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



Rice is mankind’s most important grain. It was the domestication of rice many thousands of years ago that turned hunter gatherers into farmers, which then led to houses, communities and the civilisation we now know. Humans eat more rice than any other grain in the world. From pilaf to paella, from sushi to jambalaya, rice has proven itself to be a versatile and essential source of nourishment around the globe. We as a family rely on rice for many of our meals so this month we have been researching the origins, health benefits and environmental impact of this popular grain.



Rice originated from Southern China and was first domesticated over 9,000 years ago. It was the Arabs that introduced rice to Europe and the Spanish and Portuguese that took the grains to the Americas. A sister species of rice with a red bran was grown in West Africa at least 1,500 years ago and it was the rice growing expertise of African slaves that helped to boost the production of rice in the United States. There are now over 100,000 distinct varieties of rice worldwide but they all fall into two main categories which are the Indica rices and the Japonica rices. The Indica rices are grown in the sub tropics and they have long and firm grains. The Japonica rices are shorter and stickier like sushi and risotto rices and they are grown both in the tropics and temperate climates. The factor that distinguishes the main rices is the amount of a starch called amylose that they contain. The amylose content is important because it will determine the firmness or stickiness of the cooked rice. Rice with high amylose content (25-30%) tends to cook firm and dry, whereas rice with intermediate amylose content (20-25%) tends to be softer and stickier and rice with low amylose content (<20%) is generally quite soft and sticky.



All rice is primarily a carbohydrate in the form of starches. Brown rice is a wholegrain, it is the unrefined seed that contains all the nutrients needed to grow into a plant. It has fibre, fats, vitamins, minerals and proteins. The starch in the grain is protected by the outer bran layer so it is slowly absorbed by the body and doesn’t have a large impact on blood sugar levels. Like most whole grains, brown rice is good for the heart and lowers cardio-vascular risks. It has a lot of fibre which helps to feed and promote the growth of good bacteria in the lower intestines. But like all whole grains it also contains the enzyme phytic acid, which inhibits the absorption of certain minerals (for more information about this check our post on oats). White rice is far more common than brown rice. It is quicker to cook, easier to chew and lasts longer on the shelf.  It is made by refining and ‘polishing’ the wholegrain to remove the bran, most of the germ and the outer layer. This removes pretty much all of the nutritional value leaving almost nothing but starch. White rice is easily absorbed by the body and turned into glucose, this puts it high on the glycemic index and should be avoided by diabetics. Black and purple rice are a wholegrain but have higher amounts of antioxidants, protein and twice the amount of fibre than brown rice. Red rice is rich in antioxidant pigment called anthocyanin and has pretty much the same nutritional benefits as brown rice.  So which type of rice? Always choose organic and preferably wholegrain but for certain dishes or when time is tight, choose a good quality white rice.
Rice contains more dangerous heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic than any other grain. All plants absorb some amount of these dangerous heavy metals but rice is one of the few plants that actually stores it in the seed rather than the leaves. Furthermore because rice is grown in standing water it has a tendency to absorb more of these elements, particularly if they are heavily covered with pesticides (another reason to always choose organic rice).  It’s worth mentioning that these metals are present in all the foods and water we consume and actually the vast majority is found in vegetables, so don’t stop eating rice because of a fear of arsenic poisoning. A good way to remove these unwanted elements is to rinse and soak the rice before cooking. This has the added benefit of removing extra starch, phytic acid and also reducing the cooking time.


Global Impacts

Although rice is the main grain grown for human consumption, only 7% of what is grown makes it on to the global market. In Asia 90% of the rice is grown and consumed on small family farms and a high proportion of the rice never leaves that farm or it is sold in nearby towns and villages. It’s only when there is surplus that rice is then exported. This means that the local people are mostly immune to international prices and the global price of rice is very much dependant on the weather and the yield of particular regions. West African countries have recently shifted away from their traditional staples of millet and cassava to eating rice and these countries now account for 30% of global rice imports.
Rice production takes up approximately 11% of the arable land worldwide and a whopping 50% of all diverted water in Asia is used just to grow rice. In the 60’s the Phillipines began breeding varieties of rice that gave massive yields but were heavily reliant on pesticides and fertilizers. These varieties quickly spread and now most common varieties of rice grown in Asia are reliant on pesticides and fertilizers. All these pesticides are fed directly into the water system. Rice requires 3 times more water to grow than other grains. So as water scarcity becomes more of a global issue we can expect to see a drop in rice production in the future.
Rice paddies are one of the largest human sources of the powerful greenhouse gas methane. It is estimated that rice production accounts for 10% of methane pollution globally and recent research has shown that as carbon dioxide levels increase so does the amount of methane that rice produces. However there are ways that these levels can be dramatically reduced through good growing practices such as alternate wetting and drying.


Cooking tips

It seems there are almost as many different ways to cook rice, as there are types of rice. Each culture seems to have its own way to cook the perfect rice. Here are a few universal truths we have learned over the years of cooking all types of rice in all manner of ways.

  • Cheap, low quality rice will never cook well no matter what your technique.
  • Avoid techniques that require you to discard the cooking water, as you will also be discarding nutrients and flavour.
  • Do not stir long grain rice at all. Once the lid is on, leave it.
  • Since researching for this post we have begun to soak our rice in advance. As well as the health reasons, it halves the cooking time and produces lighter fluffier grains. Note that you will need approximately half the amount of water you would normally use without soaking.
  • Be careful when reheating rice. Raw rice naturally contains the spores of Bacillus Cereus, a bacterium that causes serious (it’s in the name) food poisoning. The spores can survive the cooking process and if the cooked rice is left out at room temperature the bacteria will grow. For this reason it is best to cool cooked rice down as quick as possible if you aren’t going to eat it and store it in the fridge. When you reheat it, make sure that the rice reaches boiling temperatures to be certain to kill off the bacteria.
  • A little pinch of salt goes a long way to increase the flavour of your rice.

Vegan Jambalaya

The first thing to mention is this is as much a guide as a recipe. You can replace the vegetables with whatever you have around, and if you don’t have red rice just use brown rice. The nuts are important as they provide a good source of protein and fats.


1 cup (170g)  long grain brown rice
1 cup (170g)  Long grain red rice
1 x medium white onion
1 x carrot
1 x red pepper
2 x cloves of garlic
2 x diced fresh tomatoes
50g xfresh peas
50g sweetcorn
150g brasil nuts
3 cups (700ml) of quality vegetable stock
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
Fresh coriander to garnish


If you have time, soak the rice for at least an hour in plenty of filtered water. Finely dice the onion, carrot and pepper and sauté in olive oil for 15 minutes until soft. Meanwhile peel and finely chop the garlic then add to the pan along with the salt, cumin and paprika. Drain and rinse the rice and add it to the pan. Cover with the vegetable stock, place a lid on it and simmer slowly for 35 minutes. Meanwhile roughly chop the brazil nuts and lightly toast them either in a pan or in the oven. Once the rice is cooked add the peas, sweetcorn and diced fresh tomatoes and gently stir. Garnish with fresh coriander and the brazil nuts and serve immediately. We like to add a healthy splash of hot sauce for us but not for the kids. Enjoy

If you’ve enjoyed this post or you have any questions please leave us a comment here.

Some useful links we found in our research:



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..






What is all the fuss about coconut?
Nowadays, coconut products can be found everywhere. Consumers are eating more coconut products than ever; coconut water, coconut butter, coconut milk, coconut yoghurt and coconut sugar are filling the shelves of supermarkets and health stores. If you don’t want to eat it then rub it on your skin, chew it or feed it to your dog.
In our house we do consume a fair amount of coconut. We use coconut water in our smoothies, coconut oil for cooking and baking and we just love using freshly made coconut milk to prepare an authentic South Indian curry.
But is it actually that good for you? What are the healthiest forms? Are there any limits on how much you should have? And what about the farmers, do they get a fair share too? We wanted to know more so here’s what we found.


The word coconut comes from the Portuguese ‘coco’ which means goblin or monkey because the marks on the stem resemble a monkey or human head.
Coconuts are thought to have originated from the western Pacific and were spread by humans and ocean currents all over the tropics.  Now coconut trees are grown in more than 90 countries throughout the world and about 20 billion nuts are produced each year in the Philippines, India and Indonesia. India is the third largest coconut producer in the world, Kerala being its most fertile state for growing young coconuts.
A recent DNA analysis of over 1300 coconuts from all over the world revealed that the coconut was first cultivated in two separate locations, one in the Pacific and the other in the Indian Ocean. Also through the coconut DNA they were able to trace human cultivation, voyages of exploration, trade and colonization; which we thought is pretty astonishing for a coconut!
The coconut has nourished populations around the world for generations. It is a unique and immensely versatile nut that provides a nutritious source of fats, it has a unique potable water, it can be used to make a rich cream, flour, sugar, alcohol, moisturizer, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, sunburn lotion and even furnishings and rope. It is little wonder that it has deep cultural and religious significance in the societies where it is grown. Nearly one third of the world’s population depends on coconut to some degree for their food and their economy.

A photo we took in Karnataka, India of women weaving rope from the husks of coconuts


Coconut Water
Over 10 years ago, the only way to enjoy a drink of fresh coconut water was to get on a flight to an exotic location. Nowadays coconut water has filled the shelves of every store and is a billion dollar industry. Coconut water is sold as a health drink due to a high content of potassium, magnesium, Vitamin B and Vitamin C. It is low in sugar but high in micro nutrients and electrolytes which keep the body hydrated and make it a perfect drink for athletes and hang overs.
However unless you are buying fresh green coconuts and getting the water directly from them, the chances are that your coconut water is nowhere near as healthy as people claim; here’s why.
– Fresh, raw coconut water is very delicate and only keeps for a couple of days in the fridge so in order for companies to sell prepacked coconut water they have to find a way to preserve it. There are two main ways they can do this. The first is UHT (Ultra High Temperature), which kills off any bacteria and also the majority of the nutrients, the vitamins and the natural enzymes which make coconut water so good for you. The second method is HPP (High Pressure Processing), which is a heat-less process which inhibits the bacteria while keeping the nutrients in tact. Pretty much all coconut water sold as ‘raw’ uses this process.
– A lot of companies use water from mature coconuts (not the young green ones) because it’s a cheap byproduct of the coconut oil industry. The problem with this is that all the nutrients have gone into the flesh of the coconut so the coconut water you are drinking has very little nutritional value. It also tastes acidic so they have to add sugar or flavourings to mask the acidity. Pretty much any coconut water with added sugar is sure to be from mature coconuts.
– A lot of it is made from concentrate which, like fruit juice from concentrate, has practically no nutritional benefits whatsoever.
– Also be aware that these days coconut water is big business, ONE is owned by Pepsi Co and Zico by Coca Cola. However there are small companies that provide high quality, organic, raw coconut water but you have to search for them, here are some we found in the UK (Coco Juice, Unoco and CocoFina). There are also several shops now selling whole fresh, young coconuts which you just take the top off and stick a straw in for a guaranteed super healthy refreshing tropical drink.
There is a fantastic article here by Vani Hari detailing the best and worst coconut water manufacturers.


Coconut oil
During the 50’s and 60’s, coconut was the most important vegetable oil in the world. Then in the 70’s and 80’s there was the big scare about saturated fats. So manufacturers of processed foods replaced coconut oil with less saturated fats, which now turn out to contain undesirable trans fatty acids (which may contribute to heart disease). In recent times coconut oil has seen an incredible upturn in popularity in the West with sales doubling every year since 2011. Coconut oil is now being described as “the healthiest oil on earth.”
Natural coconut oil is made of 90 percent saturated fat (butter only contains 64 percent saturated fat), but the type of saturated fat matters just as much as the amount. Coconut oil is composed predominately of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), also known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which are much easier for our bodies to digest and turn into energy than the long-chain fatty acids (LCFA) typically found in meat, dairy and eggs.
Furthermore 50% of virgin coconut oil’s saturated fat is lauric acid, which is a MCFA that turns out to have a number of health-promoting properties, including the ability to improve levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which is claimed to have high anti-viral, anti-bacterial properties and coconut oil contains the most lauric acid of any substance on Earth!
The smoke point of coconut oil is quite low, similar to butter or lard, so it is not good for frying at high temperatures. You can get unscented coconut oil but this goes through heavy refining and is often bleached so is best avoided. Like all oils the best and most nutritious forms are virgin, cold pressed and organic.
Generally because it’s so high in saturated fat, even the purest, most natural coconut oil could be problematic for long term heart health. Coconut oil is not a miracle food and should be eaten as part of a well balanced diet. If you have a meat heavy diet go easy on the coconut oil, however it is a fantastic source of good saturated fats for someone on a vegan diet.

Coconut cream and milk, which are so popular in Thai and Carribean cooking have all the MCFA saturated fats found in coconut oil along with the fibre, vitamins and nutrients. It is important to remember that not all coconut products are the same and many of them are highly processed and contain added sugar. If you want to get the maximum nutrients and a fantastic taste we recommend you make your own coconut milk. It is really easy and it tastes so much better than anything off the shelf. Here is a video we made to show you how.

Coconut nectar and sugar
The other main product from the coconut tree is the nectar. This has nothing to do with the nut but is the sap of the palm that is tapped from the coconut blossom. It has been traditionally tapped for centuries throughout the tropics. It is then heated to evaporate the moisture content. You can either leave it in this state for the runny nectar or it can be further reduced to reach a crystalline sugar form. It is claimed by the Phillipines Coconut Associated that it has an incredibly low glycemic rating, almost half that of brown sugar. It does contain some minerals and vitamins, but much like honey the amount you have to eat to get any meaningful nutrition out of it would practically kill you. Primarily it has the same amount of calories as brown sugar and should be eaten with moderation. If you want a sugar alternative we recommend you use locally sourced, raw honey rather than shipping in coconut nectar from the other side of the world.
We do love coconuts and the many marvelous products you can make from it but at the end of the day it is a tropical product that takes a lot of time and work to grow and has to be shipped a long way so should be treated as a luxury product. Over the last decade coconut producers have seen a massive increase in demand from the Western world. But this has not helped the livelihoods of the farmers. Most coconuts are still grown on small and medium plantations. The labour of coconut farming is hard and there is very little mechanization involved. The farmers only receive a small portion of the revenues from selling coconut. As Frederick Schilling mentioned in the Times (“Why the Coconut Craze Isn’t Helping Farmers”) ‘a farmer will sell his coconut to the general market for $0.15 to $0.25 per coconut. A tree will produce anywhere from 30 to 70 coconuts per year.  So, in one year, a tree will give a farmer a maximum income of around $17.50. Think about how many trees a farmer must have in order to make a decent living.’ There are many farms now that grow another product, very often cacao in the shade of the coconut trees which allow them to double the yield of their plot of land.

Like all these things it is best to do a little research on the companies you are buying from, always buy organic and look for Fair Trade or transparent ethics. You will be supporting a sustainable future for the growers and the environment and you will inevitably end up with a higher quality product that is better for you.



Badj grew up in California and one of his first vivid memories was a game he used to play with his siblings. The family grew chillies in the garden and the kids used to challenge each other to eat as much raw chilli as possible before running back to the house to down glasses of milk to soothe their pain. Meanwhile, Mu grew up in rural France where spicy food was as scarce as hen’s teeth. By the time she met Badj she had only had a few hot, ‘oh my god my mouth is a volcano’ chilli experiences, and generally chilli was to be avoided at all costs. Over the years Badj has slowly introduced and upped the chilli doses and now even though we will cook a mild dish for our young boys, more often than not chillies find their way into our meals.


Chillies originated in Central and South America, where they have been eaten for at least 8,000 years. They were introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus who mistook them for black pepper and called them peppers (he also thought he had landed in India, hence the natives were called Indians). The Spanish and the Portuguese then took the chilli plant to the rest of the world where it was embraced by local cultures and cuisines. Different varieties of chilli plants were cultivated and now there are over 450 different varieties of chillies of all shapes, sizes, flavours and pungencies, from the bell pepper to the Carolina Reaper. India is currently the largest producer, exporter and also consumer of chillies worldwide.


Chilli is not a taste in the same way that sweet, sour, salty etc is, it comes from the substance capsaicin which is produced by chilli plants. Capsaicin is most concentrated on the seeds and the white pith in the chilli. When we put capsaicin into our mouths it tricks the brain into thinking it has eaten something hot, so the body reacts accordingly by increasing the heart rate, releasing endorphins and sweating. In 1912, Dr Scoville developed a scale to measure the pungency of a chilli which is based on the amount of times the chilli has to be diluted before it no longer has any heat. The bell pepper measures 0 on the Scoville scale all the way up to the Carolina Reaper which has to be diluted up to 2.2 million times before it no longer has any pungency.


Chillies have been used for all sorts of medicinal purposes, from alleviating pain to clearing headaches, psoriasys and stomach ulcers. For modern nutritionists there seems to be a lot of conflicting thoughts and little hard evidence surrounding the health benefits or harms of chillies. It is our personal view however, that if so many cultures worldwide have been eating chillies for so long, they must have something going for them. Chillies are high in vitamin C and vitamin A and have a substantial amount of minerals, particularly when they are red and at their ripest.
One very interesting study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2006 showed that chillies are very good for reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. The research showed that having chilli with your meal dramatically reduced the amount of insulin required by your body to balance out your blood sugar levels. After eating a chilli rich meal, the insulin levels were between 15 and 24% lower than those with a bland meal.
Chillies are grown and eaten primarily in hot climates for several reasons. Chillies act to cool the body down by making you sweat. Chillies are also often used to mask the taste of food and meats that are just on the turn, which is pretty often if you live in a hot country without refrigeration. Capsaicin is a proven appetite stimulant, so in hot weather when your appetite is suppressed, adding chilli to your diet could be a good way of making sure you eat enough.


Over the last decade the English have really taken a shine to this fiery little condiment. In England chilli farms are popping up everywhere, there are chilli festivals, you can buy chillies from your local shop either fresh or dried. In Brighton, where we live, there is even a designated chilli shop (Chilli Shop). Like all fruit and vegetables it’s important to get the freshest products, locally sourced and organic where possible. Fresh chillies are in season in the UK from mid July till December, we found that this is the best time to enjoy chillies, you can buy them out of season but they are imported and never quite as good. You should look for a good firm texture, they should be nice and shiney and with good rich colours. In recent years, we have been buying fresh chillies from The South Devon Chilli Farm where they are grown without pesticides by a passionate chilli farmer who grows chillies for their flavour as much as their heat. This year we visited the farm and had a tour around the polly tunnels tasting raw chillies grown and bred there from seeds. If you happen to be in the area, we strongly recommend the detour, it’s a chilli heaven!
Out of season, a good way to get your chilli fix is with dried chillies. When dried, chillies can take on completely new flavours, they become much earthier and are great in wintery stews and curries. You can also pick up smoked chillies like chipotle. If you are drying your own it is advisable to use thin skinned chillies and dry them whole until they are very firm then store in an air tight container.


Last year we made a this Trinidad style hot sauce and it won first prize in the Sidewinder chilli festival hot sauce competition so this year we bought 2.5 kg of mixed habanero chillies and made 30 bottles to give to our friends and family. It was such a hit that we had to make another batch a few weeks later and so now we thought we’d share the recipe with you. This is a really tasty and super spicy hot sauce that is much much better than anything you can buy in the shop and is a great way of preserving your chillies so you can have that chilli kick all year round. Watch the video here.

Trinidad Style Hot Pepper Sauce Recipe

This is enough quantity to make 15 x 150ml bottles, you can adjust it according to how much chillies you have and are likely to get through. The key to this recipe is using good quality ingredients, choose organic local vegetables whenever possible and make sure the chillies are really fresh..


  • 1.5 kg of mixed habaneros (scotch bonnets)
  • 100g coconut oil
  • half bulb of garlic
  • large chunk of fresh ginger
  • 2 white onions
  • 4 carrots
  • 200g Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tblsp raw honey
  • approx 450ml white wine vinegar
  • sea salt


Dice onions and carrots and saute in coconut oil in the biggest pan you can find. Cover and leave to sweat on a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile peel and finely dice the ginger and garlic and set aside. Now roughly chop all the chillies including seeds. We really recommend you put on some latex gloves for this, we didn’t do this once and our hands really burned for a couple of days! Add the garlic and ginger to the carrot and onion mixture and cook for another couple of minutes before adding all the chillies. Then add enough white wine vinegar to generously cover the chillies. Add all the remaining ingredients (mustard, sugar, honey and salt). Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. You probably want to open all your windows and turn on the extractor fan at this point. Using a blender, a stick blender or a food processor, blend the whole mixture thoroughly. Now taste it to make sure you have a good balance between the sugar and the vinegar and also taste for seasoning. Once you are happy, return to the heat for a couple of minutes to get the temperature back up. Transfer the mixture into sterilised bottles or jars. Make sure the lids are on tight. This hot sauce will keep on for at least six months. Once opened keep refrigerated. Et voila! You have just made your own kick-ass chilli sauce that will blow all the other shop bought hot sauces out the water!


References and useful links:

The Chilli King

South Devon Chilli Farm

The Chilli Shop Brighton  

Chilli World