This post I’m going into full functional foodie mode, plus there’s more than one seasonal pumpkin recipe to warm your cockles. This is what I do, after all. My whole philosophy rests on the nourishing, natural, and ultimately, necessary, need for a diet based around real food. I see clients with all kinds of health complaints, some of them easily resolved, others more complex; in the end, though, it’s my real food ‘prescription’ that supports their bodies’ healing processes. It’s the knowledge of foods as pieces of a whole jigsaw that allows me to do what I do.

We all love to eat delicious food, but how much do you know about what the components of your plate actually do for your body, and your mind? Harvest season is a corker for food heaven, especially making the most of the autumnal carnival of pumpkins. Healthy? Very!

Pumpkins, and indeed squash, are available in a huge range of varieties, all with different shades of flavour and texture. More and more are locally produced, and not hard to grow, so make fabulous seasonal additions to any autumn kitchen adventures.

Bursting with antioxidant vitamins A, C and E, with a supporting spectrum of B vitamins, folate, and vitamin K, plus potassium, molybdenum, selenium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese, these gourdy wonders are great for immunity, energy, appetite and weight control, heart health and even fighting wrinkles!

The carotenoids, particularly alpha-carotene, are the real heroes of pumpkin benefits, with an increasing body of research linking to protection against ageing, cardiovascular disease and even various cancers, working with other nutrients like magnesium.

The carotenes became a prime example of why we should be using food as our nutrient source, not supplements. A very famous study found that although beta-carotene appeared to reduce the risk of lung cancer, when smokers supplemented beta-carotene on its own, the incidence of lung cancer increased.

The upshot? While there are circumstances that need supplementation, the kinds of supplements or sources of extra nutrients should be carefully, and professionally, considered. The nutrients in foods work synergistically. For every nutrient needed for a process, there are a number of other co-factors required to make that process work. A varied range of fresh foods, bought locally, and cooked carefully are the best way to be healthy. It’s why certain foods grow together or go together – they usually work well together for our bodies.

Keep hold of any post-Halloween beauties knocking about – it would be criminal to waste all that delicious, nutritious goodness. Get gourding, with these recipes. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Soup

900g prepared pumpkin flesh, cut into chunks
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 leeks, trimmed and sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
900 ml stock
seasoning to taste
coriander leaves and probiotic yogurt to garnish

Heat the oil in a large pan, and cook the leeks and garlic gently until softened. Stir in the ginger and cumin, and cook for a minute. Add the pumpkin and stock, season and simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes until the pumpkin is tender. Process in a blender. Warm gently without boiling when ready to eat, garnishing with coriander leaves and a swirl of yogurt.

Pumpkin Pancakes

Fruit or fruit purees and compotes work really well added to pancake batter, either before cooking or a scoop on top of the cooking pancake before flipping. Here the pumpkin puree works best added to the mixture.

A quantity of pancake batter (use whichever recipe you’d normally use, based on 200g of flour)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
a good grating of nutmeg
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
100g pureed pumpkin

Make and rest the pancake batter as normal. When ready to cook, mix the pumpkin, melted butter and spices in well, and cook as normal, allowing for the extra minute or so needed for a denser texture of pancake. These work best as smaller, thicker pancakes or drop scones. Extra pancakes can be reheated gently the next day, or frozen.