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Well it’s that time of year again where that very special fruit, the pumpkin, gets centre stage! The pumpkin is heart-warming, tasty, healthy and versatile! After all what other fruit or veg lends itself so readily to becoming a household decoration? Maybe the melon, and that is where the name originates. The word ‘pumpkin’ derives from the Greek word ‘pepon’ which means large melon (sorry i couldn’t do the squiggly thing over the o)! There are records showing the word ‘pumpion’ or ‘pompion’ in English and French as early as 1547. This later became  our present word ‘pumpkin’.

Pumpkins are synonymous with Halloween on the 31st of October where they are carved into scary Jack-o-Lanterns. This was a tradition brought over to America by Irish and Scottish immigrants who used to carve turnips or potatoes into faces for festivals. ( Apparently the English used to carve beetroot but I’m not sure about this fact, sounds a bit messy to me!!) Anyway the immigrants realized that in the new land of America, pumpkins were more plentiful and the tradition crossed over to this new fruit.

Pumpkins are good for you! They are low in calories, low in sodium but high in fiber. They are also high in beta-carotene which is an antioxidant. Researchers believe that beta-carotene can reduce the risk of cancer, heart-disease and slow down the aging process!

I came across a fantastic website from some true pumpkin lovers… www.allaboutpumpkins.com. Check it out to learn more amazing facts.

I was brought up in Japan with a particular type of pumpkin called the Kabocha. This is available in supermarkets here now. The kabocha is usually quite small with a very tough dark green skin and is often steamed with the skin on in Japanese dishes. When living in Japan I made up my own very simple and quick kabocha soup recipe which I will share with you today…

Japanese Pumpkin Soup

225g pumpkin flesh

1/3 litre of water

1 tsp Hondashi granules ( Japanese fish stock)

3 cloves of roasted garlic

Salt and Pepper to taste

1. First roast the garlic cloves on a baking tray with a little olive oil.

2. Put the pumpkin flesh and water in a pan and let it simmer. Add the Hondashi and let the soup simmer for about half an hour, when the soup has thickened add the the roasted garlic which should be soft. Give the mixture a quick mash with a potato masher to get rid of any large lumps or a whizz with a hand blender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Finally add a dollop of creme fraiche before serving. (I am a big fan of creme fraiche I’m afraid!!)

Now, Hondashi is used in most Japanese cooking but it is a slightly acquired taste so if it doesn’t suit your palette this recipe works equally well with chicken stock.

Hondashi is available at any Japanese food stores and at Spinneys and Choithrams for those of you in Dubai!

Happy Halloween and pumpkin enjoying!!!!

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This weekend I went down to the fish market! Watch my video……

Filmed by the talented Mike McKelvie and edited by the equally talented Xan Blacker with huge thanks and appreciation!!!

The purpose of this trip was to show a little of old Dubai, throughout history Dubai has had strong links with the sea with pearl diving, dhow building and fishing. The fish market remains, to this day, a special place!

The recipe I want to share is a very healthy, light dish which has the flavours of the Middle East and the freshness of a salad.

It is Sumac Coated Fish.

Sumac is a deep red spice often used in this region and parts of Italy and is described as a souring agent. It is delicious with both meat and fish but most people will recognise it as a flavouring on Fattoush, a refreshing Lebanese salad. Check www.apinchof.com for fascinating facts on herbs and spices!

The fish I chose was hammour, a local favourite. It is a white fish with succulent flakes. Hammour is of the Grouper family and is also related to Sea Bass. It can grow up to 1 metre long, luckily I managed to purchase one that was a little smaller!!! As with alot of fish there is evidence of hammour stocks dwindling and in 2004 the Dubai Government introduced fishing guidelines on hammour quantities so please don’t eat this everyday even if it is too delicious!

Ingredients:

For the Salad: Green Beans, Asparagus, Spring Onions, Brown Lentils, Flat Leaf Parsely

For the Fish: White Fish, in this case Hammour

For the Dressing: Olive oil, Thyme or Red Wine Vinegar, Lemon, Salt and Pepper

Cook the beans, asparagus and lentils. mix all the salad ingredients together. Lightly fry the sumac coated fish in a little olive oil until cooked through and place on top!

Feel the amour for hammour and enjoy!!!!

Food Styling Fish:

”The texture of most fish flesh is delicate when compared to beef and pork. For this reason, the styling and cooking techniques for fish are different. Because most types of fish have a texture that flakes when cooked, fish cooked for photography must be handled very carefully. ….. Like other proteins, fish flesh will tighten up during the cooking process. The tightening of protein will cause the piece of fish to shrink slightly in the surface area it will take up on the plate and it will become a little thicker or taller in size. When you begin the cooking process for fish photography, there are several advantages to starting the process with well-chilled fish. If the center of the fish is very cold, the outer surfaces can be cooked while keeping the center of the fish flesh still intact…..” by Linda Bellingham, US food stylist extraodinaire!!!

To find out more amazing food styling tips, check out ‘Food Styling for Photographers’ by Linda Bellingham and Jean Ann Bybee.

 

 

 

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Last week I was in Sri Lanka celebrating a friends amazing wedding. As we whizzed through the market streets and beach roads on our tuk tuk, the thing that caught my eye was the Sri Lankan pineapple! It is wide at the botton and gets narrower at the top with short leaves sprouting. They were stacked up in mounds ready for the morning market.

We were fortunate enough to have booked into a wonderful boutique hotel called the Frangipani Tree, 10 minutes outside of Galle, in the south. The staff here were so kind, attentive and the chefs were extremely good! When a chicken curry was ordered a whole array of exciting dishes would be served to accompany it. These would differ daily depending on what they had bought fresh that morning, such as grated carrot with coconut, green bean curry, spicey dahl curry, popadoms, okra with tomato curry, julienned beetroot curry, potato and cauliflower curry and the list goes on….. I have to say the potato and cauliflower curry was particularly memorable and the chefs in the kitchen were kind enough to let me watch them cook this dish one afternoon.

As we ambled through the narrow streets of the old fort in Galle, popping into boutique interior shops and souvenier shops, I came accross an old Sri Lankan cookery book; Ceylon Cookery by Chandra Dissanayake. It describes local fruit, vegetables, spices and herbs… amazing, along with particular local cooking techniques. Whilst flicking through I found an interesting sounding recipe for curried pineapple!

Pineapple Curried

1lb pineapple (unripe)

2 oz onions

2 green chillies

2 tsp chillie powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cummin powder

1” cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp ground mustard

1 tsp salt

10 oz 1st&2nd extracts of coconut milk

Method

1. Peel and cut pineapple into 3/4” pieces. Chop the onions and green chillies.

2. Mix all the ingredients together. Bring to boil and simmer till done.   It doesn’t really get more simple than that so here is my effort……

And here is the finished result!!!!  I love spicey food and the mix of the chilli with the sweet pineapple was delicious. I would, however, next time probably use 1 green chilli and only 1 tsp of chilli powder as it was very, very spicey indeed!!!!

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