Spanish Inspired Pumpkin and Bean Stew

I have a new cook book called Vegan Recipes from Spain which I actually bought from a wonderful bookshop in Norwich called the Book Hive  and not through Amazon!

I bought it because it has a lot of recipes featuring veg I grow in the garden – but surprisingly it didn’t have any pumpkin or squash recipes.

I was in search of a good recipe because some of my pumpkins are going mouldy and need using!

I cut away the affected parts – mostly around the stem – and roasted the rest in thick slices with the skin on.

I then cut them up in chunks and froze them for use in soups or stews.

But I kept some back and still needed a decent recipe for lunch today for my friend Dianne.

So I made this up.

I had a good look through the Vegan Recipes from Spain book and worked out what kind of spices I might use.

Last week I made a Spanish style lentil and squash soup with roasted garlic and sweet paprika. It was good but a little bland.

So I decided to increase the amount of spices I would use in this stew.

I used about a quarter of one of the half a dozen Hungarian Blue pumpkins I grew this summer.

I love the slightly antiseptic taste of saffron which is quintessentially Spanish.

Along with the paprika it gives the stew a great depth of flavour.

I should have used my own borlotti beans which are dried and stored every year but this was all last minute and I didn’t have time to soak them.

I had a couple of tetra packs of organic white beans in the cupboard which I ended up using instead.

The bright colours lifted our mood this grey January day.

It was all I had hoped for and more!

The rest of the pumpkin is in the freezer and will be brought out when I need to make this again – maybe with the borlottis next time round.

I will grow the Hungarian Blue variety again this season.

They are so delicious – not too sweet yet not at all bland.

They also hold their shape well.

Spanish Inspired Pumpkin and Bean Stew
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 20 mins
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: Pumpkin
Servings: 6 people
Author: Cath
  • 750 g roasted pumpkin (skin left on)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 15 strands saffron, soaked in a little hot water
  • 2 tsps sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp sharp paprika
  • 2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cans cannellini beans or other white beans (460g drained net weight)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes (400g)
  • 500 ml vegetable stock (2 tsp of bouillon powder added to hot water)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 30 or 40 whole sage leaves
  1. Toss in a little olive oil and roast pumpkin between 40 mins and 1 hour or until soft (but not mushy). Then cut into 1 inch cubes (2.5 cm square). Place to one side for use later on

  2. Fry onion & garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan on medium to high heat until transparent and turning pale golden

  3. Add sweet and sharp paprika and stir for a minute or so

  4. Add tomatoes, drained cannellini beans, stock and saffron with its soaking water. Add cubed roasted pumpkin pieces and cook for 40 minutes on a low simmer or in the oven on a low heat

  5. Season to taste with salt 

  6. Rub a little olive oil into sage leaves and either fry (it doesn't take long on the top of the stove) or roast in oven until crispy - about 5 to 10 minutes 

  7. Add chopped parsley to the stew and stir in then top with sage and serve with basmati rice or couscous or cooked bulghur wheat




Fruit Sorbet

A couple of weeks ago I looked out onto the garden and saw tiny orange globes hanging from an evergreen shrub in the main border.

I knew my father had planted the Japanese bitter orange as an ornamental specimen. It has shiny smooth green leaves and small fragrant white flowers in spring and early summer that stand out against the dark green yew hedge. It also sports the most vicious looking thorns a couple of inches long!

But I’d never really noticed the small orange fruit. I picked some of them and left them to settle in the kitchen while I wondered what to do with them.

Two weeks later – after Christmas – my friend Steve, came to stay again and pruned the apple and pear trees as well as the quince.

I cut back the gooseberries and redcurrants which were overgrown and tangled in the centre of the bushes to give them some air and to stop disease from creeping in.

The blackcurrants will have a third of their branches taken out when I harvest the fruit in summer.

And the Damson and Victoria plum trees will be pruned in the early spring or summer after the risk of silver leaf disease is over.

“Prune in June,” says Steve!

I’ve also coppiced the hazel tree – which really was overgrown and shading some of the vegetable beds. I cut the whole lot down to the base of the main trunk.

It should send up new growth which will make new hazel poles for use as supports. The twigs I will use as pea sticks.

I also turned the compost heap, forking a lot of the main pile into two black plastic dalek style bins – it’s breaking down nicely and should be ready for the new growing season in a couple of months time.

In other news: We are still able to pick salad including lettuce and curly endive growing under thick fleece, as well as parsley and chrysanthemum greens and stridolo – an Italian herb. I brined some oriental mustard leaves recently which are very tasty – and pungently hot!

Leeks have been great in soup and raw grated beetroot has been a refreshing salad with sliced orange and half moons of red onion dressed in red wine vinegar and olive oil.

As well as cooking together – Steve produced some amazing meals. I’ll post three recipes of his – using the ruby chard you can see below – next time.

He also found a use for the bitter orange which is very similar to Japanese wild orange or yuzu. It’s not eaten as a fruit but is used primarily for it’s scented juice and zest.

He used this to lace a black fruit sorbet with a tantalising tang of citrus.

Steve defrosted some of our blackcurrants and blackberries and macerated them overnight in sugar before adding a small amount of gin, the zest and tiny amount of juice from the bitter orange as well as an ordinary orange and blending it.

Then it went into the freezer and emerged a grainy, luscious sorbet the like of which I haven’t tasted for a long time.

He did the same with tayberries (a kind of raspberry), redcurrants and ordinary orange zest and juice with a couple of large jiggers of gin.   Again – a taste sensation!

What I liked was he didn’t try to sieve out the pips – he used the whole fruit – and I think it’s better for that. Anyway – the basic recipe is from this amazing website.

It’s worth mentioning that Steve didn’t use an ice cream maker or take the sorbet out and stir it as it was freezing and it still worked.

Thanks Steve. You’re a culinary and horticultural wizard!

Finally – I wish everyone a very happy, productive and resilient year ahead.

Thank you for reading my blog.

You can see Steve half way up the Bramley apple tree to the left of my head!




Leek, Chestnut and Apple pie

My friend, Rachel, who’s a fellow master composter, came for lunch last weekend bearing a gift of some shelled, peeled chestnuts.

I decided to make a pie.

The usual combination is chestnut and mushroom – which, quite frankly, I’m sick of and anyway I didn’t have any mushrooms.

So I thought about what was at hand in the garden and came up with Leek, Chestnut and Apple!

The apples are now picked and in storage in trays and with any luck will last most of the winter.

The leeks are most summer ones that have not run to seed.

Actually I’m surprised how well they’ve grown as it’s the first year I’ve grown them in clumps together – three to five or so together – rather than singly in deep holes.

My no dig guru, Charles Dowding (who I was lucky enough to hear speak last weekend), is right – plants like growing in groups with their mates rather than on their own!

The apples are Bramley cookers so they have a slightly astringent sour element to them – perfect for a savoury, almost festive pie.

I must admit I was lazy and used shop bought pastry.

I rolled it out and filled it with the mixture that was heavily seasoned with my favourite new spice – freshly ground white pepper – and a few sprigs of thyme.

I promise you this is good pie.

It was great with mash potato, carrots and gravy.

Slice the leeks along their lengths and wash in plenty of cold water to get rid of the muck and grit inside their leaves
Leek, Chestnut and Apple Pie
Author: Cath
  • 3 medium leeks
  • 3 medium cooking apples
  • 1 large white onion
  • 150 g fresh, peeled and cooked chestnuts
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 block shortcrust pastry (500g)
  1. Slice leeks in half down the middle along their lengths and wash thoroughly.

  2. Chop the leeks (the green and the white parts) and chop the peeled and halved onion.

  3. Peel and core the apples then chop them as well.

  4. Heat olive oil in wide frying pan and add chopped leeks, onion, apples and chestnuts as well as the whole sprigs of thyme. 

  5. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes stirring occasionally to prevent it browning or sticking.

  6. Meanwhile roll out 2/3 of the pastry to line a shallow quiche or pie tin about 10 to 12 inches in diameter and prick the base lightly with a fork.

  7. Cook the pastry blind (with greaseproof paper and beans holding it down) for ten to fifteen minutes - unless you have an aga or solid fuel stove in which case you can place the whole pie including mixture and top on the solid bottom of the oven and it'll cook it all at the same time.

  8. Season the leek, chestnut and apple mixture well with salt and ground white pepper and remove the thyme sprigs.

  9. Add the mixture to fill the (baked) pastry case and then roll out the last third of the raw pastry in a circle big enough to fit over the top and damp the edge lightly with water.

  10. Lift and cover the base and filling, press down firmly round the two edges with a fork and trim with a knife. Then prick or make a slash in the top so the air or steam can escape when cooking.

  11. Bake in moderately hot oven (180C or 350F) for about half an hour or until golden brown.

  12. Slice and serve with veg and gravy.



Apple Pressing and Cider Making

Beginner’s Luck

The cider I made two years ago was brilliant.

I’m not being arrogant – that’s just what others told me.

It must have been beginner’s luck as I really didn’t know what I was doing.

I used natural yeasts which are on the apple skin – apparently they’re quite unpredictable and some cider makers kill them off and then add manufactured yeast to start the bubbling process.

We pressed the juice at an apple day here at the garden with the help of Lingwood Care Farm volunteers and some neighbours and produced quite a dry cider.

Another go

This year I decided to try again.

But instead of borrowing a hand-powered scratter (apple crunching machine) and small hobby press I decided to try out an ultra efficient electric scratter and hydropress (powered by water pressure) like the one I’d seen used during my brief visit to Axel and Angelika’s in Northern Germany.

I was lucky – I tracked one down at the Good Life Home Brew shop in Norwich.

I couldn’t believe how easy it was – especially with the help of Lee who was in charge at the shop.

They charge £25 for an hour and claim that one of their customers has managed to press one and half tonnes of apples in that time.

I was pretty sceptical but actually it’s a very efficient quick process and well worth the 12 mile trek there to do it.

I took us about half an hour to process six big crates worth (maybe 140kg) and we came away with about 70 litres of juice.

Don and Jane took about a third, I froze a third and the rest is now in a plastic barrel with an airlock in the shed in the first stage of fermentation.

I used a hydrometer, which is like a thermometer, but which measures the sugar levels in the juice.

As the microbes and bacteria really get to work they turn the sugar into alcohol and so the sugar content should decrease.

I will measure the brew again with the hydrometer over the next week or ten days  to get an idea of whether the initial and sometimes quite violent fermentation has finished.

Then it’s time to rack off (transfer the cider) to another container where I will leave it to go through a secondary fermentation process.

Fingers crossed it doesn’t turn to cider vinegar!

We haven’t wasted anything. The pomace (what’s left of the fruit after pressing) has gone to the lovely pigs at Lingwood Care Farm.

What I really loved was the camaraderie between Don, Jane and I.

I met them volunteering at the care farm a couple of years ago.

They drove to and from the home brew shop and helped pick most of the apples two weeks before.

When we got home we had warm quince cake which I wrote about in my last blog post.













Borlotti beans with garlic

This season has been a disaster for beans!

The drought really put a stopper on fertilisation of flowers and so I had very few pods develop.

That applied to all sorts of beans including my absolute favourite – borlottis.

I’ve just harvested what few I did have and I’ve taken down the bean poles to be stored away until next year.

I’ve written a little about growing and storing them before.

But here is another recipe that is brilliant – real comfort food.

The beans are cooked for a long time on a low heat and turn a beautiful pinkish brown.

Serve with polenta and “sausages” and some greens.

Or mash them slightly and thin down with some more stock or water to make a pasta sauce with finely shopped rosemary or sage.

Borlotti Beans with Garlic and Parsley

Real Italian comfort food. The beans are rich, creamy and almost velvety.

Author: Cath
  • 375 gr fresh borlottis or 125g dried and soaked beans
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic
  • 4 or 5 decent sprigs parsley
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 400 ml water
  • 1 heaped tsp marigold bouillon powder or half a veg stock cube
  1. Rinse beans and cover with water in a medium sized pan with a lid.

  2. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and the roughly crushed and chopped 3 cloves of garlic (I use the heel of my hand on the flat of my knife on the unpeeled clove to crush then remove loosened skin and chop - see image in main article)

  3. Cover with lid and bring to the boil add bouillon or stock cube then simmer on a very low heat for an hour or until beans are well done. Stir occasionally. 

  4. Some of the liquid will have been absorbed by the beans and some will have evaporated during cooking.

  5. There should be a thickish sauce in the bottom of the pan - you can mash a few of the beans and stir in to create this if it hasn't happened naturally.

  6. Stir and add salt and lots and lots of finely chopped parsley. You could also top with crisp fried sage leaves.