Be good to yourself this winter

As a new staff member at the UK charity, Penny Brohn Cancer Care, I was lucky enough to attend a festive cookery course last week (believe it, we all know Christmas will be on the door step sooner than we think!)


Stuffed pumpkin: a vegetarian Christmas centrepiece in demonstration kitchen

Penny Brohn provides support to help people live well with the impact of cancer, through a range of free services offering a combination of physical, emotional and spiritual support, that works alongside medical treatment.  It’s a fantastic charity – find out more here:

The day was run by Victoria and Helen who are both nutritional therapists at Penny Brohn, and can often be found running similar courses in the cookery demonstration room.

Helen's home-made mince pies with spelt pastry

Helen’s homemade mince pies with spelt pastry

It was a really lovely day, packed full of seasonal recipes with a strong focus on nutritional content and creating healthier alternatives using simple ingredients and techniques (i.e. swapping the sugar content for more beneficial prunes or dates).  I learnt so many interesting snippets about the benefits of certain foods and realised that I need to start using more spices as they hold huge nutritional benefits.

Here are a few we learnt about last week:

  • Cinnamon is great for balancing blood sugar levels
  • Nutmeg has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties
  • Cardamon is one of the oldest spices in the world and helpful for digestion
  • Clove is high in eugenol which is a natural antiseptic and can help rid us of environmental toxins
  • Turmeric is a wonder spice with anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties

Alongside some beautiful Christmas puddings and mince pies (above), we learnt how to make a delicious soup which I had a go at this weekend – it is the perfect warming meal as the days are getting progressively colder!  It’s so easy to make and has an abundance of health benefits, so I know this will be a winter staple from now on!  This recipe is from Victoria, and you can find some more of her lovely soup recipes in her book; ‘The Inspirational Soup Book’.

Chestnut, Butternut Squash and Apple soup


Makes 8-10 servings

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 potato
  • 1 Bramley cooking apple
  • 1 litre of Vegetable stock (I used chicken stock)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • good pinch turmeric powder
  • 400g can of chestnut purée
  • Handful of chopped chestnuts
  • Parsley to garnish
  1. Gentry fry the onions with the bay leaves for 10 minutes on a very low heat until they become translucent
  2. Add the squash, apple, potato (with the skin on), the herbs and spices and stock.  Simmer for about 25-35 minutes until the vegetables are soft
  3. Add the chestnut puree and blend the soup in batches until smooth
  4. Pop back into a saucepan and season to taste (Victoria suggests using wholegrain mustard or lemon juice to bring out the flavours, if you want to avoid adding salt)
  5. Stir through the chopped chestnuts and sprinkle with Parsley (you could also add some nuts and seeds to increase the protein content)

As you can see, it’s packed full of goodness and is guaranteed to keep you smiling all the way to Christmas – enjoy! x



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