As you’ve probably gathered by now, I LOVE pumpkins. Autumn food in general, in fact (parsnips, butternut squash…) but ESPECIALLY pumpkins. And Whole Foods Market caught my eye today with a genius healthy dinner idea, using pumpkin, that’s ready in minutes.

For ultimate speed, you need pumpkin purée. I’m able to buy mine in frozen cubes from Picard (the French equivalent of Iceland). Foodie website Sous Chef sells it at £2 a can – or you can make your own perhaps. The basic recipe is this: fry some onion in olive oil, followed by brown or tricolor rice (about 75g per person). Throw in vegetable stock (200ml per person) and about 75g pumpkin purée. Add a couple of bay leaves and a bit of freshly ground black pepper. Cook for the rice’s cooking time as directed on the packet. Stay by the pan to make sure it doesn’t boil dry (add more water if necessary). Once it’s ready, there’s no need to drain it – just spoon straight into a bowl and enjoy!

As well as being tasty, it’s healthy too – a hard thing to come by as the days get shorter, the nights get colder and the food gets stodgier. As a vegetarian sympathiser, I’m thrilled to have found another easy, quick vegetarian meal to add to my repertoire. Here’s why it’s so good for you:

Brown or tricolor rice. Tricolor rice mixes tend to consist of white (or brown) rice, red rice, and wild rice. Red rice is known to retard plaque formation, and has high levels of iron and calcium (which help to strengthen the bones and blood). White rice is an excellent source of slow-burning energy and contains good levels of B vitamins (which, among other things, prevent anaemia and keep nerve and muscle tissue healthy). Brown rice contains all of this and more – particularly magnesium, which can prevent strokes and heart attacks. Wild rice, however, is perhaps the champion, providing all of this as well as promising levels of protein (to strengthen hair, nails, bones, metabolism and more) and zinc (to support a healthy immune system and quick healing times).

Onion. Perhaps the original superfood, onions are anti-inflammatory, anti-cholesterol, anti-cancer and antioxidant thanks to the lovely range of flavanoids they contain.

Olive oil. This unsaturated fat is better for you than saturated fats – it can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and could even prevent Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, and liver, bowel and pancreatic diseases.

Homemade vegetable stock. Don’t worry if you’ve only got a cube. I won’t tell anyone. But by using homemade vegetable stock, you’re getting the best benefits: not only are they lower in salt than many commercial stock cubes, but the vitamins and minerals in the vegetables you used to make it all stay in the stock, increasing your intake of vitamin A, iron, and calcium.

Pumpkin. Arguably the star of the show in this recipe, pumpkin is one of your five a day. It’s low-calorie (26 calories per 100g), extremely low in fat (0.1g per 100g), and high in vitamin A – specifically, in beta-carotene. This is essential for a healthy immune system, sharp vision, and good skin. All the more reason to keep chomping on it – even though Halloween is over.

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