Category Archives: Sweet

Smashing Pumpkins: 3 ways with pumpkin seeds

When I have an inevitable energy slump in the afternoon, usually around 3 o’clock, I always need to go foraging for food. For instance a slice of hot toast smothered with crunchy peanut butter with a few berries or a mashed banana on top. Oatcakes with roasted nuts are another option, or perhaps a chunky granola bar, encased in sugar syrup and smothered with seeds. Pumpkin seeds

I think you can see where I’m going with this… Pumpkin seeds also fall into this category.

As far as all-round health benefits are concerned they’re pretty hard to beat. Their nutrition is, shall we say, “brain boosting” – with zinc, magnesium and Omega-3 in abundance, all of which are beneficial when it comes to improving memory and critical thinking skills.

This is definitely a good choice for the afternoon cognitive deficit.

As well as for snacking pumpkin seeds are great for general cooking purposes; such as garnishing sweet and savoury bakes; blitzing into a pesto sauce for pasta or pureeing into a smooth and creamy seed butter or for toast.

For the recipes below I’ve opted for a selection of 3 of the best (and indeed simple) uses for pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin seed breadPumpkin seed bread

Seeded bread recipes often call for different seed varieties like linseed, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin. This loaf uses only the latter of the four – which I find the most flavoursome.

Ingredients

  • 20g fresh / 14g instant yeast
  • 500g strong wholemeal bread flour
  • 5g salt
  • 10g unrefined sugar i.e. brown cane sugar or demerara
  • 50ml olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 275ml/9fl oz warm water
  • 150g pumpkin seeds

Directions

  • Heat a small pan to a medium-high heat and spread the pumpkin seeds out evenly. Toast for around 7-10 minutes, shaking the pan so they do not catch or burn. Remove from the heat and leave to cool
  • In a bowl mix together the yeast, flour, salt, sugar and oil until well combined. Add the warm water and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together as a soft dough.
  • Add the pumpkin seeds and knead gently for 5-8 minutes, or until the seeds are combined and the dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Place the dough into a large bowl and cover with a clean tea towel.
  • Set aside in a warm place to prove for 2 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 200C
  • When the dough has proved, transfer to the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until the bread has risen and is golden-brown.

Porridge with pumpkin seeds and maple syrup blackberries

There are countless recipe variations around for porridge – what can you expect for something that’s Porridge with pumpkin seeds and blackberriesbeen around since 1000 BC..

This is my take on it.

Ingredients

  • 50-75g steel cut oats
  • 250ml water or milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • a generous drizzle of maple syrup

Directions

  • Put the oats in a saucepan with the water (or milk) and salt.
  • Slowly bring to the boil over a low-medium heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring from time to time and watching carefully that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Before serving, pour some boiling water into your serving bowl, leave for 10 seconds, then pour out. This warms the bowl in preparation for the porridge.
  • To serve: Pour into the warmed bowl, spoon the pumpkin seeds on top and drizzle with honey.

Spice-roasted pumpkin seeds with cumin, coriander and cardamom

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Ingredients

  • 100g pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp each ground cumin, coriander, cardamom and salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions

  • Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add seeds, lower heat and boil gently for 10 minutes. Drain well then transfer to a paper towel-lined tray and pat dry.
  • Meanwhile, mix the oil together in a bowl with the ground spices.
  • Transfer the seeds to a medium bowl, toss with the flavoured oil and spread out in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
  • Roast the seeds, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until just crisp and golden brown, about 1 hour total. (They will become crispier as they cool.)
  • Set aside to let cool completely then shell or eat whole.

Related:

Peanut Butter and date flapjacks recipe

Homemade cashew, cocoa and date ‘Nakd’ bars

Nuts about Almonds!

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Homemade cashew, cocoa and date energy bars

Homemade cashew nut, cocoa and date 'Nakd' bars - servings

All natural ingredients, wheat free, dairy free and no added sugars

I love making homemade cereal bars, nutty granola bars, flapjacks and various slices for times when my energy levels are teetering on the edge.

For me, these are perfect; they’re cheap and you can make a decent batch in around 10 minutes – no serious elbow grease required. Secondly, they’re all completely natural and nutritious. This is good to know following recent news that some so-called ‘healthy’ cereal bars contain 40% sugar.

Always bake your own if you ask me!

Ingredients

Makes 8 – 10 individual servings

    • 150g cashew nuts, dry roasted*
    • 200g pitted dates
    • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
    • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
    • 2 tsps vanilla extract
    • 2 tbsp boiling water
    • a pinch of salt

*On roasting: aim to roast the nuts for around 15 minutes at 150C

Directions

    • Combine the nuts and dates in a food processor and pulse until a grainy mixture is formed Homemade cashew nut, cocoa and date 'Nakd' bars - food processor roughHomemade cashew nut, cocoa and date 'Nakd' bars - food processor pulsed 
    • Tip in the powdered spices, cocoa, salt and vanilla extract; pulse again
      Homemade cashew nut, cocoa and date 'Nakd' bars - food processor spices
    • The mixture may appear too ‘grainy’ i.e. dry – if so, add the 2 tbsp of boiling water to make a sticky mixture.
    • Once the desired consistency is reached tip the mixture out into a flat dish or Tupperware box lined with cling film or baking parchment. Press down and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Homemade cashew nut, cocoa and date 'Nakd' bars - sticky mixtureHomemade cashew nut, cocoa and date 'Nakd' bars - place in fridge
    • Remove from fridge, slice into small servings and dig in!
    • See also: Peanut butter and date flapjacks

Something sweet…

Having done a few posts on this blog up to now, I realised that the majority of them have focused heavily on food of the ‘savoury’ variety. I can’t think why this is – other than the fact that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.

In any case, I thought I’d redress the balance, and focus this week’s post around a couple of familiar and comforting pudding recipes, starting with the nation’s favourite: Ice Cream.

Ice cream in the UK has had a makeover; we are now blessed with an alluring range of flavours to choose from. Gone are the days of the ubiquitous “raspberry ripple”, “mint choc chip” or “chocolate soft scoop”, to be replaced by a new breed of adventurous concoctions like cardamom and pistachio, bitter almond and salted caramel or double rocky road. Hold on, did somebody say bacon and egg?

References to Heston Blumenthal aside, the UK ice cream market is in rude health. The combination of thick double cream, egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk in this new myriad of flavours is enough to excite anyone.

There are some seriously good ice cream outlets around the UK, nestled away in small market towns throughout the country. Growing up in Scotland, we would often take family trips to Giacopazzi’s in Milnathort, Fife, usually for a gigantic tub of vanilla, with raspberry sauce and ‘sprinkly bits’. More recently, during regular trips to Portugal, my fiancee and I have been blown away by the incredible gelato from Santini’s Gelati in Lisbon.

But before I get all giddy espousing the wonderful qualities of the white stuff I’d like to offer a caveat on some of the underlying issues of commercial ice cream production.

I think it is taken for granted that all ice creams are created equal. Not so. Much of the bulk ice cream packs found on our shelves in the UK, or from any Mr Whippy dispenser, are made with non-dairy fats like vegetable oil or palm oil. In other words, they contain no actual milk content whatsoever.

Added sweeteners, flavours and stabilisers have muddied the waters even further.

Ultimately, this bears little similarity to the real thing, other than the temperature. One could argue that this keeps costs down and prolongs the shelf life of the product but, for me, this compromises on the overall taste.

Therefore, I think we need to exercise due diligence to make sure we’re getting ‘proper’ ice cream as opposed to the cheap stuff that you often see dripping down a drain on a hot summers day.

On that bombshell, I’ve composed one incredible ice cream recipe below* which really does the stuff justice.

Alongside one further pudding recipe.

*ice cream maker not required. 

Pistachio ice cream with blueberries

Pistachio ice cream

Serves 1 – 2

Recipe for “no-churn Pistachio ice creeeam!”

courtesy of BakingMad.com –

Ingredients

  • 397ml condensed milk
  • 600ml double cream
  • 80g pistachio nuts, shelled
  • A small handful of blueberries

Directions

  • Place half of the pistachios in a food processor or spice grinder and process until fine. Roughly chop the remaining half. 
  • Place the double cream and condensed milk in a bowl with the ground pistachios and whisk until thick (an electric whisk would save time). 
  • Fold in the roughly chopped pistachios and place in a freezer proof container. 
  • Place in the freezer overnight.

Blueberry and lemon cheesecake

Lemon and blueberry cheesecake closeup

Hom, nom, nom!

Serves 4 -6

Ingredients

  • 200g all-butter shortbread, finely crushed
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 85g butter, melted

For the filling

  • 300g half fat cream cheese
  • 300g full fat cream cheese
  • 150g sugar
  • 250ml pot soured cream
  • 4 eggs, 2 egg yolks
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • blueberries, to serve
  • 2 tbsp blueberry or raspberry jam

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 180C
  • To begin making this cheesecake recipe crush shortbread in a food processor, put into a bowl and add the almonds and melted butter.
  • Mix well, then press into base of the tin. Put in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
  • The filling is easy; just put all the ingredients into the food processor and blitz until well blended.
  • Put a double layer of foil around the tin, as you are going to bake the cheesecake in a water bath. Put the lined tin in a roasting tin, pour in the filling, then put it into the oven and pour around 2cm (¾in) boiling water from the kettle into the roasting tin. Bake for 1 hour, then turn off the oven and leave the cake to cool in the oven for 1 to 2 hours. Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge overnight.
  • For the topping, cook the blueberries with a few spoons of water and the jam in a medium pan for about a minute.
  • Leave to cool before pouring on top of the cheesecake.

How to make… Peanut Satay sauce

roasted peanuts

This Indonesian-inspired recipe is truly one of my favourites. ‘Satay’ is a fragrant peanut-based sauce traditionally paired with either beef or chicken (served on skewers) in Indonesia and throughout South East Asia.

Don’t restrict yourself to meat based dishes, however, as the sauce makes an excellent accompaniment to plenty of vegetables; like baked aubergine, boiled broccoli and even as a dip for raw cauliflower or crunchy carrot sticks.

One of my favourite vegetarian satay recipes from Indonesia is ‘Gado-Gado’ which usually contains cabbage, beansprouts, carrots, red onion, small tomatoes, red chili, tempeh (fermented soybean), a fried egg (optional), some coriander leaves and a squeeze of lime – all smothered in crunchy peanut butter.

In the UK, peanut butter is now more popular than ever, and this recipe wholeheartedly backs up that statistic. For some more excellent tips with peanut butter, please refer to my previous post, containing a very moreish recipe for peanut butter and date flapjacks.

Peanut satay ingredients

the aromatics: 1/2 onion, garlic, lemon, ginger and sesame seeds

Peanut Satay recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 100g Crunchy Peanut Butter
  • 75ml greek yoghurt or natural yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 honey or sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds, for garnish
  • 1 tsp chopped red chilli or 1 tbsp chilli flakes
    2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves, for garnish

Directions

  • To make the sauce, heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat and fry the onion for a few minutes.
  • Add the chopped garlic and ginger and stir. Cook for a further 2 minutes.

    Peanut satay

    Creamy chicken satay

  • Add the chopped chilli or chilli flakes, soy, honey and lemon juice. Add the peanut butter and yoghurt. Bring to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes until thickened, adding water if necessary.
  • Stir in half the chopped coriander and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
  • To serve, garnish with the rest of the coriander and spoon over other ingredients. Alternatively, serve alongside in a small bowl. 

Macaroons

With a delightfully soft, chewy textured and a nutty taste, it’s no surprise that macaroons, or ‘macarons’, are all the rage right now. Coffee shops, market traders and retailers have been experimenting with flavour combinations, colours and ingredients; like vibrant green pistachio; dark chocolate made from ground cocao; coconutty concoctions which come in fluffy pink or royal blue made with rosewater and peppermint extract respectively. The list goes on.

Macaroons

Macaroons usually come in two principle forms: the more ‘modern’ sort consist of two small discs sandwiched together with a butter cream filling; whereas the ‘old-style’ macaroons consist of one single flat disc, with no butter cream, studded with a single blanched almond in its centre (pictured above). The latter sort are less common in patisserie windows these days but they are comparatively much easier to cook.

Having said that there is an art to making the perfect macaroon which I found out to my cost on my first attempt. The recipe stated: “finely grind the almonds with the caster sugar before incorporating it into the meringue mixture”. The result? Suffice to say that biting into a piping hot macaroon straight out of the oven was like biting into your sandwich after you’d dropped it on the beach. Note to self: finely grind means finely grind – not just a quick blitz in the food processor. You really have to whizz it round and round until you have an almost air-like consistency. I’m not kidding.

This is just a minor point, however.

So, if you fancy a sweet and tempting antidote to a sugary cupcake then this recipe should go down a treat.

‘Old-style’ almond macaroons recipe

Makes 10 small macaroons

Ingredients

  • 125g/4oz ground almonds
  • 200g/7oz icing sugar
  • 3 free-range egg whites
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar

Directions

  • Combine the almonds and icing sugar and finely grind in a food processor. Set aside.
  • Using an electric whisk, slowly whisk the egg whites in a large bowl at a low speed until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed. Slowly whisk in the cream of tartar and caster sugar until the mixture is smooth and glossy, increasing the speed of the whisk as the mixture stiffens.
  • Gently fold in the blended ground almonds and icing sugar.
  • Spoon the macaroon mixture into a piping bag. Pipe 8cm circles onto the baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.
  • Tap the bottom of the tray to release any air bubbles from the macaroons.
  • Place a single blanched almond in the middle of each macaroon and then set aside for 60 minutes (the macaroon shells are ready to go in the oven when they are no longer sticky to the touch).
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160C/Gas 2½.
  • Bake the macaroons in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 5 minutes. Carefully peel away the greaseproof paper and set aside to cool completely.