The lack of dietary diversity greatly contributes to increased incidences of chronic diseases. Our cooking methods are mainly crude at best. I have realised that they lack some of the adventurism that is needed in a healthy diet. To me, the Zimbabwean diet is mainly basic. And it lacks adventure as well as experimentation. This has caused it to be very repetitive and boring. Which makes mealtimes less enjoyable and boring. Instead of being memorable and being looked forward to. We don’t have pumpkin fritters and pies here, we just boil pumpkins and eat them all the time. Pumpkins are tasty and healthy I know, but do we have to settle for the boiled ones all the time?
Is it a rural or a national curse?
This is very common in rural settings where food may be scarce. I have looked at the West, East and Central African diets. I couldn’t help to notice the creativity that comes with their food preparation. Their meals are loaded most of the time. They usually have a lot of ingredients in their meals which makes them healthier. These people have learnt to utilise healthy spices and herbs in their foods. And you rarely see a diet made from a paltry 3 ingredients!
In Zimbabwe, we have the white maize curse. White maize meal forms almost ¾ of most diets in this country. It had become a dangerous nutrient-poor staple. Every day it’s pap (sadza) and something else. And yet it has mostly starch and next to nothing of every other nutrient. The curse is almost in every household. I would say the townfolk are better off. But those who don’t over depend on the dreaded white maize are not any better. This is because they will be stuffing themselves with more dangerous super refined and junk foods.
Erosion of the traditions
All this has eroded the traditional methods of making savoury dishes. The culinary herbs our ancestors used to use are now deemed as evil herbs. Even with pumpkins in our fields, we don’t have pumpkin fritters or pie or many local dishes. We only have boiled pumpkins and “nhopi”. But even nhopi may be seeing its last days as a special delicacy. This is because the curse of globalisation, modernisation and religion has spread through our traditional food systems like a wraith. And they have destroyed our traditional healthy food systems. What is not deemed too savage and traditional due to globalisation is not safe either; religion will just call eat evil herbs and not fit for consumption of the enlightened!
The refined curse
These 3 factors mentioned above have limited the number of foods that can be eaten in society. This had resulted in the replacement of traditional foods and cooking methods with unhealthy super-refined foods. The traditional cooking methods of Africa have been eroded. We no longer know the secret recipes that use “muhacha or zumbani” as food condiments. We have lost most of our healthy culinary herbs because they are “evil”. And we no longer eat traditional vegetables because they don’t have stuff. But the same races that influence our food choices in such a way are busy harvesting seeds of blackjack in the fields to go breed in their countries!
We are in for a very big surprise because the classy foods we crave are not any better. That’s why hidden hunger has been spreading in southern Africa like a prairie fire. And it hasn’t been distinguishing between children and adults. FAO and WHO records will show you how Southern Africa is a micronutrient deficiency hotspot. However, they will never show overdependence on maize and tubers as staples damages health. They just keep giving people white maize in the name of hunger relief. And the circle continues.
Millions of children and adults go hungry in southern Africa every year. However, I don’t believe these so-called world organisations are doing enough either. Yes, they focus on providing aid to those who are affected but what about tomorrow. Instead, they are giving people a dependency syndrome that spread in the population like a tumour. Instead, why shouldn’t they teach people simple programs that make them food secure?
I mean teaching people about healthy eating methods. Or teaching people how to fight hidden hunger with dietary diversity. Instead, they fight physical hunger by giving people white maize which gives rise to more hidden hunger! Giving people food aid, maize, lentils and beans, healthy food people don’t know how to eat correctly? A simple yard based pumpkin patch can help a family achieve food security for some time. Same as a patch of different coloured sweet potato varieties. As I explained in my previous article, you don’t need chemicals or fertilizer to set up a sweet potato/ pumpkin patch. You just need seeds, vines, simple tools, space, manures and composts.
Diversify your diet and the cooking methods too
This is one of the most sensitive issues that burns me inside. However, my point is that we should try to diversify our diet and cooking methods. Dietary changes can do wonders for family health and wellness. Diversifying the diet and the cooking methods will go a long way toward saving on future hospital bills.
I know that most families are usually left with thousands in hospital debts after their relatives have deceased. And that’s how the modern chronic disease works. It attacks you and chews you slowly from the inside. Every bad dietary decision you make is like a tiny blow to your health. And eventually, your body will succumb to the onslaught of these tiny blows. These tiny blows lead to inflammation and oxidative stress. And these are the main drivers behind chronic diseases. These two factors will damage the body so slowly that by the time you start feeling pain it will be too late.
The suffering caused by chronic diseases will then start draining your family bank accounts dry. Hospital bills and buying medication will be your best friend. Before you lose yourself to a long and painful death. Not to sound scary but this is preventable to some extent. With a healthy diet and lifestyle of cause.
An old pumpkin fritters recipe
This brings me to today’s topic. An old pumpkin fritters recipe I found whilst I was reading The Bulawayo Cookery Book.
When I looked at the recipe, I wouldn’t help to notice some problems in the recipe. I was worried because this is something entirely new. It’s something that doesn’t exist in our traditional way of life. And some of the ingredients are more likely to cause some of the health problems we are more likely to face. I discovered that we can always modify recipes to make them healthier. So, I will give you the pumpkin fritters recipe and then add suggestions on how you can make it healthy.
Hopefully, this recipe will help you add another way of eating pumpkins to your diet. And as we all know pumpkins are a healthy food that can improve your micronutrient profile. And organic ones are even better. Not only is the fruit a nutrient reservoir, but the leaves, seeds and flowers are also healthy and edible. Which makes the whole plant a good addition to your garden and your diet. The nutrition facts and health benefits of pumpkin leaves are explained here:
Why pumpkin fritters
I have been debating about why this pumpkin fritters recipe may be a good idea. And I realised that not only would it add healthy pumpkins to your diet. But it would also bring diversity to your cooking methods. As I explained, most of us only know how to boil pumpkins and eat them. Some add a little salt to taste whilst others go on to abuse the pumpkin further by adding sugar!
Let’s say you have many pumpkins in your pumpkin patch. No matter how healthy they are, boiling them all the time can get monotonous and boring. This means you will reach a saturation point, you may even start hating them. But let’s say your grandma taught you how to make “nhopi”, you also learnt about pumpkin salads and you know a secret recipe for baking them. All this means you can eat pumpkin everyday bit and never tire. Because you cook it differently every time. It’s better than boiling all the time. So, yes I had to find out about pumpkin fritters!
- 12 tablespoons boiled and soft mashed pumpkins
- 8 tablespoons of plain flour
- 1 egg spoon (teaspoon will also do) of salt
- 1 egg spoon of baking powder
- 2 eggs
- Add 8 tablespoons of flour to 6 tablespoons of soft boiled mashed pumpkins.
- After that add 1 egg spoon of salt.
- Also, add 1 egg spoon of baking powder.
- Add the 2 eggs
- Beat well until the contents are completely and uniformly mixed.
- After proper mixing fry in boiling fat until there is a golden brown colour.
- Your pumpkin fritters are ready.
Serve with sugar and powdered cinnamon sprinkled over.
Alternative ingredients and equipment for the pumpkin fritters recipe
Suitable healthy frying techniques and oils for cooking pumpkin fritters
Most of us love fried foods. I know this because when I was younger deep-fried flour fat cooks used to rule the festive seasons. And I have seen that most of our food outlets prefer to serve fried meat. However, there is only one problem. Deep-fried foods can have negative health effects. So why am I recommending pumpkin fritters?
It’s because we can substitute unhealthy ingredients with healthy ones. The harm posed by deep-fried foods depends on how often you eat them. Some of us ravenously eat these foods whenever we can, even if it means every day. This practice is unhealthy and it should be thrown out of the window. A higher intake of deep-fried foods just amplifies your chronic disease risks. The harm also depends on the type of oil you use for frying and how you use the oil.
How to fry pumpkin fritters correctly
Healthline describes a temperature of between 176-190°C as the right temperature for deep frying. This temperature allows your fritters to cook quickly on the outside and traps steam inside. And this allows the steam to cook the inside portion of the food. If your frying temperature is too low, the oil will seep into your food making it greasy and unhealthy. Using temperatures that are too high is of no good either. Higher temperatures will oxidize and damage the oil releasing harmful substances into your food. If you see your oil smoking before you add anything know that it’s either unsuitable. Or the temperature you are using is too high.
So what do you need?
- A deep frying pan or pot
- A healthy oil
- The correct temperature
Healthy oil options
When I found the recipe for pumpkin fritters the first thing I noticed was the cooking method. I realised that even though pumpkins and all the ingredients may be healthy, deep frying alone could pose health problems. So, I started hunting for healthier oil options for making pumpkin fritters.
Healthy oils used for deep frying should have a higher percentage of saturated fatty acids. Those with a higher percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids are also suitable. This is because these fatty acids have no or have one double bond. This gives them stability under high temperatures. So they are less likely to be oxidised and break up during your cooking. These oils are less likely to be oxidatively or temperature damaged. Therefore they are good for deep frying.
1. Coconut oil
Coconut is one of the best oils for cooking your pumpkin fritters. This is because 90% of the fatty acids in coconut oil are saturated fatty acids. This gives the oil a higher heat tolerance and a lesser risk of producing harmful products when you cook. Additionally, coconut oil also has several health benefits. There are reports that you can cook for up to 8 hours at 180°C continuously with coconut oil. And the oil quality will remain acceptable due to lower heat damage.
2. Animal fats like lard, tallow, ghee and fat drippings
There is a lot of conflicting information on the harm posed by animal fats. However, these fats are highly suitable for deep frying. This is because animal fats are rich in saturated fats. And it is the main reason why they are solid at room temperature. These fats can withstand higher temperatures during your cooking with minimal damage. In addition, animal oils add a crispness and flavour to your fritters. The best fat is from free-range animals rather than feed fed ones.
Also, don’t use butter as it contains proteins and carbohydrates. And these compounds burn at frying temperatures.
3. Olive and avocado oil
Pure olive and avocado oils are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. These oils can withstand higher cooking temperatures. So, they are good for cooking your pumpkin fritters.
Reports show that olive oil can be used in a deep fryer continuously for 24 hrs without serious oxidation of the oil. Extra virgin olive oil is the best option if you can afford it.
Reports also show that refined avocado oil can withstand higher cooking temperatures of up to 270°C. In addition, they give your food a nutty taste. However, you must check your oil labels carefully. I was surprised to discover that an oil labelled as pure avocado oil contained only 10% avocado oil. The rest was canola oil, so you need to be careful with what you buy.
Also read: Avocado nutrition facts and health benefits
4. Peanut oil for frying pumpkin fritters
You commonly know this as groundnut oil. This oil can withstand temperatures of up to 230°C. It is more common in deep frying for its neutral flavour.
However, peanut oil may not be as healthy as the other options.
5. Palm oil
The main fatty acids in this oil are saturated and monounsaturated. It is a great choice for deep frying pumpkin fritters. Red palm oil has been shown to give the best deep-frying experiences.
Any oil not on this list is not a healthy option for deep frying. The cheapest oil here may be animal fats. Most other oils may be too costly or inaccessible. You choose what works for you.
Additional tips for making pumpkin fritters.
You can use self-raising flour instead of plain flour for making your pumpkin fritters.
I have also seen some pumpkin fritters recipes that utilise milk to make the fritter tastier and healthier. This is something you can try and experiment with. If you like it better then why not use it.
Also, you can use teaspoons instead of egg spoons if you don’t have any. And also make sure that your cooking contain is good for deep frying.
For sweetening, you can also try blackstrap molasses or raw honey. These are healthier options than sugar. These also have beneficial effects on your health.
We can improve our intake of healthy foods by experimenting with different cooking methods. This makes the diet less monotonous and boring. Boiling pumpkins all the time is going to become boring very fast especially if you have a pumpkin patch. So, this pumpkin fritters recipe may help you diversify your cooking method. And it will make eating your pumpkins less repetitive and boring!