing). Otherwise, simply make this as you would with a ‘stew’ – in a large pot with a heavy/non-stick base. 


1.    In a large frying pan, heat oil then fry up the onion and the Deli Slice for about 5 mins until they are both browning. Add potato and garlic and continue to fry for another 5-10 minutes, until the potatoes have a little bit of colour (this brings out the flavour). 
      It already smells amazing doesn't it??? 

     While you’re waiting for this to cook, boil the water and mix with stock cubes in a large jug or bowl. Mix well and put aside.

     2.    Add the corn, drained beans and half the parsley and cook for another minute.

3.    If you’re using a slow cooker, add contents of frying pan to the slow cooker then sprinkle the flour over the mixture and mix in. Add stock mixture, withholding about 150 mls (just guess). Add the tomato sauce, Bouquet Garni sachet & pepper, and mix well. Put on the lid and set the cooker according to the time you have available (I usually set it on automatic, which heats to high then goes down low – leave it for about 4-6 hours – it will be cooked after 4). Add more stock after a couple of hours if needed.
4.    If you’re not using a slow cooker, follow the steps above and bring to the boil (stirring fairly often), then turn down low and simmer for half an hour. Add more stock after 15 mins if needed.
5.    30 minutes before you’re going to assemble the pie, turn the oven onto 220oC. 15 minutes before, turn off the heat, add the spinach, frozen peas and the rest of the parsley & stir. Taste and add salt/pepper to taste. Then take the pastry out of the freezer and lay flat on the kitchen counter for 10 mins (separately).
6.    To assemble the pie: grease a deep pie dish with oil (or butter). Cut 2 of the pieces of pastry as shown by the red line in the diagram. Put aside the remaining pastry.
7.    Lay the sheets of pastry in the dish (making sure it is in contact with the dish all the way), so that the pastry goes up and over the sides, and overlaps in the middle of the dish. Press gently along the line where the 2 pieces of pastry overlap. Use small triangles of leftover pastry to fill any gaps. 
     8.  Use a ladle to spoon mixture into the dish until it is a few centimetres from the top.

9.    Lay the remaining piece of pastry over the top and gently press the pastry together around the inner rim of the dish (use your fingers). Use a knife or kitchen scissors to cut the excess pastry that falls over the sides of the dish. Pierce the top 8-10 times with a fork (this allows steam to escape). You can decorate the pie by cutting little leaves out of remaining pastry and placing on top (as taught to me by my Mum!).

10.  Spray or brush the pastry lightly with oil (vegan) or brush with milk and/or egg and gently lift the part of the pastry that meets the flat edges of the pie dish, to stop it from sticking too much to the dish. Place on the middle shelf of the oven. 
11.  Bake for 30 mins, then check and rotate if parts of the pastry are becoming more cooked than others. If the edges are browning too much at this stage, compared with the rest of the pie, you can (very carefully so you don’t burn yourself!) cover the edges with some foil for the rest of the baking time. Cook for about another 10-15 mins (will depend on your oven), then remove when golden brown, and allow to cool for 5-10 mins before cutting & serving.
It will be a bit ‘oozy’, but that’s par for the course. Serve alone or with some green salad. 
ENJOY your star status!!!

“If you can eat with mates or friends or family, I mean, it's such a brilliant thing isn't it? If you feel really rubbish and you have a nice bit of food it makes you feel good, you know?”
 Jamie Oliver

Leave your comments's always lovely to hear your feedback. Feel free to let me know if there are any particular recipes or techniques you'd like me to share - if I can, I will!