Perfect Pumpkin Soup

This hearty bowl of pumpkin soup is the perfect autumn recipe for making big batches and keeping in your fridge to enjoy throughout the week.

This hearty bowl of pumpkin soup is the perfect autumn recipe.  You can make big batches and keep it in your fridge to enjoy throughout the week.

Vivien shares one of her autumn secrets to getting the healthiest glow – starting from the inside out with her delicious pumpkin soup.

By:  Vivien Veil

The UK throws away 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin flesh after carving out lanterns, but those people are missing a trick.  Pumpkins make perfect winter warming dishes – starting with this rich and vibrant soup.  So instead of binning your scooped-out pumpkin goodness, grab your apron and prepare to be amazed at how appetising this seasonal superfood tastes.

As some of you know, I absolutely love soups.  They’re my favourite, especially as the nights draw in and the weather gets colder.  Nothing beats a comforting bowl of warm soup, particularly when it involves winter vegetables like pumpkin.  Besides being so filling, you can use this winter squash in so many dishes.  You can eat it in every form – roasted stuffed with quinoa, mashed like potatoes as a divine side dish, and in baked bread – so naturally it only seems perfect that you can use it as a soup, too!

I’ve always been a soup person – thanks to my beautiful mother.  She’s the queen of making delicious and hearty soups.  I prefer thicker soups as they’re more filling and satisfying.  That’s why I love this pumpkin soup.  The combination of roasted thyme pumpkin with spicy jalapeño pepper really does taste heavenly.

Pumpkins are robust vegetables making the soup perfectly rich and creamy – despite me not using any dairy!  This vegetable is incredibly generous in key antioxidants and vitamins.  This humble squash is a storehouse of vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin C.  Not to mention the many other energy-giving B vitamins – this soup really is the perfect winter flu fighter!

I also love adding a handful or two of toasted pumpkin seeds on top of my soup.  Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of plant protein, fibre, mono-unsaturated fatty acids, zinc, and tryptophan.

The rule of thumb with pumpkins and squash is the smaller ones contain more flavour than the larger ones, which tend to be a little tasteless. You can serve the soup in small hollowed out pumpkins for a beautiful presentation to impress your friends and family.  Children get a kick eating out of them!

The Perfect Pumpkin Soup Recipe

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 medium pumpkins
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • Coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • 2-3 sticks of fresh thyme
  • 1/2 large jalapeño, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar or balsamic vingear (sulfite-free)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds to sprinkle on top
  • 1/4-cup coconut milk [optional]

Method

  1. Cut the top of the pumpkin.  Cut the pumpkin in half to remove the seeds.  Scoop out the seeds and place them in a bowl.
  2. Cut up the pumpkin into small chunks and place them in a large bowl.  Warm up your coconut oil in a saucepan until it’s melted (no need to do this step if using olive oil).  Pour over the small pumpkin chunks in the large bowl, and mix well.
  3. Place the chunks on a baking tray with the unpeeled garlic cloves and a few sticks of thyme.
  4. Splash some apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar onto the chunks of pumpkin. Season with sea salt and black pepper.  Pop the baking tray into the oven at 190°C/375°F for about 25 minutes, until soft and caramelised.  Leave to cool a bit, so that you can peel off the garlic skins with your hands.
  5. Next, get the pumpkin seeds.  Rinse them under cold water in a sieve. Then place in a bowl and remove the pulp with your hands.  Get a saucepan and boil some water.  Add 2 tsp of sea salt and boil over low medium heat for about 10 minutes.  Drain and pat dry.
  6. Place the pumpkin seeds on another baking tray and massage them with coconut oil (warm it in a saucepan if unmelted) or olive oil.  Season with sea salt, black pepper, and anything else you desire.  I like adding coriander spice and cumin.  Place the seeds in the oven for about 10 minutes.  Remove and shake a bit, before putting them back into the oven for a further 5 minutes, so that the seeds are a gold colour.
  7. Heat 2 tbsp of coconut oil or olive oil in a deep pan and sauté the red onions until they’re softened.  Add in the vegetable stock, roasted pumpkin chunks, and peeled garlic.  Let it simmer for 10 minutes or so.
  8. Next, finely chop the jalapeño, removing the seeds if you don’t want it too hot.  Place to the side.
  9. Now blend everything up – including the jalapéno in a blender or food processor – in small batches of course.
  10. [Optional]  Warm up the coconut milk in a saucepan on low heat. Put to the side.
  11. Serve with swirls of coconut milk on top along with the roasted pumpkin seeds and fresh thyme leaves. The soup is awesome for storing in large batches in the freezer.

Bon Appétit! 

I hope you try this remarkable soup recipe, and please let me know if it met your expectations. 

National Chocolate Week is Here!

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By: Vivien Veil

Of all the culinary national days and weeks of the year, this is the finest!  Well, at least for the humble chocoholic.  An enchanting seven days for those chocolate addicts, the week is organised in a bid to celebrate one of the country’s favourite super sweets.

Whether you enjoy curling up in front of a fireplace with your favourite chocolate dessert, or you have a chocolate bar whenever your sweet tooth strikes, the chances are you regularly spoil yourself.

Chocolate is the ultimate comfort food, especially during times of stress or when times are rough.  However, instead of indulging yourself with the common “bad” chocolate snack you find at your local grocery store, why not try healthier chocolate like dark chocolate (70% or more).

Dark chocolate has less sugar and is packed with beneficial minerals, such as potassium, zinc, selenium, iron, and magnesium.  I bet you didn’t know chocolate cravings are a sign of magnesium deficiency.  So, if you’re fantasising about chocolate regularly, your body is most likely telling you to feed it magnesium-rich foods.  “I’m not magnesium deficient, Vivien, I just absolutely LOVE chocolate,” says Bob.  Well, Bob, did you know up to 80% of Americans are not getting enough magnesium and that it’s maybe because they’re deficient?

Anyway, enough about that.  Now it’s time for me to introduce to you a tasty treat that will have you throwing your Snickers bar in the bin.

Try this guilt-free chocolate recipe for one of your chocolate celebration days this week.  Best of all, you won’t eating nasty ingredients and you’ll be satisfying your sweet tooth in one go.

Bon Appétit!


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“Piece of Cake”  Chocolate Mousse

This dessert is quick to make and guess what? There’s no baking, and it tastes divine!

Serves 5-6

  • 2 ripe avocados, stones removed
  • 5 ripe bananas (with lots of black spots), peeled
  • 15 Medjool dates, pitted
  • 5 tablespoons of almond butter
  • 6 teaspoons of raw cacao powder
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Drizzle of maple syrup or honey
  • Any nut of your choice, chopped for garnishing
  1. Place the avocado flesh into your food processor.  Then, add all of the ingredients above to the food processor and blend into a smooth mixture.
  2. Divide the mixture and place in small glasses or ramekins.  Sprinkle some chopped nuts of your choice, and you’re ready to enjoy a healthy delicious treat.  Place in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.
Recipe adapted from Ella Woodward's book "Deliciously Ella" 

Rugby Is Better Than American Football

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By:  Vivien Veil

The first game I ever played in rugby, after two minutes, I was begging the coach to take me out. 

– Leonard Peters, former NFL player

I’ve been living in the UK for a long time now, and just last month I realised that rugby isn’t such a boring sport.  The thought hit me while watching rugby at my London home with my South African husband.  And that got me thinking when he asked me to choose between rugby and American football.

This post may garner negative criticism from many of my American readers, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer rugby over American football.  I confess that, for a while now, I’ve regarded American football with some uncertainty.

I’ve never been a diehard NFL supporter, so I’m not your typical American.  I didn’t grow up watching it like the average American who eats, dreams, and breathes the NFL.  According to The Nielsen Company, the 2014 season reached 202.3 million unique viewers, representing 80% of all television homes in America!

American-Football-1

NFL action in all its glory.

First of all, if you toss in the time-outs and all of the stops, a one hour game of American football can take about three hours to finish.  That’s three hours for 60 minutes of playing time!

The Wall Street Journal analysed NFL games back in 2010 and discovered that a game that takes nearly three hours to watch should only take 11 minutes because that is all the action you get.  The play stops and starts with the frequency of a car driving through downtown traffic in Los Angeles.

Nevertheless, a rugby game lasts 80 minutes, broken into two 40-minute halves.  As journalist George Will noted, “Football combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings.”

Rugby, of course, is a vicious sport, too – closely mirroring a scene out of Fight Club than a competitive game, but it is also one that combines extreme self-control to help them with their aggression.

Why am I watching rugby now?

Well, my South African husband really enjoys rugby.  He grew up playing it and like a good South African – he’s a zealous Springbok supporter.  Thus, our ears have been hearing a lot of rugby since the beginning of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

I even managed to attend my first ever rugby match a few days ago – observing South Africa’s Springboks thrash USA’s Eagles 64-0 at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Stadium here in London.  In a crowd of 54,658, I was probably the only Texan outwardly supporting the Springboks.

Al McFarland, Greg Peterson, Hayden Smith, Titi Lamositele and Zach Fenoglio sing the anthem. Photograph: Michael Lee/Taiwan Mike/KLC fotos/Corbis

Al McFarland, Greg Peterson, Hayden Smith, Titi Lamositele and Zach Fenoglio sing the anthem. Photograph: Michael Lee/Taiwan Mike/KLC fotos/Corbis

Yet an overwhelming wave of pride hit me once they sang The Star-Spangled Banner.  Deep down in my heart, I really wanted them to win the game or at least score once.  The Eagles played valiantly the first half of the game despite openly being bullied by the Springboks.  However, come the second half, and the Springboks came out firing on all cylinders – they clearly must’ve had a serious half-time team-talk.

How do I put this gently?  The USA needs A LOT of help in rugby, the sport that spawned American football.

Will Americans ever warm up to this great sport?

According to a 2014 study by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, rugby is the fastest growing team sport in America.  The report showed rugby growing by 81% from 2008-2013, while basketball, baseball and American football participation took a nose-dive into the abyss.

“Rugby is the fastest growing team sport in America, but the sad thing is it’s still amateur.  When you’re born in South Africa, instead of getting a pacifier you’re given a mouthguard, but in America it’s not like that.”

– André Snyman, former South African rugby player

As stated by the report, kids in the 6-12 range are playing the sport that was born in 1823.  Interestingly enough, American football-dominated Texas is the third-largest rugby-playing area in the USA, after the north-east and California.

The UK is saturated with touch rugby classes for children as young as two-years-old.  Who knows, maybe my sisters in America will enrol their children in touch rugby after reading this.

Will Americans become full-fledged rugby devotees?  Will they obsess over rugby like they do with the NFL, Major League Baseball, and the NBA?  Who knows.  We tend to gravitate towards our own national sports instead of fully embracing non-American sports like cricket, football (soccer), or rugby.

The New Zealand All Blacks perform the Haka, or war dance, prior to kickoff in a rugby game

The New Zealand All Blacks perform the Haka, or war dance, prior to kickoff in a rugby game

One English guy named James told me, “I think Americans only watch their own sports because most of them are self-centred and arrogant.  Plus, loads of them have attention deficit disorder, so our sports wouldn’t appeal to them.”

A French girl named Noémie commented, “I heard that there are many Americans who have never travelled outside their native state, so no wonder they don’t watch international sports.  They only care about themselves.”

Noémie’s statement made me do a quick search to see how many Americans actually own a passport.  I found that of the 311 million United States residents, only 35% possess a valid USA passport according to a 2012 study by the State Department.

While I respect their opinions, I think it has more to do with those money-hungry corporations who control the media.  Not a lot of revenue can be made in a short rugby match compared with a three hour NFL game.  Remember TV commercials bring in lots of dough for marketing.

Now for what you’ve been waiting for…

My Top 3 Reasons Why Rugby Beats Football

burger 2015

More Skilled   American football players only have one job to do on the field – except of course for the quarterback.  Hardly any of them play offence and defence.  However, rugby players must be adept in running, tackling, and handling the ball.  Plus, half of them need to know how to kick the ball – whereas football players are specialised in certain abilities, making them less skilled as athletes.

Dallas Cowboys' DeMarco Murray takes oxygen during the second half of an NFL football game

Dallas Cowboys’ DeMarco Murray takes oxygen during the second half of an NFL football game

Tougher and Fitter –  Rugby players play without helmets and excessive padding.  Head collisions are scarcer in rugby, mostly because playing without head protection means players don’t believe they’re invincible.  On top of being stronger, rugby players are in peak physical shape unlike some NFL players who require oxygen masks on the sidelines, so they can catch their breath from all of the “intense” running of 10 seconds.  I highly doubt many of the NFL players can last an 80 minute rugby match.  One rugby fan told me, “You have to be a superior athlete to play rugby.  You are running continuously, so you can’t be 200kg and play rugby.”                                                                                                                                               

Trained Gentlemen and Humility –  “Rugby is a beastly game played by gentlemen; soccer is a gentleman’s game played by beasts; football is a beastly game played by beasts.” Henry Blaha couldn’t have said it better.  Rugby’s values of discipline, respect, sportsmanship, and humility make the matches special for fans and players alike.  The players learn about chivalry and good manners as children.  Swearing is banned and frowned upon during practices and matches.  Plus, you won’t see ridiculous celebrations after scores or see a player argue with a referee like in the NFL. The NFL is infested with arrogant players and coaches, which for me is a complete turn-off.

The difference between rugby and most other sports?  After being called for a penalty, six-foot-nine, 260-pound, 22-year-old South African forward Lood de Jager said to the referee: “Sorry, sir.”

– Bill Carere

Like it or not, the world is getting smaller, and we’re headed towards a unified world order – so it’s impossible to turn our backs on the rest of the world’s sports.  I do hope that this post has made you consider giving rugby a chance.  Perhaps one day rugby will be included in all American schools and not just at their elite colleges like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford.  Now last, but not least – Who’s my pick for the final rugby match?  South Africa vs Australia with of course South Africa taking home the coveted Webb Ellis Cup.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think I’m full of nonsense or do you agree with me?  It’ll be great to hear what you guys have to say.

 Before I forget – here’s a video sketch of the Rugby World Cup opening ceremony featuring Prince Harry, Prince William, Kate Middleton, pyramids, giants coming from underground, and a catchy “New World Order” song.