Pumpkin seeds – otherwise known as (the lovely sounding) pepitas – are one of my favourite additions to just about everything! I chuck a small handful – toasted or raw – into things like salads, stir-fries, porridge or sauces as they give texture, flavour and are high in minerals, essential fatty acids and protein.
Their high magnesium, zinc and omega-3 content make them perfect to aid in a healthy male reproductive system, to give a boost to immunity and to help calm a frazzled nervous system. Pumpkin seeds also have good amounts of iron, potassium and calcium, are used to prevent intestinal worms (have a vermifuge action) and are very high in myosin, a protein in muscle cells that is essential for muscle contraction (so wonderful for people doing lots of exercising and getting aching muscles).
Try to buy organic seeds and make sure you keep them in the fridge to protect their delicate oils. Nuts and seeds are prone to rancidity so if you can, either buy them in their shells or taste them before buying to make sure they are still fresh. You can also wash the seeds of an organic pumpkin then dry them out and roast them for a snack (though these will have their shells intact). Yum!
Because it’s so cold and wintery where I live, I’ve delved into the wonderful World Vegetarian Classics by Celia Brooks Brown for the following recipe. I first made this one stormy evening when I had very little in the fridge and was pleasantly surprised at how the pumpkin seeds transformed this simple dish into something very special.
Palava hails from Ghana, and the word translates to spinach sauce (and is in no way long winded like its English namesake). The Ghanaian traditionally use egusi – a type of melon seed used for protein and to thicken a stew – but pumpkin seeds are from the same family and the closest thing we have here. I hope you enjoy this simple recipe as much as I do.
spinach, tomato and pumpkin seed stew
150g/1 cup pumpkin seeds
4 tbsp water
4 tbsp oil
1 large tomato, coarsely chopped
125ml/½ a cup tomato paste
450g frozen spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed well OR 300g fresh spinach
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
½ tsp cayenne pepper (or chilli flakes)
250ml/1 cup water
- Toast pumpkin seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium-high heat, shaking frequently until they puff up and start popping. Spread out on a tray and allow to cool
- Once cool, place in a blender or food processor with the 4 tbsp water and pulse to a coarse puree
- Heat a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the oil
- Add the onion and fry until translucent, then add the tomato, tomato paste, spinach*, salt, cayenne, water and pumpkin seed puree
- Stir and bring to the boil, then reduce to a low simmer (or if using fresh spinach, put all the other ingredients in, stir, then add the spinach and cover). Cover and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the stew becomes thick.
- Serve over rice or quinoa and serve with greens if desired
* If using fresh spinach (which I did), wash well and put straight into the pot with the other ingredients. Allow to wilt into the stew and reduce the water you add to ¾ cup.