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In Season Now: Sweet Potato, Blackberry and Squash

Christine (Amina) Benlafquih explores the joys of sweet potatoes, blackberries and squash in her foray into this season’s finest fruit and vegetables.

Sweet Potatoes
Although these starchy root vegetables resemble potatoes and can be substituted for them in many recipes, sweet potatoes are actually part of the morning glory family. Cool weather heralds their peak season, and depending on your location, you may be able to find varieties that sport either pale yellow or orange flesh. Sweet potatoes are good sources of magnesium, iron, potassium and vitamins B6, C and D, and like potatoes, they can be fried, baked, sautéed, boiled and mashed.





Tips – Sweet potatoes will keep for up to a month when stored in a dark, dry, cool place.  To remove the skin from a boiled sweet potato, submerge the hot, cooked veggie in cold water; slice into the skin and then lift it off as you would peel a banana.



Quick Recipe – To bake sweet potatoes, scrub them well and pierce the skin in several places with a fork. Place them on a foil-lined pan in a preheated 400°F (200°C) oven for 45 minutes or until tender. Serve topped with butter, salt and pepper.







These autumn berries can be found in UK markets in September and October, when they may be enjoyed as is or incorporated into jams, cakes, pies or ice cream. Notably high in antioxidants, blackberry fruit is also packed with vitamins and other nutrients while the seeds contain fibre. In traditional and herbal medicine, blackberry leaves and roots may be used to treat ailments such as throat and mouth infections, dysentery, gout and skin eruptions.




Tips – Whether picking your own berries or buying them, select only firm, ripe, darkly-hued fruit as blackberries will not ripen off the bush. They will not keep beyond a few days, even when refrigerated. To freeze fresh blackberries: wash the fruit, remove the hulls and spread out to dry. Place the berries in a plastic bag and press out as much air as possible before freezing.



Quick Recipe – Make your own fresh blackberry jam by simmering 2 cups crushed berries, 2 cups sugar and 2 teaspoons lemon juice for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, skim off the foam and leave to cool. Store in a glass jar in the fridge.





The Frugal Cook: Berries

September’s frugal cooking suggestions by Christine (Amina) Benlafquih are sure to make you berry happy.




So-called winter squashes are in season now, including popular varieties such as acorn, butternut, pumpkin and spaghetti squash. These colourful veggies are high in carotenes, folic acid and fibre as well as a number of essential vitamins and minerals, making them a superfood worthy of adding to our diets.




Tips – When buying winter squash, select ones that feel heavy for their size and have rinds that are not cracked, discoloured and that are otherwise unblemished. The squashes will keep without refrigeration when stored in a dry, cool place such as a basement.



Quick Recipe – Make butternut squash soup by placing 1 ½ lbs. of peeled and cubed butternut squash, 1 chopped onion and 1 or 2 cloves of crushed garlic in a pot. Add 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth, a tablespoon of butter or olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the squash is tender. Puree, adjust seasoning, and serve with a garnish of chopped fresh parsley, sage or marjoram and cayenne pepper if desired.





The 1-Month Desert Diet

Fed up with government guidelines of salt intake, doctors’ advice on calorie control and nutritionists’ warnings about additives, Rabia Barkatulla wanted to return to the simpler, more wholesome diet of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Equipped with ‘Shamaa’il Tirmidhi’ on the eating habits of the Prophet (SAW), she undertook a kitchen clearout and supermarket ban to get back in touch with real food.