Vegan pumpkin, lentil + kale bake

So, um, that 5 month break from this site just kinda happened. I hadn’t intended to stay away from this space for so long but lets just say it’s been one hell of an eventful start to the year. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you may have already heard me talking about some of the things that have kept me away, but for those of you who don’t I’ll give you a quick overview of the year so far…

I started the year grateful to have 2016 behind me (thank you a million times over for all your love on that post! You have no idea how blessed I felt to receive each and every comment/email/message I received after sharing that post) and looking forward to what was to be one of my biggest challenges to date. Starting late last year myself and a few friends (some old, some new) decided to do the Oxfam Trailwalker 100km walk, to raise funds for the amazing work Oxfam does around NZ, the Pacific and the greater world. As our training time increased in the lead-up to the event (we did a couple of 50km walks around Mt. Karioi here in Raglan, as well as slightly shorted ones most weeks and shorter walks/strength training most other days), my few moments of spare time during the week quickly disappeared. But that was fine and to be expected when signing up for a mammoth event like this. What happened during and after completing the event was not something any of us expected however.

The morning of the event I felt a little off, but put it down to the stress of the previous week (oh did I mention that during this time we were also frantically painting our house inside and out in between work/parent duty (ourselves as no local painters were available at the time) in a bid to sell it and secure our dream home?) and lack of sleep the night before. Despite feeling great in our training runs and being incredibly well prepared, every step of the very first leg felt like I was walking through mud. My body was not playing the game, at all.

I pushed through, as you do, but by the second or third leg I said yes to taking anti-inflammatories (against my better judgement), naively thinking that it might just be enough to get me through. I usually stick to natural remedies such as homeopathy and never take anything stronger than paracetamol, definitely not anti-inflammatories. But stupidly did, that day.

Not that any of us knew at the time, but my body reacted in the worst possible way to the drugs and by the middle of the night, I was bleeding internally from three tears in my stomach lining.
I felt terrible for the last 12 hours of the race, at some points I had to stop every few metres to rest.
But it turns out I’m one incredibly determined mama, while there were people pulling out of the race at every stage, not once did it occur to me to do the same. Although looking back, that’s exactly what I should’ve done. (In my defense it was really just the last 10kms that I started to feel dangerously ill, by which time I was SO close to the finish line…).

29 hours, 29 minutes after starting the race, my team and I crossed the finish line. I looked like death warmed up, face as pale as snow, legs barely holding my weight. I cry watching the footage that was taken of the moments before and as we crossed the finish line. A mix of relief/pride and shock at seeing myself in that state.
Still, at this point I only thought I was possibly in need of some oxygen and a lie down/sleep, but my body told me otherwise. I passed out in the ambulance when trying to sit up and it was only then that everyone realised I was in much worse shape than initially presumed, though the reason was still unknown (a stomach ulcer was suspected at this stage).

My hospital stay was scary for me but more so for my husband and kids (Kye in particular as he was scared for me before the race even began, like he knew something wasn’t quiet right). Being admitted again 2 days after release was super scary too, but at least it finally gave me the answers I so desperately wanted. I now know that anti-inflammatories, while they do a great job of relieving pain, basically ruin the protective coating of your stomach (even when taken with food), leaving stomach acid free to do all kinds of damage to your stomach wall. I wasn’t going to share this many details about what happened, cause to be honest I feel embarrassed and ashamed to have put myself in this dangerous and possibly life-threatening situation, but various people have urged me to share the full story in a bid to make others stop and really think about the possible side effects from these kinds of everyday drugs, which so many people use without giving a thought to what they’re doing to their bodies.

My recovery has been slow. Some days I could easily sleep all day if I didn’t have a million and one things to do. It’s only been in the last month that I’ve felt strong enough to resume walking, albeit super gentle and mostly flat ones. My iron is still incredibly low -I lost a lot of blood- but I’m now getting the help of a specialist which has been all kinds of amazing. She’s also helping me deal with my other health issues (adrenal fatigue/candida/leaky gut) that have plagued me for years and were probably to blame for me feeling off at the start of the race. So I’d like to think this is the reason for all this happening, the silver lining to the whole scary ordeal. I’ve gone hard for way to long, pushed myself too far, ignored my body screaming for help. It’s been a wake up call to say the least.

A couple of weeks after the Oxfam race we sold our beloved little house in town, the house both our children were born in. And a month ago we moved into our dream house. The timing was terrible yes, but we’re hoping that this move will be our last for a very long time, hopefully forever. We’re still in Raglan, just out in the country a bit. It’s nice. We’ve got space, a big garden, fruit trees and room to expand and do more than we could’ve ever dreamed of.

I’m hoping to spend more time in this space now that life is finally settling down a little and I’m excited to share more about the other (more positive!) things that have kept me busy this year and a few of the recipes that have been on high rotation around here lately.

Today’s recipe is a super simple, nourishing winter meal. Gluten-free, dairy-free and naturally vegan, it’s the kind of thing you can prepare in advance (I tend to do it in stages the day before and then assemble and cook on the day) and it’s super easy to change up if you so desire. Next time I’ll probably fold a chilli-spiked tomato sauce through the lentils to add a bit more oomph;  you could use kumara (sweet potato) instead of pumpkin if that’s what you’ve got at hand; and spinach or silverbeet (chard) would work in place or alongside the kale for a variation too. I hope you’ve all been well.

Much love, Emm x

Vegan pumpkin, lentil + kale bake

If like me you’re someone who likes to plan and prep ahead of time, you can prepare the cauliflower ‘cheese’ sauce up to a few days before, as well as cooking the lentils, peeling and slicing the pumpkin and cooking the kale. Store everything in separate containers in the fridge and assemble just before baking. See above for variation ideas. Soak the lentils overnight if you remember/have time, to improve digestibility and quicken cooking time.

Serves 4 or more as a side


1/2 cup puy or French-style lentils, soaked overnight in cold water if you have time

1 bay leaf


Cauliflower ‘cheese’ sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1/2 medium cauliflower, roughly chopped

1 1/2-2 cups vegetable stock (homemade or as natural as possible)

1-2 teaspoons nutritional yeast, optional (adds a ‘cheesy’ flavour)

Fine sea salt and ground white pepper


1/2 small pumpkin, seeded, peeled and sliced into 7-8mm thick pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 handfuls kale (approx 1/2 bunch), stems removed and leaves roughly chopped

Pumpkin seeds, to scatter


Place lentils in a small saucepan (drain if you’ve soaked overnight), then cover with plenty of fresh cold water, add bay leaf and simmer 10-15 minutes or until just tender. Add a good pinch of fine sea salt and cook for a further 2-3 minutes before draining well. Discard bay leaf.

To make the cauliflower ‘cheese’ sauce, heat oil in a large saucepan and fry onion 2-3 minutes, stirring often until tender. Add garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds. Add cauliflower, give it all a good big stir, add stock, bring to the boil, cover with a lid, reduce heat and simmer 5-8 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft. Remove from the heat and carefully transfer the entire contents of the pan to a blender. Add yeast, to taste and blend on high until super smooth, adding a touch of water to thin if necessary. You want it to be about the consistency of yoghurt. Season with salt and ground white pepper, to taste and add a little extra yeast if desired.

Prepare pumpkin and kale. Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and chopped kale, cook 2-3 minutes, stirring often until softened. Season to taste.

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). To assemble; spread about 1/4 of the cauliflower ‘cheese’ sauce on the bottom of a 2-3 litre capacity oven-proof dish, top with a layer of pumpkin slices, season pumpkin with a little salt and pepper, scatter with 1/4 of the lentils and 1/4 of the kale. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up, finishing with a dollop of cauliflower ‘cheese’ sauce, a little kale (this gets all crispy and delicious in the oven, like kale chips!), scatter the top with some pumpkin seeds and cook for 45-55 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender (insert a skewer into it to check), the top is golden and the sauce is bubbling up the sides of the dish. Serve immediately with salad.



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  • AW
    June 28, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    I’m so happy you’re back. And I’m so damn happy you’re doing ok. <3 Can't wait to see all the stuff you cook up in your new place, woman. Big love to you!

      June 28, 2017 at 10:17 pm

      Thanks so much love, there was a time when I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about coming back to this space, but now that I’m back it feels great 🙂

  • Janet Kennedy
    June 28, 2017 at 10:31 pm
    I had clicked in just this morning and realised it had been ages since we’d heard from you. I decided to email you after supermarketing and that is what I sat down to do.
    I’m so pleased you are on the mend at last and very pleased you guys have found your dream home.
    Much love to you all

      June 28, 2017 at 11:29 pm

      Oh that’s so sweet of you to check in on me love. The months just slipped by! Stoked to be back though. Hope you’re well xx

  • Deborah(VintageMacaroon)
    June 28, 2017 at 10:35 pm

    Yes I have to say I’m glad your back too! I love your recipes so much. What a terrible time you’ve had Emma. So glad things are getting better and you have your new home to enjoy. It sounds dreamy to me… country, space, orchard trees, garden…I know its hard work in reality but how satisfying as well.

      June 28, 2017 at 11:28 pm

      Ha yes, definitely a lot of work on a property like this. But it’s the kind of work we love 🙂 xx

  • Rachel
    June 28, 2017 at 10:39 pm


      June 30, 2017 at 12:53 am


  • Lucy
    June 28, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    Oh Emma, what an ordeal! It’s funny, I was just thinking about you yesterday and then you popped up in my Facebook feed (which was a bit disconcerting, to say the least). Anyway, so very sorry to hear of your misadventures and really glad to hear you are getting back on your feet (and the new house sounds amazing). Typically lovely recipe, as always. Just don’t overdo it, ok?! xx

      June 28, 2017 at 11:27 pm

      I’m trying to change my ways 🙂 Thanks love xx

  • Pen
    June 28, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    Yeah! Great to see you back and thank you for sharing your story. I have learnt the hard way that I can’t take any type of pain relief. I have to have c sections with my kids due to preeclampsia with the first and they gave me a morphine spinal block (overshare haha) Fast forest a few hours and I was out of my mind with anxiety. Awful experience and it happened again when I took a strong pain relief. I normally use homeopathy treatment so I too have taken stuff when encouraged by other people. Hope you are feeling much better and love you have seen the silver lining. Improved gut health is the way to go. With love x

      June 30, 2017 at 12:55 am

      Thanks so much Pen, your ordeal sounded scary too! I too usually take homeopathic or other natural remedies, and will be sticking to them from now on! Much love xx

  • Nicola Galloway
    June 28, 2017 at 11:56 pm

    Hi Emma, so lovely to see your email in my inbox this morning. I have wondered how you are these last months after reading about your health after the race. Phew, what an ordeal and thanks for sharing it here, I know that took courage. Yay, to being back, I look forward to seeing/ hearing more about your beautiful new house and property.
    Keep warm, Nicola xx

      June 30, 2017 at 12:56 am

      Thanks Nicola x

  • Brenda
    June 29, 2017 at 12:03 am

    Lovely recipe Em. I’m so sorry to hear about your health ordeal. Sounds like you’re on the mend. Chefs hey, we have a tendency to over do it. Learning to be kind to yourself is sometimes easier said than done. Great lessons in this story. Thanks for telling it. Much love x Brenda

      June 30, 2017 at 12:57 am

      You’re exactly right love, that damn chef mentality of pushing through until we fall apart! Ha. xx

  • Melanie Leighton
    June 29, 2017 at 1:22 am

    Wow, thank you for sharing this story with us. I have always suspected anti inflammatories to be terrible for my gut, but this is a very big warning to stay right away, even in desperate situations. And a good reminder to not let ourselves get so worn out that our body is so unable to be resilient against these kinds of stresses. I wish you the best in your healing! X

      June 30, 2017 at 12:36 am

      They’re super powerful things. Of course not everyone reacts in the way I did to NSAID’s, but I don’t think they’re great for anyone really. It’s a hard one though, if you’re in a ton of pain. But something I guess every person has to weigh up for themselves. Much love xx

  • Leigh @ Toasted
    June 29, 2017 at 1:27 am

    Hey Emma.
    “Toasted” here. So sorry to hear about these health issues. It does sound super positive to be sorting out the underlying causes though. Hope that you manage to keep your health and wellbeing the priority when life throws you its inevitable keeps challenges. Loving your recipes – as always. Xx Leigh

      June 30, 2017 at 12:33 am

      Hey Leigh, so lovely to hear from you. Hope you’re well.
      Much love xx

  • Jill
    June 29, 2017 at 1:27 am

    That’s Sunday dinner sorted then, looks delicious. I will add the suggested chili tomato sauce and probably put mustard or nutmeg in the cauliflower mix. So pleased you are recovering – taking anti-inflammatories made me very unwell first r a long time

      June 30, 2017 at 12:32 am

      Enjoy love, hope you’re feeling better now too xx

  • Lisa Passmore
    June 29, 2017 at 2:02 am

    A wonderful recipe Emma…dinner tonight I think! 🙂 So pleased to hear that you are on the mend and back sharing your recipes and wisdom with us all. Thank you and be well xx Lisa

      June 30, 2017 at 12:31 am

      Thanks Lisa! xx

  • Taryn
    June 29, 2017 at 2:43 am

    This recipe looks so divine Emma! Thank you! And thank you for being such an honest and ‘real’ blogger. The internet is so lucky to have you back, sharing inspiring and real content. Much love to you Xxx

      June 30, 2017 at 12:31 am

      Thanks so much for your sweet comment Taryn, much love xx

  • Kim | Unrefined RD
    June 29, 2017 at 2:44 am

    Holy crap, Emma! I can’t imagine completing a 100km race, much less having the strength to continue while bleeding internally. You are an iron woman! Thanks for sharing your story. Sending best wishes for your recovery xx Kim.

      June 30, 2017 at 12:30 am

      Iron woman, or crazy woman, ha! Thanks love xx

  • Joan
    June 29, 2017 at 2:50 am

    Isn’t that timing. I was thinking 3 days ago – that’s strange did I unsubscribe cos I don’t remember doing that, but did miss you. Sorry to hear the why. I was in emergency for 20 hours, no food lots of drugs and yes they do dreadful things to your innards. Keep smiling.

      June 30, 2017 at 12:30 am

      Hope you’re feeling better Joan! xx

  • Noosa52
    June 29, 2017 at 3:25 am

    Hi Emm, leaky gut will get you in the end. Its a thing you must look after.
    Hoping you give yourself a break.

      June 30, 2017 at 12:29 am

      It’s plagued me for years, I’m finally feeling like I’m getting on top of it now though… which is great!

  • Kerri
    June 29, 2017 at 3:48 am

    Wow! What a story and what a recipe. I am so sorry to hear you were so I’ll after the anti inflammatories I know people who pop them pretty regularly! Glad you are on the mend. Your new home sounds perfect.
    Can not wait to try your recipe. I was hunting for a cauliflower sauce idea the other day this looks good. Is nutritional yeast the powdery one?

      June 30, 2017 at 12:29 am

      Hey love, nutritional yeast usually comes in flake form (not the fine powder you use to make bread). It’s sometimes also known as savoury yeast. I buy mine from the bulk bins of my local health food store.

  • Maree
    June 29, 2017 at 4:24 am

    So glad you’re back and feeling better – I missed your posts and recipes. Enjoy your new home and garden.

      June 30, 2017 at 12:27 am

      Thanks Maree! xx

  • Vanessa Clarkson
    June 29, 2017 at 5:16 am

    Wishing you a much calmer second half of 2017 Emma. Take care of yourself x

      June 30, 2017 at 12:26 am

      Thanks so much Vanessa xx

  • Clara
    June 29, 2017 at 9:07 am

    Wow- I follow you on Instagram but somehow I never heard the news. The other day I thought of you and your blog and thought…”how strange…she’s disappeared “!
    But hey, you are back and im happy for that. Congratulations on your knew home, how exciting.
    Thank you for sharing your story, while I read it I felt that I would have tried to reach the end of the race as well, why? why not take care of our bodies?
    Its an eye opener. thanks.
    The recipe looks delicious, Im in the middle of summer now but will save it for autumn. Love,

      June 30, 2017 at 12:26 am

      Us humans are weird creatures aye? I should’ve stopped, but in some ways I’m glad I didn’t. Had I stopped at 80km’s I might not have got the medical attention I needed and could’ve ended up in worse shape! xx

  • Sarah
    June 29, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear you’ve had a rough time, Emma, but glad that you seem to be on the mend. Thanks for this recipe. I made it for dinner tonight – it went down perfectly on a chilly Freo evening.

      June 30, 2017 at 12:23 am

      I’m so stoked you’ve made it already and loved it! xx

  • Jacquie
    June 29, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    Nice to have you back(:

      June 30, 2017 at 12:22 am

      Nice to be back 🙂 Much love lady xx

  • Suzanne
    June 29, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    I’m new to this blog but not new to your recipes + this one looks absolutely delicious. I have your first cookbook, with at least 20 pages bookmarked + plenty more that could be. I’ve just ordered 3 copies of your new cookbook, one for me + 2 for very dear friends, after borrowing it from the library + realising it is every bit as good as your first. I’m so grateful for all your amazing work + very glad to hear you are on the mend. I’m also really thankful that you shared about your experience. I thought I was reasonably well informed about health stuff but had no idea how damaging anti-inflammatories could be. How to undo a year of gut improvements in one dose – scary. I’ve shared this with several people. Thank you again + keep up the amazing work.
    PS also excited to discover you have a new Thermomix. Enjoy, they are fantastic. 🙂

      June 30, 2017 at 12:22 am

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment Suzanne. It makes me so happy to hear you’re loving my books, thanks so much for your support.
      Kinda ironic aye? I’m always trying to improve my gut health, and as you said, undid all the good work in only one day. Back to square one 🙂
      Re: my new Thermomix, it’s great! I’m not sure I’ll ever share TM recipes on here, but I will be sharing a few on my social media channels over the coming months (Facebook and Instagram). Much love xx

  • Anya
    June 29, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    Hi Emma,

    Wow, what a story! So glad you’re starting to regain strength, sending you lots of love.
    P.S. this recipe looks delicious

      June 30, 2017 at 12:19 am

      Thanks Anya! Hope you’re well xx

  • Sarah Richardson
    June 29, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience. Your story really resonates with me. I think too many of us wahine try to take on more than we can cope with. In the end our poor bodies suffer. Im glad youre on the road to recovery x

      June 30, 2017 at 12:19 am

      It’s definitely one of our flaws isn’t it. We’re all great at looking after everyone else, but when it comes to ourselves not so much!

  • Emma Ternouth
    June 29, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    Emma! I am so glad you’re on the mend and feeling better. I’ve missed your recipes, this looks delicious!! I’m going to make it when I go home for my family next week. The new house sounds dreamy. Keep up your amazing work, love the honesty too 🙂

      June 30, 2017 at 12:18 am

      Thank you! I hope you enjoy it xx

  • Shannon Lang
    June 29, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    That’s so scary! Thank you for sharing this story. I think listening to ourselves and slowing down when we need to is something a lot of people struggle with (at least I know I do!). Thanks for such a powerful reminder.

    Also, this recipe is exactly what I need on these cold winter days. Can’t wait to make it!

      June 30, 2017 at 12:17 am

      It sure was scary and as you said, for a lot of us it’s hard to slow down, even when we know we should! Sending much love x

  • Donna
    June 29, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing, Emma, your honesty is always inspiring! My dear Mum ended up with a perforated ulcer through taking ibuprofen for arthritis pain, and although it wasn’t fatal it definitely hastened her end. I am still unsure whether to consider that a blessing or not!
    I’m thrilled that you are I your new house: it sounds wonderful, and I wishes you many happy fruitful years there!
    Lastly, thank you for today’s recipe. When I (gfdf etc) get together with my vegetarian children preparing food becomes very interesting but this well be perfect!

      June 30, 2017 at 12:16 am

      Hey love, thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m so sorry to hear about your mum.
      Enjoy this recipe with your family! xx

  • margare hartley
    June 30, 2017 at 12:22 am

    So glad that you are feeling better – I think a lot of women minimize symptoms because we put so much into nurturing others and meeting all the demands of our lives. Take care and thanks for the recipe. It looks delicious.

      June 30, 2017 at 12:58 am

      You’re totally right xx

  • tmsky
    June 30, 2017 at 1:58 am

    many thanks

  • Jessie Snyder
    June 30, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    Oh Emma, I am so incredibly sorry for the health scare and chaos that has issued since your race. That is so scary. I’m happy to hear you are coming out of it okay though and able to heal <3. As someone also going through the recovery of a leaky gut – I sympathize with the recovery process! Wishing you well, and seriously considering whipping up this cozy pot on a cooler day this summer – it looks absolutely scrumptious! xo

  • Aimee
    June 30, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    Welcome back, we’ve missed you! So glad you are on the mend, rest up dearie!

  • Annmaree
    July 11, 2017 at 11:55 am

    Emma, this is one looks a keeper. I can resonate with your story as I pushed myself to the edge three years ago. We to were preparing a house to move, them moved to a new area, new schools, new jobs. All to much stress and physical hard work. An autoimmune thyroid disease and low iron were the result. My journey for healing through food has bought me to your books and blog. There are still many rough days and they will continue but us kiwi chicks are tough, which is why we push ourselves so hard! Thank you for inspiring me in my own healing journey and take care xx

      July 13, 2017 at 3:05 am

      Yep sadly it’s a situation us mothers find ourselves in all too often. I’m so sorry to hear you’ve had health troubles too and I’m so honored to have played a small part in your healing journey xx

  • Natalie
    August 27, 2017 at 12:06 am

    I have only just stumbled across your beautiful site and have already pinned about 20 delicious looking recipes… so glad to have found you! I am sorry to hear about your health challenges and just wanted to pass on the name of a book that was just given to me as a gift and has been a bit life changing – especially for those of us beset by many nebulous “mystery illnesses”. It is called Medical Medium by Anthony Williams and it just might be worth checking out. Best of luck and I look forward to making MANY of your gorgeous recipes.

      August 31, 2017 at 7:34 am

      Thanks so much Natalie and welcome! I’ll have to look that book up, thanks so much for the recommendation xx

  • Katie McGregor
    September 24, 2017 at 9:21 am

    Hi Emma that must have been awful. I am so glad you are on the mend. I just wanted to say however as a nurse and a sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis i take anti inflammatories almost daily and have do so for years and have never had any gasrtic symptoms or ulcers or anything like that. I only say this as there are some people out there who like me need to take these drugs and would benefit from hearing that such an extreme experience as yours is not a certianty. However it is absolutley a risk. Yes these drugs do come with risk and people need to take care. I hope you are well and truly healed now.

      September 24, 2017 at 9:59 am

      Hi Katie,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m doing ok. 6 months on I’ve still got some way to go to be back to full health, but I’m getting there. Absolutely respect your comment and understand that for many, taking these kinds of drugs is a must. Sadly my reactions are more common than most realise, I’m so glad that’s not been the case for you x