Butternut Squash “Pasta” with Sage and Pinenuts

Christmas is over and everyone is full of remorse and new resolve. No drinking, healthy eating and lots of new exercise regimes are being undertaken by everyone. I myself have decided to try and drink less. I have so far managed to go six days without any alcohol which is probably the longest stretch I have managed since I was last pregnant 9 years ago.

I have also been scouring the newspapers and magazines for the latest ideas in healthy eating. Deliciously Ella is very last year now but Amelia Freer’s second book Cook. Nourish. Glow. seems to be very “of the minute”.  She is a Nutritional therapist and wants to completely re-educate the way you eat. She explains that we eat too much sugar, dairy, processed food and gluten. To summarise, somewhat briefly, she believes in buying good, seasonal, preferably organic produce and taking a little time to cook them at home. Good news for all you guys because that is exactly what you have been already doing for years. Not exactly rocket science.
What she does however is explain in some detail,  how absolutely fabulous all these vegetables, fruit, seeds and nuts are for you and will make you feel, especially if you can cut out the bad stuff. So here are three simple, healthy and delicious recipes to get you using your veg box up and feeling good about yourselves.
The first is by Amelia Freer herself and is a recipe for Spiralized butternut squash. If you are up to date with latest kitchen gadgets you will know that a spiralizer was last years must have gadget for turning vegetables into spaghetti, increasing your consumption of namely courgette and squash and simultaniusly reducing your gluten intake. The problem arises when you come to cooking the veg as you have to keep it quite al dente or it turns to mush.
I quite categorically decided that this was one gadget I could survive without. Looking through the accompanying cookbooks available I can plainly see that apart from the already mentioned spiralization of two different vegetables, all the other recipes in the book could have quite as easily been achieved using an old fashioned grater.
However, I was determined to see how this recipe worked so I turned to my trusty mandolin and created my own butternut squash tagliatelle. Personally I would leave out the garlic, which I found overpowering and with the addition of a large handful of freshly grated Parmesan, it was pretty good.
(To prepare butternut squash taliatelle – cut the butternut squash into 4 pieces lengthways each about 1-2 cms deep. and peel with a knife, Start shaving this sideways on your mandolin so that you have long, taliatelle like strips.)

Butternut Squash pasta with pinenuts and sage

Butternut Squash “Pasta” with Sage and Pinenuts
Serves 2

extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
large handful fresh sage leaves
1 small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and spiralised
2 tbsp toasted pine nut
squeeze of lemon juice

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan, add the garlic and sage and fry over a low heat for 1 minute. Set aside in a bowl.

Put the spiralised butternut squash into the same pan with a little more olive oil. Season well and sauté over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sage mixture and the toasted pine nuts.

Add a splash of water to help steam the squash and cook for another 2 minutes or until it is just tender.

Squeeze over a little lemon juice, drizzle over a little more oil and scatter over a pinch of salt and pepper.

Butternut Squash tagliatelle

Harissa Roast Vegetables with Coriander and Preserved Lemon Cous Cous & Tahini

This week I opted for a medium veg box less roots, and I have to say, I haven’t been quite so excited about my vegetable selection for a while. Sometimes I struggle for inspiration, for what to conjure up with yet more vegetables, but this week I could have used up my box three times over. The sight of parsnips and Brussel sprouts fills me with joy and is one of the few things I really look forwards to about winter – shorter days, central heating, layers of clothes, colds, mud and rain – no thank you but seasonal winter vegetables, being earthed up after a whole summer in the ground – now that’s a treat.

I started by putting nearly the whole box in one dish. A Moroccan inspired Harissa Roast Vegetables with Coriander and Preserved Lemon Cous Cous. I put in the red onions, the parsnips, the aubergine, the cauliflower and the courgettes. Then I threw in half a butternut squash I had left after making last week’s muffin. Had I had carrots, sweet potato or peppers in my box, they would have gone in too. You could serve this with Cauliflower Cous Cous, my obsession of the last few weeks but this week I was yearning for the real thing.

When it comes to Harissa, they vary in heat, so be careful. My favourite is Rose Harissa which is packed with flavour, without being overtly hot, so you can use generously.

Roast Veg in Tray

Harissa Roast Vegetables with Coriander and Preserved Lemon Cous Cous & Tahini
Serves 4
½ butternut squash, squash into bite-size pieces (you can leave skin on the squash, it’s up to you).
3 parsnips, peeled and cut into large bite-sized chunks
3 courgettes, thickly sliced 1 ½ cms
½ cauliflower broken in to large florets, each cut in half
4 garlic cloves, leave skin on
2 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges through the root
1 aubergine, cut into large bite-sized chunks
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp Ras el Hanuot
2 tbsp harissa paste
6 tbsp. Olive oil
2 tbsp. Tahini
1 lemon
200g couscous
Bunch of fresh coriander
4 small preserved lemons, seeds removed and finely chopped
Sea salt

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Mix the harissa with 5 tablespoons of the olive oil, the Ras el Hanout and the cumin seeds. Add a teaspoon of salt. Use this to coat the vegetables before roasting. It is important that they have enough room, spread out on baking trays. Some veg, such as courgettes and aubergines benefit from having a tray to themselves if you want to make sure they brown. Root vegetables such as parsnips and squash which cook in similar times can share a tray. They cauliflower, onions and garlic cloves go together on another. Roast for 15 minutes before checking and moving around the veg to ensure even cooking. Check again after another 15 minutes and remove or give longer. They should all be golden brown and tender.

Meanwhile, make the Tahini dressing by very simply adding the juice of half a lemon to the Tahini with a large pinch of salt. Stir in enough water to make a smooth, creamy consistency. Check seasoning and add more salt or lemon juice to taste.

Meanwhile put couscous into a large bowl and put the kettle on. Mix the final tablespoon of olive oil in with the cous cous and a large pinch of salt. Massage the oil into the cous cous and then cover with boiling water. Set aside for 10 mins. Fluff up with a fork.

Meanwhile, chop your coriander and preserved lemons and add to the cous cous when ready. When the roast veg are ready, toss together, check seasoning and pile onto of the cous cous. Drizzle with the Tahini sauce.

Cous cous

Butternut Squash and Pecan Muffins

And finally for this week, I am always looking for new puddings, cakes and desserts which help use up vegetable too. Firstly, it is a great way of ensuring that you get more veg into your and your kids diets but also it is really good at using up stray vegetables at the end of the week. I had a butternut squash hanging around and so I set to work thinking up something new. The only trouble with finding new recipes for cakes, is they have to work. It is not like a recipe for soup or curry; add a bit of this, chuck in a bit of that. Baking is a science and unless you have all your ingredients weighed out exactly, it just does not work.

Butternut Squash for microwave

I googled Butternut Squash Muffins and started wading through possible suggestions. Jamie Oliver’s received very bad press, a couple of American recipes did better. You have to be so careful with cakes with vegetables in them, as so often the recipe is completely precise until it lists “1 butternut squash” with no indication of even their size, let alone weight. I finally narrowed it down to the best sounding recipe with the most stars – “Perfect Butternut Squash Muffins.” It was a complete disaster. The batter was like glue, they were inedible and I had to completely start again. It was a bit distressing as it had made the hugest amount of mix which I hadn’t realised, as the measurements where all in cups. 3 cups of flour doesn’t sound much, but it is a whole lb in weight. The whole lot had to go in the bin.

I was determined to get it right next time. Just to be safe, I halved the recipe, made a lot changes and finally I am happy to share them with you. I have to say, they really are very good – lots of flavour, light and crumbly and a nice added crunch from the nuts. I just ate 3!

Butternut Squash and Pecan Muffins 2

Butternut Squash and Pecan Muffins
The microwaving the squash is a strange one, but it does work. Muffins do not like to be overworked so go easy. Finally, you need to allow them to cool well before eating so that the baking soda can do it’s work.
Makes 11- 12 Muffins
1 small butternut squash or ½ a larger one (1 cup cooked)
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Cut a 1/2-inch hole into the larger part of the squash and cook squash in a microwave for 6 minutes on high. Turn the squash over and cook for another 6 minutes until squash can be easily pierced with a fork. (If you would rather use the oven, cut the quash in half and roast in the oven at about 180⁰C for about 40 minutes, until soft.) Set aside to cool. If you haven’t turned on your oven then pre-heat it now, or turn it down to 170⁰C. Halve squash lengthwise, if you microwaved it and scoop out seeds. Measure 1 cup squash into a mixer or food processor. Add the eggs, vegetable oil, brown sugar and maple syrup into the squash. Whisk well. Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and cloves and add to the squash mixture until you have a smooth batter. Do not over mix, pulse the food processor if necessary. Stir in the chopped walnuts. Pour the batter into muffin cups to about 2/3 full. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the centre

of a muffin comes out clean, about 15 – 20 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Butternut Squash, Microwaved

Thai green curry with Butternut Squash

Next in my box was a butternut squash, a sure sign that autumn is coming and soon to be followed by Riverford’s ever increasing array of pumpkins and squashes. Having spent the whole summer soaking up as much sunshine as they possibly can, now they seem to reflect the sun with their deep orange hue. Their flavour is quite bland so they lend themselves beautifully to aromatic Thai flavours but also the spicy, salty, sour balance works perfectly to counteract their sweetness. Make sure you get the balance right and keep adjusting until perfect

Home-made green curry paste is really easy to make and so much better that anything you will ever buy ready-made in the shops. It is well worth the effort.

There are some great Thai shops in South- London. I often pop in to stock up on coconut milk, Tamarind, thick wide Thai rice noodles, Nam Pla (fish sauce), palm sugar, dried shitake mushrooms, sweet chilli sauce and shrimp paste. All of these ingredients keep really well so it is well worth the trip. Even the lime leaves and Galangal freeze well. I love to loose myself in these shops. They usually have a lovely array of fresh produce – baskets of limes, bunches of coriander, lemon grass, shallots, ginger, Pak Choi, Bok Choi and beautiful pea aubergines. Also look out for sweet, Thai or Holy basil which tastes really fresh, like a cross between normal basil and mint. It really gives an authentic Thai taste to your food especially in a green curry. It is like a short holiday to Thailand.

Butternut Squash Thai

Thai green curry with Butternut Squash

You can add all sorts of vegetables to this curry such as bean sprouts, sugar snap peas, broccoli, mange tout and mushrooms.

Serves 4

1 butternut squash
2 shallots (pealed)
3 cloves garlic (pealed)
1 large piece of fresh ginger (pealed)
2 sticks lemon grass sliced thinly
5 lime leaves
2 fresh green chillis (seeds removed)
1 large bunch coarsely chopped coriander leaves and stems
1 small bunch of Thai Basil
Vegetable oil
1/2 pint vegetable or chicken stock
1 can (14 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
Nam Pla (fish sauce)

Trim off the stem and blossom end of the squash.   Halve lengthwise and scoop out and discard the seeds and fibres. Remove the peel and cut into large chunks about 1 inch pieces.  Toss lightly in vegetable oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a medium oven until golden brown and soft, about half an hour.  Do not over-cook.  You want the chunks to retain their shape.

Now make the green curry paste. In a liquidiser or with a hand blender, puree the shallots, garlic, ginger, chillis, lemon grass the lime leaves and most of the coriander.  Whiz until really smooth.  Add a little water if necessary.  You should have a bright green paste.

Lightly fry the paste in a wok or large pan for a minute or two in a little oil to release flavours.  Add the stock and bring to a gentle boil.  Add the chunks of cooked squash and any other lightly cooked vegetables and then coconut milk.  At this stage try not to boil again as this will kill the flavour of the coconut.  Remove from heat and season with first Nam Pla (which is very salty), further salt if necessary, freshly squeezed lime juice and the remaining coriander.  Adjust seasoning.  It should be a fragrant combination of sweet, sour and spicy.  Serve with Thai rice or noodles.

Butternut Squash