Winter Squash

Winter Squash

This autumn we’ve had an abundance of squash, their large leafy vines spread out over our garden leaving colourful fruits dotted everywhere. And now, all the vegetable stalls at the local markets are overflowing with squash of all shapes, colours and sizes. We have been trying out lots of varieties and putting them into all manner of meals. Everyone knows the large orange pumpkins that get carved for Halloween but it seems a lot of people don’t appreciate the variety and versatility of winter squash in the kitchen. In this post we explore the history and some different ways of cooking squash, as well as nutritional benefits and environmental impacts of growing and eating winter squash. 


Winter squash are part of a large family that include cucumbers, melons, gourds and even the bathroom luffah. Winter squash can be distinguished by their hard skin and dense flesh, they are harvested when matured and can be stored for months. Winter squash include pumpkins, butternut and acorn squash to name a few. There are many varieties of winter squash but the names get thoroughly confusing as each variety has a different name all over the world and often even within one country.
Winter squash were domesticated 7000 years ago in Central America where they were first grown exclusively for their seeds as early squash didn’t have much flesh. By the time Christopher Columbus arrived, many varieties of squash were being cultivated all over the Americas. Today, the largest commercial producers of squash include China, Japan, Romania, Turkey, Italy, Egypt, and Argentina.

Winter squash are incredibly versatile and they play a role in cuisines all over the world. You can eat the flowers, the fruit and the seeds. The flesh is firm enough to roast or stew in chunks but once cooked it can easily be pureed to a fine consistency. Their moderate sweetness means they can be used just as well for sweet or savoury dishes. They work wonderfully in moist cakes and comforting stews. Roasted squash goes nicely with toasted nuts like hazel or walnut and the aromatics thyme, sage and fennel. It’s delicious with spices like cumin and coriander as in North African and Middle Eastern dishes and of course with cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice in the classic American pumpkin pie. Or the flavours can work well with coconut and lime for a tropical twist. Because of their tough outer skins and natural hollow interior, pumpkins are fantastic for stuffing, you can even hollow them out and serve a warm soup inside.
The seeds of all pumpkins can be eaten, you just need to separate them from the flesh, rinse them and lightly roast them with a little oil and salt. Store bought pumpkin seeds are from a certain variety that are grown exclusively for their seeds. Because the seeds of this variety develop no outer husk they are are a lot softer and easier to eat.


Winter squash is low in calories and contains large amounts of natural sugars, carbohydrates and vitamin A from Carotene. It is good for circulation and regulating blood sugar levels.
By far the most nutritious part of the squash is the seeds, which are an amazing source of zinc and omega fatty acids. The seeds are also very beneficial in removing intestinal worms. Pumpkin seed oil, which is often sold in pill form at health stores, is said to be good for reducing cholesterol, it’s anti-inflammatory, good for prostate health, urinary and even menopause. We often make our own pumpkin seed butter by simply toasting the seeds and then blending them, you then get all the benefits of the oils in a delicious spread.
The juice of squash is also proven to relieve burns. Adding sweet vegetable like pumpkin and squash to highly mucus- forming foods like milk, yoghurt, kefir, sour cream and other diary also greatly improve digestion.


Winter squash are fantastic vegetables for people that want to eat local produce through the winter months. We had a quick catch up with Joris at Sutton Community Farm, which is a community-owned farm on the outskirts of London providing fresh, local produce and a space to learn skills. Currently at the farm they grow a large selection of winter squash which get included in their vegetable box scheme and sold to local restaurants. For the farmer they are a fantastic crop that is easy to grow with a great yield per square metre. One of the best things about squash is the fact that they keep so well. Some varieties, if stored correctly, will keep up for up to six months. They are best kept in a dry environment, around 15º to 20ºC and away from light. A cupboard in a cool room in the house should work well. The flesh of pumpkins and squash will become sweeter overtime as the starch turns into sugar.
All of this makes winter squash a very environmentally friendly vegetable. However there is a one big environmental issue: the Halloween pumpkins. At Halloween last year 18,000 tons of pumpkin were sent to landfill in the UK alone just three days after Halloween. The pumpkins that are grown for carving at Halloween are grown explicitly for size and, although perfectly edible, not great to eat. The main problem is the way they are disposed because most people don’t compost anymore and very few local councils offer a composting service. Perhaps it’s time someone set up a pumpkin recycling scheme like they do for Christmas trees to turn that 18,000 tons into useful compost rather than landfill.

So although Halloween and Thanksgiving have been, it is still very much the season to be enjoying all the qualities and varieties of winter squash. It is such a diverse vegetable and there are literally thousands of recipes from all over the world that you can create with squash.


Pumpkin and Coconut Tart

This is a recipe Muriel learnt while working at Infinity Foods Cafe in Brighton, it was one of the dishes that was always guaranteed to sell out straight away and has since become a favourite in our household too. Even Arlo, who hates squash, loves these luxurious treats. In this version we have used Delicata and Acorn squash, because they are both very sweet with a lovely silky texture. please note that creamed coconut is not the same as the coconut cream you get in the tins, also if you can get hold of fresh coconut we recommend using that instead, you also get the desiccated coconut in the process. For a quick guide to make your own coconut cream have a look here.
Makes 6 small tarts (if you wish to make one big tart you will need to double all quantities)


1Kg Winter Squash
200g Creamed Coconut
Zest and Juice of one lemon
2 tblsp Maple Syrup (optional)

200g Rolled porridge oats
100g Melted coconut oil
2 tblsp Maple Syrup

Plus 50g of desiccated coconut

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Half the squash lengthways, deseed and place face down on a lightly oiled baking tray. Roast the squash for approximately 40 minutes until really tender, the cooking time will depend somewhat on which squash you use. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little. Meanwhile make the base, combine the oats, coconut oil and maple syrup in a bowl. Divide the mixture between 6 small tart cases and gently press down with the back of a spoon. NB if it feels too crumbly and you would like a smoother base then give the oats a quick whizz in a blender before putting it in to line the cases. Back the bases for 15 minutes in the oven until they have just started turning a nice brown. Remove and allow to cool.
Lay out the desiccated coconut on a baking tray and toast in the oven for a few minutes until it starts to turn brown, keep an eye on this as it will turn from lovely and toasted to black and horrible in a matter of seconds.
Now back to the filling; scoop out the flesh from the squash into a food processor, add the creamed coconut, lemon zest and juice then blend well. Taste the mixture at this point to see if you think it needs maple syrup, different squash have different sugar contents and also peoples tastes are different so use your own judgement here. Divide the mixture between the tart bases and spread it out evenly. Now sprinkle the desiccated coconut over the top and then place the tarts in the fridge for at least 3 hours to set.

If you have enjoyed this post or you have something else to add, please leave us a comment below



Beetroot is one of those vegetables that really seem to divide opinions, you either love it or you hate it. In our house we eat a lot of different soups but a bright purple beetroot soup is the only one we all love, so it gets made a lot. Beetroot is an incredibly versatile vegetable that works both as a savoury and as a sweet, it works raw in salads, roasted whole, fried to crisps, juiced and pickled in kimchi. However you use it, beetroot always adds a massive dose of colour to any plate. It’s available year round and we get through a lot of beetroot. So this month we have spent some time researching the health benefits, environmental issues and best way of using this amazingly colourful root.


The Food Of Love

Beetroot is part of the chard, spinach and samphire family. It was first cultivated over 2,000 years ago but people only ate the leafy tops. The ancient Greeks began using the roots for medicinal purposes and the ancient Romans considered the beetroot an aphrodisiac. This has recently been proven by modern science as beetroot contains large amounts of the mineral boron, which is thought to play a key role in the production of human sex hormones. It wasn’t until the 16th century that beetroot was bred to be the sweet bulbous root we now know. Beetroots come in different colours from white, golden, stripy to the most common deep purple. In the 18th Century during the Napoleonic war, the British enforced a trade embargo on to the French so they could no longer buy sugar canes from the Caribbean colonies. In response the French bred beetroot to maximise sugar content and developed a method of turning the ‘sugar beet’ into sugar granules. Today sugar beets account for 30% of all sugar production.


The Nutrition

A typical beetroot is 9% sucrose, the highest sugar content of all vegetables. However the sugars release slowly into the bloodstream so beetroot has a high glycemic index but a very low glycemic load. Eating sweet vegetables like beetroot lower sugar cravings without the negative effects of refined sugars so it’s a good idea to add them to desserts and your diet in general.

Beetroot is high in fibre, vitamin C and minerals, particularly manganese. Manganese is an essential trace mineral which helps in blood sugar control, energy metabolism, and thyroid hormone function. The pigment that gives beetroot its rich deep colour is called Betalain, it is a powerful anti oxidant and anti-inflammatory.  Beetroot also contains high levels of the essential macronutrient Choline that is part of the B complex vitamin. Choline helps with liver and brain functions, muscle movement and supporting energy levels.

Recent studies show that the high levels of nitrate in beetroot lower blood pressure and may also help to fight heart disease. The nitrates have also been shown to increase blood circulation to the brain, limiting the risks of dementia in old age. The nitrates also improve muscle oxygenation during exercise, which helps with muscle soreness and recovery. So treat yourself to a fresh beetroot juice after cardio exercise.


The Greenest of Vegetables 

Beetroot is one of the most tolerant vegetables that requires very little fertilisers and pesticides making it one of the most environmentally friendly vegetables you can buy.  It is planted from seeds from March onwards and can be harvested from June to November. If stored well in the ground, beetroot will keep until spring. Once it is out of the ground it keeps for 2 to 3 weeks before turning soft. It’s best to store in the cold dark place or in the fridge. In season, fresh beetroot tops are delicious and can be used exactly like chard and spinach, however if you are not going to eat the green tops it is best to cut them off from the roots as they absorb the moisture from the root and make them go soft.

The beetroot plants thrive in a wide variety of climates and soils, making it particularly popular in the cold climates of Eastern Europe, Russia and Scandinavia. Badj has just been on a music tour of Eastern Europe and Russia and everywhere he went they had the beetroot soup called ‘borscht’.  There are as many variations on the borscht recipe as there are families in Eastern Europe. Our favourite and the one we make most often is based on a traditional recipe from our Romanian friend Nicoleta.  The acidity of the fresh tomatoes counters the sweetness and the lemon zest elevates the earthy flavours of the beetroot. A dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche to serve is a must and in Russia and the Ukraine it would always get a sprinkle of dill. 

We hope you have enjoyed the article and try the recipe, please leave a comment we really appreciate your feedback.

Borscht Soup


Borscht recipe


4 x Beetroots (approx 600g)
2 x Carrots (approx 300g)
3 x Fresh Tomatoes
1 x Medium White Onion
2 x Celery Sticks
1 x tsp Lemon Zest
Creme Fraiche
Fresh dill to garnish


Peel and chop all the vegetables and place them all in a pan with the lemon zest. Cover with homemade vegetable stock and season well. Cover the pan and simmer for 45 min or until all the vegetables are cooked. Blend and check for seasoning. Serve hot with a dollop of creme fraiche and the Russians and Ukrainians would definitely put a healthy sprinkle of fresh dill..




Vegetarian Cobnut Sausages

As autumn approaches fast and the evenings get colder we find ourselves longing for comfort food and there is little more comforting than bangers and mash. Most shop bought vegetarian sausages are full of all sorts of strange and unpleasant ingredients even the organic ones. Have you ever considered the ingredients list? So whenever possible we make our own from scratch. Here we share a quick easy recipe for homemade vegetarian sausages using fresh natural ingredients. This time we’ve used cobnuts because they are in season at the moment and they are absolutely divine, but out of season, hazelnuts will work absolutely fine as well.


500g fresh cobnuts, (this is around 150g once shelled or if you use hazelnuts)
1 small red onion
1/2 red pepper
3 chestnut mushrooms
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs


Shell the cobnuts and roast in the oven at 175ºC for 30 minutes. Blend the nuts in the food processor to a fine powder and place in a bowl. Roughly chop the onion, pepper, mushroom and thyme and blend in the food processor. Combine the ingredients, add a good splash of tamari, the breadcrumbs and season well.  Shape the mixture into sausages and then shallow fry them until they are golden brown.

Holiday food for families

It’s 35 degrees, we’ve just spent the last 4 hours dragging our kids around the museums and ancient ruins of Rome. It’s way past lunchtime and everyone is hot, hungry and on the edge of a breakdown. So the inevitable question comes up, ‘what shall we eat and where can we get it? Quickly!!!’

Anyone with kids will have had many similar eating experiences while trying to enjoy their summer holidays. We are not experts but we wanted to share with you our experiences and tips we’ve learnt to make holiday eating fun, and not too stressful.


Cook It Yourself

The first and most important choice for us when going on holiday is to have self-catering accommodation. Eating out three meals a day with a family of four is very expensive. With self-catering we can buy quality ingredients and choose what to cook. When we eat out it is very rare we find somewhere that everyone really likes, so with self-catering we can cook meals that we know the whole family will enjoy. We can prepare meals at a time that suits us and it will be a fraction of the cost of eating out at a restaurant.
All year round what we eat is a primary focus for our family and that doesn’t change when we go abroad. We love to go to food markets and discover new, local and seasonal produce, this encourages us to use new ingredients and develop new dishes. For example this year while in Rome we discovered a little know pulse called roveja, which is an ancient pulse grown almost exclusively in the high altitudes of the Umbria region of Italy. They were almost extinct until in recent years they have been reintroduced by the Slow Cuisine culture in Italy. They have the flavor of a puy lentil with the texture of a fresh green pea. We cooked them in a light tomato sauce and everyone loved them. You can watch the video of our recipe at the bottom of this post.


One thing we have learned from self-catering accommodation is that more often than not the kitchen isn’t well equipped. Once there was no oven or wooden spoons, and another time there wasn’t a cutting knife. Nevertheless we improvise or if it comes to it we buy a utensil or two and it still works out much cheaper than going to eat out every mealtime. It’s rarely practical to bring your kitchen utensils with you.

Eating Out

Of course we don’t spend all our holiday time cooking and we love going to eat out but finding a place that pleases us all is challenging. We want to try the local cuisine and not just eat whatever we know the boys will enjoy. While on holidays it’s very easy to end up in very touristy places eating very disappointing food at extravagant prices. The best way to avoid this is to do a little research before you go out. Find the best local restaurants and have a look at the menu online to get an idea if there is something suitable for everyone. In Rome we found an amazing pizzeria, it was in an inconspicuous place that we would never have known about without doing our research, yet it was by far one of the best pizzas we’ve ever eaten. Always avoid restaurants with waiters standing outside calling you in and more often than not the best restaurants are off the beaten path.
Plan a little as to what time you need to get there to avoid everyone getting to the ‘hangry‘ stage. An important thing to remember is that restaurants in most of Southern Europe and hot climates will not start serving until 8pm.


Don’t Stress It

At home we eat a large variety of different cuisines and we always make our boys try new dishes and ingredients. This makes it a lot easier while we are abroad as they have a broad palate and are willing to taste foreign foods, sometimes it’s a winner, sometimes it’s not.
Of course no family wants to spend their holidays arguing and bartering with their kids about what they can or have to eat. Once whilst on holiday in Greece, we had found this amazing restaurant where they made gorgeous traditional dishes daily, they even went up into the mountains to pick wild greens and herbs for the dishes. Our first son Otis was one and a half at the time and he simply refused to eat anything except avocados, bread and kiwis for the entire holiday. It was stressful as we were concerned he wasn’t getting enough nutrition, but we decided to not let it ruin our holiday and we kept offering him parts of each dish and trusted that if his body needed something desperately he would take it. As soon as we got back to England his eating habits returned to normal. Stress and food never go well together, that’s for sure!

Treat Yourselves

One of the great things about going on holiday for us is treating ourselves with pastries and desserts. In France we love hunting down the best patisseries with the best croissants and amandines. While in Italy this year we spent several days exploring Rome, where the monuments were little more than an excuse to go from one gelato to the next. It was tough.


Be Prepared

We have two boys aged 6 and 8 and they are eternally hungry, so whenever we go out we need to be prepared. First of all we always start the day with a good breakfast, usually oat based as oats really keep us going for longer (Oats). When we go out we always take a good supply of snacks. We always have a tin of almonds or brazil nuts as they are a good rich source of fats and protein and keep the kids going. We also usually have some plain crackers or biscuits for carbohydrates, nothing too sweet or sugary. We always include some fresh fruit and always plenty of drinking water. If we are out for the day we usually make our own sandwiches as again it is something that is cheap and we know everyone will enjoy because you can choose what to put in it.


We often bring specialty products with us if we think they are going to be hard to find abroad, such as chia seeds, mixed nuts, herb teas and nutritious snacks for the boys like spelt crackers or protein bars. These can be a life saviour when you’re travelling or arrive late at your destination.

Let Us Know

These are some of our experiences and tips that work well for us while traveling. We find they save us money, keep us healthy and allow us to enjoy a restful holiday. We are sure that every family has ways of dealing with children, eating habits and routines while on holiday, we would love to hear your top tips and experiences as well.

Here is our video recipe of a summer stew we made using the roveja peas while we were on Holiday in Italy.  You can replace the roveja peas with small white beans like canellini or even puy lentils

Roveja summer stew


1 1/2 cups of dried Roveja peas

1 red onion

1 red pepper

12 ripe tomatoes (peeled)

4 cloves of garlic

olive oil



Soak the peas in plenty water with a slice of lemon or kombu seaweed for at least 6 hours. Drain and rinse the peas, put in a pan with water, bring to the boil and leave to simmer. Dice the onion, pepper and garlic and gently saute in olive oil. Meanwhile peel and deseed the tomatoes and roughly chop.  Once the onion and pepper have softened add the tomatoes, season well and leave it all to simmer for 20 minutes or until the tomatoes have broken down completely. The peas will be ready by now, drain off any excess water and add them to the tomato sauce, cook everything for a further 20 minutes to let the flavours infuse. Serve with rice and focaccia and garnish with basil.