Welcome to Eat Well Every Day

Welcome to Eat Well Every Day!

I've spent years researching nutritional information, food ideas and recipes, because cooking and eating - especially with family & friends - are some of life's great pleasures. And guess what- healthy food doesn't have to be boring! It can be exciting and delicious!


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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pumpkins and Pears

It’s midwinter in Sydney – pale blue sky, sunshine, temperatures around 15-17C (60F), despite a chilly wind. Local councils are planning mid-winter festivities for the school holidays, with ice rinks in the parks or on the main streets. Meanwhile, up in the Blue Mountains they’re enjoying real winter – 100 kilometre/hour winds bringing trees crashing down on train lines, power outages, and sleet or even snow when the wind drops.

So, clearly it’s time for some winter comfort food! Keeping with our seasonal and affordable theme, I’m thinking pumpkin soup and a pear dessert. Pumpkins are one of nature’s wonder foods. They grow by themselves – a handful of seeds from a shop-bought pumpkin will transform into vines sprawling over your compost heap, backyard or balcony, and a minimum of two, and probably many more, pumpkins to last through winter and into spring.

No room for opportunistic pumpkins? No worries! At this time of year, all varieties of this giant squash – Queensland Blue, Jap, Butternuts and Golden Nuggets – are cheap as chips at the greengrocers. Butternuts are more expensive, perhaps for their thinner skin, but the other varieties keep better.

Golden Colour = Carotene

What are pumpkins good for, apart from cheapness and staying power? In a word, carotene. Pumpkins’ golden yellow-coloured flesh shows they are full of health-promoting carotenoids, including alpha and beta carotene, (precursor to vitamin A) – powerful antioxidants to combat free radicals that damage cell structure and DNA.

The really dark orange-fleshed pumpkins, such as butternut, also contain luteine, another form of carotene which is helpful in protecting the heart and for men, the prostate gland.

Pumpkin seeds, which many people like to eat roasted and salted, are high in protein, oil and B vitamins, and make a great garnish for vegetarian dishes. Don’t bother roasting the seeds of Queensland Blue – I found out the hard way they are virtually inedible, and even cockatoos disdain them!

Pears – Gift of the Gods

According to The World’s Healthiest Foods , pears were once known as “the gift of the gods”, but which gods is not explained. They are, however, a gift for people with food allergies, as pears are one of the few fruits no-one gets a bad reaction to, and can be eaten on a food elimination diet. Also, like their cousins, apples, they’re versatile, working well in sweet and savoury dishes.

Everyone knows pears are a good source of fibre, which plays a role in managing cholesterol levels, but they have other goodies as well. Despite their subtle flavour, they're a good source of Vitamin C, and also copper. Both help to protect against free radical damage and stimulate the immune system, vital in winter, with colds and flu around.

Beurre Bosc pears (sometimes pronounced Burey Bosk) are small brown pears that are best stewed or otherwise cooked. The bigger green ones are Packhams or Williams. They’re the cheap winter varieties. Green pears will ripen, even in winter, over a week or so in a fruit bowl, or in a paper bag if you’re in a hurry, and can be eaten fresh. You can buy lovely little red or gold coloured pear varietiess at famers’ markets, delicious to eat in a winter salad, if your budget stretches that far.

So, to the recipes

I would guess every Australian likes pumpkin soup, and most people know roughly how to make it. So here’s a variation I came across recently that neatly combines the two ps:

Pumpkin and Pear Soup

2 cups peeled pumpkin, cubed
2 cups peeled pears, cubed
1 leek, thoroughly washed and chopped roughly,
4 cups chicken stock or water
2 teasp grated fresh ginger (or 1 teasp ground ginger)
sea salt & white pepper to taste
¼ of a pear, peeled, cored & sliced thinly as a garnish (optional)

Put all the ingredients (except the garnish) in a large heavy-based pot, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, or until the pumpkin and pears are soft. Puree in blender or with a stick processor, and adjust the seasonings.

For the garnish, gently heat a couple of tablespoons of butter in a shallow pan and saute the pear slices until golden brown.
Serves 4

Pears with Cardamom Cream

This recipe heightens the somewhat bland taste of stewed pears with apple cider and lemon zest, and the subtle spiciness of the rich cardamom cream.

5 firm (not hard) pears, peeled, cored & sliced thinly
3 cups of apple cider (alcoholic or not, as preferred)*
zest of 2 lemons

Simmer gently until pears are soft but not mushy.
* Ginger beer could be used instead of cider.

5 egg yolks
2 cups milk (dairy or soy)
2 tablesp caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split
3 cardamom pods, crushed.

Scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk, add the pod and cardamoms, and heat gently for five minutes to infuse the flavours. In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar.

Add the warm milk gradually, whisking it into the eggs, then pour it back into the saucepan. Continue cooking over a low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Serve over the stewed pears
Serves 4

Buon Appetito!