Food for Body and Soul

  • Posted on December 4, 2017 at 8:26 pm

Well! That’s the Christmas grocery shopping done! On the way home the car was piled high with bags and boxes containing all manner of treats. I have to add that a great deal of it was contents for me to bake or cook into other dishes: nuts; desiccated, flaked, ground and whole; fruits dried or crystalized; dark cooking chocolate, cocoa powder, little bottles of essences and colourings… you get the idea! Yes, I deplore the consumer excesses of our western winter holiday but I also love the chance to stock up on small delicious extravagancies which often last me the rest of the year and sometimes beyond.

As we drove towards home it was still only late afternoon but already it was fully dark, a near-full moon was gliding in the clear navy blue sky above the snow-capped mountains. Once home there was then the mammoth task of transferring  everything from vehicle to house… and the pleasure of secreting away all the ‘little extras’.

Extra packs of Christmas cards and little boxes of mints and fruit jellies – just in case anyone unexpectedly appears over the festive period, or – God forbid! – I have inadvertently forgotten someone. Then there are the armfuls of rolls of gaily coloured wrapping paper; bags of gold and silver chocolate coins to drop into the toes of Christmas stockings; extra pairs of fleece-lined thermal socks for the dog-walkers and motorcyclists in the family and a vigorous poinsettia in deep green and rich scarlet to enliven my elderly neighbour’s living room windowsill… I know that it will give her huge joy.

When I was young, I used to arrive home at my parent’s cottage after similar shopping expeditions, where my mother would be waiting to enthusiastically help me to unpack my bags and baskets. I would eagerly produce each item, like a magician pulling a rabbit from his hat, and we would discuss the relative merits of plans, ideas and proposals. It was wonderful to have someone to share it all with; to bounce ideas off, to appreciate one’s care, thought and planning, someone who understood my own excitement and pleasure.

Who do you share all the little pleasures of your day with? Who do you know will understand?

Perhaps more importantly, how do we react when someone in our busy, stressful, bursting-at-the-seams life tries to share their little acquisitions, dreams and triumphs with us? Do we take the time to listen, look, understand? Or do we carelessly brush the flotsam of the mundane… the inconsequential… carelessly to one side? After all, it is these myriad tiny insights which help us to really know and understand a person. Who can you rely on to always listen to you and share in your pleasure? Can you be relied upon to give a few minutes of your time and allow others to share with you?

But I digress! Having been out in the cold and the crowds for hours on end it is always nice to come in to a good, hot meal, and I have  a lovely savoury dish to recommend which will suit everyone – vegans and meat-eaters alike! It can be cooked the previous day and then heated up when you come home, busy and tired.



1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
300 g / 11 ozs butternut squash cut into approx. 1cm /1/2 inch dice
4 oz/ 110 g dried red kidney beans, soaked and pre-cooked – or a 14 oz tin
4 oz / 110 g dried haricot beans, soaked and pre-cooked – or a 14 oz tin
4 oz / 110 g dried cannellini beans, soaked and pre-cooked – or a 14 oz tin
(You may also substitute any of these for butter beans or blackeye beans, etc..)
14 oz /  400 g tin chopped tomatoes
2 oz / 50 g  green beans, cut into 1 inch strips
150 ml / 1/4 pint vegetable stock
A habdful of basil leaves, roughly torn (if available).


  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C./400 degrees F/ Gas Mark 6.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan (I like to do this in a wok) and fry the onion, carrot and squash for 5 minutes until the onion has softened.
  3. Transfer to a casserole dish and add all the beans and tomatoes, then add the veg stock and stir to combine. Season with a little salt and pepper if desired. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in the basil and serve hot with couscous or mashed potatoes. Serves 2 – 4.
    Will also freeze, so it is worth making a double batch and dividing for later use.)


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