Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Twice as Nice...1 ingredient, 2 ways. Edition 2: Pumpkin

Pumpkins. As a nation us Brits probably only encounter a pumpkin when Halloween rolls round and even then I doubt many of us eat the innards after we've finished hacking a face into one. I know Pumpkin Pie is a Thanksgiving staple in the U.S but we don't have anything like that here and I think a lot of people are a bit daunted about where to start with a pumpkin and what to do it, and most of the time pumpkins are generally bigger than the International Space Station and unless you have a meat cleaver it's a bit of a battle trying to slice them to bits.

Anyway, there's a pumpkin farm in Slindon close to where we live and every Halloween that put on a massive display of all their different breeds of pumpkins, and it really is a bit mental how many different types of pumpkins there are..although I kept walking past a grey coloured one which I thought looked a bit rank but which then turned out to be a cat. For anyone as ignorant as me, pumpkins are part of the squash family and they literally do come in giant mahusive size and teeny tiny size. We chose a fairly small medium sized stewing pumpkin (the green one) and a smaller 'onion' pumpkin (the orange one). 

My dad has been a member of the British Heart Foundation for almost two years now and every quarter they send out a newsletter with loads and loads of heart healthy recipes (if you have heart problems or know someone who does get yourself signed up to be a member because they're a brilliant charity) and in the last issue there were a couple of recipes Dad and I thought we could tweak and change so they were gluten-free and utilised the pumpkins we'd scouted. Sorted.

  • 'Onion' pumpkin or small squash of similar size (around 6oz/175g)
  • 1Tbsp of rapeseed or olive oil
  • A small onion 
  • 1 Tsp of ground cumin
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2oz Of feta cheese crumbled (or Cheddar grated)
  • 100ml milk (I used semi skimmed)
  • 1 Pack of Dietary Specials Shortcrust Pastry or if you fancy making your own pastry here's my recipe
  • Pinch of paprika 
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • 1 cupcake tray or if you want one big pie a flan tin
  • Rolling pin
  • Baking parchment
  •  A big baking tray
  • A wicked sharp knife
  • Pop your oven up to around Gas mark 5 and grease your baking tray/tin
  • Roll out your pastry fairly thin and then use it to line the tray, before lining each with some baking parchment and weighing it down with baking beans or rice. Pop in the oven and blind bake for around 8-10mins then remove from the oven and leave to one side.
  • Whack your oven up to gas 7 and start chopping your veg. The pumpkin/squash needs to be deseeded,skinned and then diced up to roughly the size of a sugar cube. Repeat with the onion but dice it to half the size of the pumpkin.
  • Throw the onions and pumpkin in a bowl with the oil and the spices and give it a good mix so its all well coated in the oil before you scatter it on your baking tray. Pop the lot in the oven, it should take around 20minutes to cook and you'll need to give it a bit of a stir and poke about half way through. Turn the oven down to gas 5 again.
  • Spoon the veggie mix into the tart cases (removing the parchment first!) and crumble a small amount of cheese onto each tart
  • In a bowl whisk the eggs and milk together and the pour an even amount of the milk/egg mixture over the top of the veg mix.
  • Pop the tarts in the oven for around 15-20mins, they shouldn't take any longer than that because they're so tiny so keep a good eye on them. They'll be set and the pastry should be starting to golden when they're ready. 
  • Take them out the oven and wait until they've cooled down a tad before you try and fish the tarts out of the tray.
  • Warning: These are deceptively moreish, make and eat at your own peril!

  • 1 Tbsp of olive oil 
  • 2 white medium onions
  • 1lb/450g of pumpkin (or butternut squash)
  • 1 1/2 pints of veggie stock
  • 2 large sticks of celery
  • 2 Tsp of ground cumin
  • 2 Tsp of ground coriander
  • creme fresh (optional)
  • Food processor or blender
  • Large baking tray
  • Big frying pan

  • Peel and deseeded your pumpkin/squash and chop up into cubes, then pop in the oven at around Gas 6 for around 20minutes until soft.
  • Chop up your onions and celery, slug your oil into the frying pan and then throw in your onions and celery and cook until softened. Add your spice and let the whole lot stew for about a minute before adding the pumpkin and stock. 
  • Bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer, pop a lid on the pan and cook down for around 20-25minutes, giving it a poke every now and then.
  • Once cooked, throw the whole lot into the blender and whizz up until completely smooth and pureed. 
  • The soup can be frozen and lasts for about 3 months in the freezer (bonus) but if you want some then and there, pop however much soup you'd like in a pan and heat gently until hot.
  • Plop in some creme fresh or enjoy sans creme.
For the original recipes and more recipes ideas visit the British Heart Foundation

Monday, 19 November 2012

Our Version of Events

Doesn’t time fly when you’re being pumped full of drugs with an NHS blanket on your lap and a junior doctors finger up your bum? I’ve no idea what they’re looking for, but if it’s the lost treasure of Sierra Leone they’re going to be sadly disappointed.
It’s been a long time since I last posted, about 5months now and I’ve missed it far more than I thought I would.

In June, after 7years together my ex left me (don’t worry this isn’t going to be a bitter break up story because quite frankly I don’t want to waste the oxygen), which came at a bad time (if there is ever a good time for someone to leave you for someone else.).
My depression had been slowly percolating in the background since the start of the year and being dropped on my arse was just the kick off the ledge I needed to make me completely lose my shit.
I’ve talked about my old friend D.Pression on here before, but this time things were significantly different, and although I don’t credit Steve leaving me as a catalyst but his exit to stage left was just the olive floating in the cocktail of crap.

By the time Friday arrived 5days post break-up, I looked like I’d been rolling around in a sty, I wasn’t really speaking and shuffled about like a cry for help with hair like Worzel Gummidge, in leggings with a hole in the crotch the size of my fist and a sweater so grubby it could have walked to the washing basket by itself.
I was being a twat. I knew I was, and even now,looking back knowing I was up to my knee’s in it and that my depression was to blame for 90% of how I was feeling I’m still organ cringingly, desperately embarrassed by the fuss I was making. My depression was like trying to juggle a hot spud with my feet and TOBP’s  (always consistently badly timed!) were getting worse.
I saw a lovely doctor in A&E, who was, of course, gorgeous because it’s in the NHS rule book that when you have to go anywhere medically related and its concerning anything to do with your bowels or poo they wheel out a good looking doctor from a room next door to cupboard where they keep the blankets.

I was moved down to another ward where a doctor who we shall call Dr.Trevor (because that was his name) and another doctor who we will call Dr. Nobhead (because he was one) waved TOBP’s problems off as gastroenteritis and referred to my depression as ‘emotional problems’ whilst using inverted comma fingers. Bastard. I’d have kneed him in the groin if I weren’t dragging an IV stand around with me like a border collie.
I would have been discharged but the nurse who was looking after me must have taken pity on me or must have looked at the state of my hair and judged that it hadn’t seen a brush in a week and he rang the on call physiatric nurse to come and see me.
It sounds an exaggeration (of which I am aware that I am prone) but I’m not sure where I’d be if the nurse hadn’t made that call for me. I was given some diazepam to tide me over until I was to see the physiatrist on Tuesday and I was sent home in a daze and totally addled like when you come out of the Debenham’s New Year sales.

Tuesday rolled round. I was hoping for the whole leather couch get up and ink blot tests, but instead I got a bloke with an accent and trousers so tight I could make out several parts of his anatomy and who listened to his voice messages the entire time I was there. He asked me if I thought I’d hurt myself and at the time, horrible as it sounds, I honestly didn’t know that I wouldn’t if pushed to my limits and I said as much, to which he winked and said ‘best to hide the pills from you then, no? ha-ha! ….”. I’m always happy to take the piss out of myself and laugh at the many delicacies of my various health problems but at that moment if I’d had the energy and will I would’ve snapped his shitting iphone over my knee. He sent me away with anti-depressants and sleeping tablets. His one saving grace.

By the evening my supposed ‘gastroenteritis’ had got much worse and my Dad and I made the trek to a&e to wait in a packed waiting room until I was seen by a doctor who took one look at my veins which are now become so small they can’t be seen by the naked eye that he physically ran for the phone faster than the speed of sound.
I have regaled the many times the collective staff of the NHS has tried to get an IV in me. Even getting blood from me is like getting it from a HD telly, having it taken from my femoral vein (groin) in the past (although thank cheese on chips I’d done a bit of landscape gardening with the Venus that day)
This time was no different, the poor Matron attempted for 40mins to find a vein big enough for a line that would last longer than a fart. By the time she found one my Dad was the colour of a 70’s bathroom tiles and the Matron had a bit of a dab on but she managed to get a cannula in the underside of my wrist which pinched like hot hair tongs on a naked thigh, and lasted a fairly impressive  two hours.

The nice young doctor who came in to examine me attempted another search for a vein. I’d been soaking my feet in hot water to raise a few veins (since my arms and hands were shot to shit) and to my acute embarrassment Mr. Dishy Dr (in all his floppy hair, snug trousered glory) took my feet from the bowl and proceeded to dry them with a towel and then massaged (massaged. I’m sure if I was anatomically able, I’d have had a hard on) them to get the veins up a bit more. While this was going on I fought the urge not to die on the spot. Suffice to say he got it in. The line. He got the line in.

The line lasted  24 hours and my foot swelled up to look like something not unlike a pigs trotter, and it was decided that it would be best for me (but I suspected more for the poor bugger's hunting for a vein) that I would have a PICC line inserted. A PICC is basically a very thin catheter inserted in a big ol’ vein in your arm, which leads to your heart. The beauty of the PICC is that they can take blood from the line and while a normal IV has to be changed every 72hours, the PICC can stay in for months. What a marvellous invention. Every modern home should have one!
In the end I was in hospital for a week while they tried to sort out the inflammation in my bowel with a 7day course of Officially The Worst Antibiotics In The World Ever, which made me feel as rough as arse holes and made me so sick that I wondered if it was at all possible if you could in fact die from nausea.
Although I would usually prefer to eat my own kidney than go into hospital (I usually have to be backed into a corner like a wild animal trying to dodge a tranquiliser dart) but this time it was different. It was probably the best thing to happen to me both physically and mentally. With my depression reaching new heights (or lows however way you want to look at it) my health lurching from one disaster to the next quicker than the Waltzers I was definitely on the want for some structure and shape to my life. And the hospital in all its army style rigour and routine gave me the structure I needed to be able to gain back the reins of my depression.

Tootsie IV, Hard drugs, potassium, Best Plasters In The World Ever.
So. As it stands. Obama is back in the Oval Office, I’m a Celebrity is on our screens yet again, and I’m officially in love with that James Arthur kid with the tattoo’s and the swagger on X Factor.  
My health is ticking along as it always has done (I’ve been in hospital three times since the admission in June) and my depression is significantly improved for which I am pant wettingly grateful.
I’m currently attending group sessions as part of my ‘recovery’ from depression (you can't see my expression, but by 'eck its dubious). I say ‘attending’, but I haven’t actually attended a session yet after someone told me they make you blow bubbles. Proper bubbles. I’m not sure I’m ready for a One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest type scenario so I’m still trying to decide what's best for me in terms of moving along with my depression, something that doesn’t include listening to Mumford and Son’s on repeat or eating my body weight in Tangtastics.
I’m still getting there but how things are now to how they were makes me feel optimistic that I’m moving on however gastropodically slow it may be.
So, thank-you for reading this very self-indulgent post and for being the best and most patient readers a blogger could have, thanks for sticking around.

Also a few other thank-you’s to people who have helped me pick myself up and dust myself off, again, and who deserve lots more than a mere ‘ta for that’; Skye, Suz, Anna, Caz, Jo, Bun’s, Hazel, Cal, Soph and Tom.

Uh-mazing cheer-me-up parcel from Caz, Me, The PICC, Get Well pressies from Anna,

Normal recipe posting shall resume shortly........