So here we are at the end of October and all things turn to thoughts of witches, ghosts and ghouls, pumpkin carving and bobbing for apples. 

As the clocks change this weekend, and the days get shorter and darker, I think Halloween is the perfect time to make a few nudges to our diet and nourish our bodies for the months ahead. It is time for warming, nourishing foods like soups and stews, curry and chilli.  Perfect to batch cook and fill your freezer. So dust off your slow cooker and add a few seasonal super foods to the pot to make the most of what’s in season. 

Eat with the seasons 

There is an abundance of nourishing foods around at this time of the year, so make the most of foods like seasonal apples, pears, kale, beetroot and the different types of squashes and pumpkins around now.  Here’s a few of my favourites:

  • Apples – Halloween wouldn’t be the same without bobbing for apples and a slice of apple tart. Packed with fibre, flavonoids and antioxidants, apples are the quintessential fruit of autumn. If you are lucky enough to have your own apple tree, it is a good idea to make a batch of stewed apple and freeze it to have with porridge (use eating apples, so you don’t have to add sugar). This is a tasty way to add soluble fibre to your diet to help support digestive health and insulin balance. 
  • Beetroot – eating beetroot has recently been associated with supporting and maintaining healthy blood pressure, is consumed by athletes to help athletic performance and has potential therapeutic use for inflammatory conditions.  Many of the benefits of beetroot are thought to be due to the natural nitrate levels found in beetroot.
  • Cabbage and kale – thanks to its healthy image and reputation as a superfood, kale can be found in anything from green smoothies to kale crisps, but the humble cabbage is pretty amazing too. Belonging to the brassica family (sometimes known as cruciferous vegetables), kale, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower are amongst some of the most important vegetables in a healthy diet. When buying cabbage, think about colour, as that is where a lot of the health benefits come from, so instead of white cabbage, go for the dark green and red varieties. Brassica veg contain sulphur-rich ingredients, like sulphophane, indole-3-carbinol and other nutritional gems that have been associated with supporting immune health, detoxification, female hormone balance and skin health. Aim to eat a brassica vegetable most days. Steamed, roasted, shredded and stir-fried, or made into seasonal salads, there are plenty of ways to enjoy these tasty veggies. Check out my recipe for a seasonal kale and apple salad below. 
  • Squashes – from cute little acorn squashes, to everyday butternut squash, squashes come in all different shapes and sizes. Their orange coloured flesh is packed with carotenoids to help support a healthy immune system. Try roasting bite size chunks, before adding a spicy dressing of low-salt soy sauce, lime juice and a little chopped chilli for a nourishing side dish. 
  • Mushrooms – mushrooms are a source of nutrients like B vitamins, selenium, magnesium and vitamin D (if grown in sunlight, or exposed to UV light), but a lot of their potential benefits are thought to be down to polysaccharides. Medicinal mushrooms like shitake and reishi are particularly rich in polysaccharides, which are thought to stimulate the immune system and have a prebiotic effect on our gut microflora, encouraging the growth of our probiotic bacteria. 

Kale, Carrot & Apple Salad 

  • a couple of big handfuls of kale
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 apple, cored and diced
  • 2 handfuls walnuts

For the dressing:

  • 2 tablespoonfuls olive oil
  • 1 tablespoonful cider vinegar
  • 1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard

Method

  • Wash the kale and cut the stalks out. Cut into shreds.
  • Place the kale in a bowl with the chopped celery, grated carrot and diced apple.
  • Crush the walnuts under the flat side of a large knife and add to the bowl.
  • Mix the oil, vinegar and mustard together to make the dressing and pour over the salad.
  • Season with sea salt and black pepper.

This blog post first appeared as my column The Irish News on Saturday 26th October 2019.