A Food & Travel Blog

Evolutionary eating

01/04/2010 | By

This morning I watched Jamie Oliver’s TED speech on the dietary crisis facing the US (and many other countries, including Australia) today.  I know that there are many who find him a little sanctimonious when he gets onto his hobby-horse and starts banging on about school lunches, but the simple, inescapable fact is that he is right.  Our dietary habits have changed and evolved – and not in a good way – with the result that the next generation will be the first to live a shorter life than their parents, largely because of too much of the wrong kinds of food.  It is deeply shocking to see Jamie stand up in front of a classroom full of kids who can’t identify a fresh tomato or a cauliflower. In another scene, Jamie sits with a sad and confused young mother, surrounded by the food that she feeds her family, and bluntly points out that she is killing her children with it.  Many believe that this is a result of modern living, lack of food education, capitalism, mass communication, the cultural hegemony of big fast food businesses, etc., etc., – but maybe this dietary evolution is a little more organic than that.

Quite coincidentally, just a couple of days ago, I read a report of a study undertaken by two brothers, one an eating behaviouralist and the other a professor of religious studies.  They looked at 52 of the most noted paintings of Christ’s last supper and found that the portion sizes of the meals had increased significantly over the last 1,000 years.  In general, the size of the main courses increased by a whopping 69% and the serves of bread by 23%!!  While this is obviously not a scientific study, these findings tend to indicate that overeating is possibly not the modern phenomenon we think it to be, but a more general trend over hundreds of years.

I find recipes, on the other hand, can very quickly evolve from one thing into quite another – especially in my kitchen.  I had been wondering how to use up the last of my lovely Food Connect pumpkin and came across a tempting recipe for little pumpkin tarts.  Deciding that this was what I wanted to make, I set about checking the pantry for the bits and pieces that I needed and along the way became quite side-tracked.   I ended up with a delicious meal that bore only a passing resemblance to the recipe I first started with, but one that I had tailored to my own personal preferences – I guess that is what they call “recipe development”!

I seriously dislike slicing onions, so the husband bravely volunteered to take on that task and I used my wonderful Thermomix to grate up all the pumpkin which was done in under 1 minute.  I have to be very honest and tell you that I used frozen pastry, just because I was short on time, but any nice short crust pastry recipe will do for this.

Pumpkin & Caramelised Onion Tart
Recipe Type: Vegetarian
Author: Amanda McInerney of www.lambsearsandhoney.com
  • I quantity of short crust pastry
  • or
  • 2 sheets frozen pastry
  • 3 onions, sliced
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 750 gm pumpkin, grated
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 gms parmesan, grated
  1. Preheat oven to 190C.
  2. Line a 24cm round fluted tart tin (I used a longish rectangular one) with pastry and blind bake for approx. 10 mins.
  3. Heat olive oil in a heavy based pan, add onions and sprinkle with sugar and balsamic vinegar. Cook on low/med heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, for approx. 20 minutes until the onions are soft, sweet and caramelised. Set aside.
  4. In a large pan, heat remaining olive oil, add grated pumpkin and thyme and cook, stirring, over low heat until pumpkin is just cooked.
  5. In a large bowl, beat eggs lightly, then add pumpkin, 3/4 of the onions and 75gms of the parmesan. Fill the pastry with this mixture, sprinkling the top with the remaining onions and parmesan.
  6. Bake at 190C for 25-30 minutes.
  7. Let stand out of the oven for 10 minutes, before slicing and serving.



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  1. Kate

    It is a good way to cook isn’t it – I have the recipe out but add and subtract at whim – usually with great results but the final dish is a one off as I would never be able to recall what I actually did !!! Happy Easter, Amanda.

  2. kel

    oh wow. Yum, that looks great! might fire up the wood oven…

  3. Kiwidutch

    So true about the shocking truth that many kids can’t identify the most basic veggies these days, I don’t consider myself old but I’m also amazed when I bring made from scratch cooking and baking to work or events and *adults* are shocked and amazed that it was so good but it wasn’t shop bought! My reply to that is ” basically it’s not rocket science, it’s just a little confidence and lots of practice” and I usually give them the recipes to get them motivated in their own kitchens.
    I’m delighted to see the slow rebellion to fast food and processed food, I do think that things like frozen pastry are fine, if you are in a hurry sometimes, but constant “ready meals” are a whole different issue (Well for me at least).
    Thanks for the post!

  4. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    I’m not surprised serving portions have increased-I remember seeing an episode of Oprah and they compared a plate from the 60s to a present day plate and they were quite an increase!

    Hehe I too love the taste of caramelised onions but not the slicing 😛

  5. Barbara

    Nice recipe Amanda, I shall try it with one of our lovely pumpkins which are just ready now. Do you mean to tell me the Thermomix doesn;t slice onions – I thought it could do everything!!