Spicy autumn soup recipe

Root vegetables and cucurbits rule in Autumn, which is partly why it’s one of my most favourite times of the year. Here’s a hearty, warming spicy autumnal soup recipe for these chilly September days and nights.

Spicy autumn soup recipe with butternut squash, sweet potato and carrot

SPICY AUTUMN SOUP RECIPE (VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN)

Ingredients

Light olive oil blend or rapeseed oil
1 x medium butternut squash
1 x medium-large sweet potato
3 x medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 x floury potato (Picasso/Maris Piper/Desiree etc)
2 x large onions (red or white), peeled and diced
Salt & cracked black pepper
Generous heap of curry powder (or garam masala and cumin) plus sprinkle of ground cayenne pepper
Vegetable stock (Marigold)

Method

1. Preheat oven to Gas Mark 6/400F/200C
2. Chop the butternut squash into thick wedges, chop the carrots and sweet potato into chunks, sprinkle with salt and cracked black pepper if desired and roast in the oven in the oil until soft and slightly charred on the edges – this should take about half an hour.
3. Meanwhile, boil the potato until fluffy
4. When the roasted veggies are almost done, start softening the onions in a pan.
5. Once the veggies have roasted, if you’ve left the skin on the squash, allow to cool and scoop away the squash flesh from the skin. Then add into the saucepan with all roasted veggies and potato.
6. Add a generous splash of vegetable stock (make sure the water is boiling) to cover the vegetables with about half an inch over the top. Add the curry powder, cumin or ground cayenne pepper. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 5-8 minutes to reduce the water content down.
7.Take off the heat and blend with a hand blender. If too thick, add some more vegetable stock and blend again.

Serve with thick, crusty bread, grab yourself a book or find a film, and enjoy!

Back to School with Organic September

Organic September

How can it be September already? This year has gone quicker than any other and already I can feel Autumn creeping in with the dewy mornings, the dawn and dusk twinkling bird song and the flutter of leaves as they start to fall from the trees. I don’t mind one bit, as I find late summer and the heat tiring, and the freshness of Autumn is invigorating… and boy, do I need some of that right now.

September has a distinctly back to school feel, and I often use this month to get myself ‘squared up’ – back on track ahead of the long, dark nights of winter. My life seems to go from a comfy plateau of bumbling along in my own bubble, to a whirlwind of work, and I often lose myself and any kind of rhythm in my life. The first thing to go is planned meals, and by ‘planned’ I mean home-cooked, healthy and hearty meals. I start eating oven food and the take-away bills add up, along with my fat, sugar and calorie counts. It’s not the way I want or like to live but it’s so easy to slip into it.

 

So I’m pre-empting the chaos, and have set myself up with a scribbled meal planner for the week. But one thing I realised is that I eat pretty much the same five things on rotation. Bean-based thing with rice/quinoa/bulgar wheat and green veggies, veg and gravy with mash/roasties, chilli, curry, lentil bake, homemade pizza (vegan, yes it’s delicious!) as a treat. I’ve become stuck in a rut. As a vegan, there’s a whole world of food out there for me to explore but I’ve lost my mojo in the kitchen a bit. I think at least once a week I need to have a ‘New Dish Day’… a day where I try to cook something interesting, tasty and out of my comfort zone (difficult, since I am a bit addicted to spice and curry). Monday seems to be the best day for this as it gives me a chance to do some research over the weekend when it’s quieter and calmer, and I can also use the weekend to get in any extra ingredients I might need.

growing organic

It’s also Organic September, so I’ll be making a point of opting for organic ingredients. I already grow a little of my own food organically, but we still buy in a lot. It seems crazy though that organic, as one of the most natural and sustainable ways to grow and farm food, should require certification. Surely, it should be the other way round? These days cost and profit seems to supersede everything, including common sense, but I’m sure that if we champion and encourage people to buy organic, it will start to be seen as the norm and demand will increase. That can bring down cost and the supermarkets should reconsider their position on adding a premium for more naturally grown food, somehow making out it’s a luxury. Organic food should be a staple in every house. But how can we make that happen?

 

Top 5 All-Purpose Edible Plants

Herbs and alliums are two of my favourite types of plants. I love to grow them, eat some of them (in large quantities), admire their amazing flowers and watch the bees and pollinators feast on them too.

I’m currently in the throes of planting lots of alliums – mostly onion and shallot sets – but I’m also looking to boost my wildlife-friendly flower borders with a few ornamental and “dual purpose” herbs, legumes, and alliums too. Here are some of my favourites that you might want to grow in your flower garden, veg patch or allotment:

chive-flowers

1. Chives

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) might seem like an obvious choice, but they really are an all-purpose allium. These little beauties can be harvested throughout the year for extra onion-flavoured zing in your culinary endeavours. Cheap to buy, easy to grow and fantastic for pollinators, they can feature in container gardens, veg patches, herb gardens and flower borders alike. There are an abundance of varieties available, from mild to strong flavoured, compact 6inch plants or broader and taller 2ft specimens (A. var. sibiricum), as well as a selection of (edible) chive flowers, with white (withs silvery-green foliage), pink and mauve varieties readily available. Try garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) for a garlicky twist to the traditional light onion flavour.

2. Rosemary

Another obvious choice, but no garden or veg patch should be with some rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Whether you’ve got acres of space or just a patio to play with, you can enjoy this unique, fragrant herb and your local pollinators will thrive on the abundance of delicate, blue flowers. Here at the Smallest Smallholding I’m growing Mrs Jessop’s Upright, a tall and narrow variety that fits perfectly in between the flowers in my long borders, but if you’ve got slopes or need ground cover try Prostratus, a cascading variety.

3. Welsh Onions

I first saw welsh onions (Allium fistulosum) being grown in my mum’s garden amongst the verbena bonariensis, and it’s flowers were like a magnet for the bees. I’ve since found a few pots of welsh onions in the poorly department of my local garden centre, and they’re now going in my flower borders. Welsh onions can be eaten from bottom to top, and produce fluffy globular pale green/yellow flowers in summer. They’re great for compact gardens, growing tall from smaller clusters.

lavender-3

4. Lavender

Scent, flavour, texture, colour, lavender has it all. A staple in many English country gardens, allotments and veg patches, lavender might be a common feature, but its place in our growing spaces is well deserved. Bees, butterflies and other pollinators will flock to any variety (though English is preferred to French), and there’s a plant for every growing space from compact Hidcote through to the long, tall spires of Lavandula angustifolia. Bake with it, smell it, look at it… just enjoy it.

5. Peas (and Beans… legumes in general)

I’m a bit of a pea-growing novice, and have little experience. I’m growing some this year, because these vertical-growing legumes are not only a welcome culinary treat, but the sheer number of varieties of peas and beans available means that there’s not only a variety for every taste, but also a huge array of flowers that are so beneficial to pollinators. Peas and beans look great in any vegetable garden but can also add height, texture and colour to ornamental borders too. And with nitrogen fixing qualities, they’re fab for crop rotation and healthy soil.

© www.flowerpictures.net

© www.flowerpictures.net