Roasted Squash (Zucca al Forno)

It is squash time of year again and you just know you are going to be inundated with them. This is really the simplest way of dealing with them. No need to skin them, it all goes in, even the seeds. Eat it on its own, as a side dish or chuck into salad, pasta or soup.

Roasted Squash (Zucca al Forno)

1 large squash, whatever you have got

1 pinch dried red chilli

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1 large handful fresh sage leaves

1 stick cinnamon, broken into pieces

olive oil

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Halve the butternut squash, remove and reserve the seeds, then cut the squash into slices or chunks with the skin left on and put in a bowl. Add the whole sage leaves, the pieces of cinnamon, a pinch of chilli flakes, salt and pepper and enough olive oil to rub the whole lot over all the squash pieces so they are well covered. Place the squash in one layer in a roasting tray. Sprinkle over the seeds, cover tightly with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until the skin of the squash is soft, then remove the foil and cook for another 10 minutes until the squash is golden and crisp. Remove the cinnamon.

Squash, Red Onion and Goat’s Cheese Tart

Last week, I did a Fig and Almond Tart, and this week I am doing another one, only this time it is savoury. I know some people panic at the word pastry, but I promise you this is a fool proof recipe and you can knock up the pasty in the food processor in a matter of minutes. This combination of pumpkin or squash with red onion and goats cheese is just a winner. Once again, any of a number of different squashes or pumpkins will do to replace the somewhat ubiquitous butternut squash. Feel free to experiment.

squash-red-onion-and-goats-cheese-tart

Squash, Red Onion and Goat’s Cheese Tart

Serves 6 – Tart tin 10” / 25cm

For the pastry

175g plain flour

80g butter, cold and cubed

Pinch of salt if using unsalted butter

1 egg

For the filling

2 large red onions, peeled and finely slice

Olive oil

Small bunch of thyme, very finely chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

400g squash or pumpkin, peeled and cubed into 1cm cubes

250g hard goats cheese, cubed

½ pt double cream

3 egg yolks

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Put the flour and butter for the pastry, and salt if using, in a food processor. Mix until you have breadcrumbs. Add the egg and just mix enough for the pastry to come together in a ball. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C. Toss the cubed squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes until soft and golden brown. Meanwhile sweat the sliced onions on a low heat with a little olive oil, the thyme and some salt and pepper. Cook down until beginning to caramelise. Roll out the pastry and line the tart tin. Get a round piece of greaseproof paper and carefully cover the pasty with it. Folding it down over the top edge. Blind bake for about 15 minutes or until the pasty is very light golden brown. Mix the cream with the yolks and season with a little salt and pepper. Add the roasted squash and goats cheese and the onions. Pour into the tart case. Turn the oven down to 170C and cook the tart for about 20-30 minutes, until set and lightly golden brown.

pumpkin-and-squash

Squash Dal

Next up, a really comforting bowl of sunshine. I don’t know where the expression comes from, but this is food which hugs you from the inside. Not the least because not only lentils but surprisingly pumpkin or squash are really very good for you. Packed with vitamins, minerals and all sorts of thing that do you good. But more so, because it tastes so delicious, and that is bound to make you feel happy.

butternut-squash-dal

Squash Dal

2 brown onions

Coconut oil

200 g yellow split peas

800 g butternut squash or any other squash or pumpkin you like such as kobocha or crown prince

1 fresh red chilli

2 clove garlic, peeled and grated

Large knob of ginger, scrapped with a teaspoon and grated

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, freshly ground (available from good Indian shops)

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Sea salt

Fresh coriander

Peel, finely chop and add the onions to a pan over a medium heat with some coconut oil. Sweat it down for 10 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, chill and spices and a teaspoon of salt and cook for a minute more. Add the split peas and cover with plenty of water, bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, halve, peel and chop your squash into 2cm cubes, then add to the pan, top up with water if necessary and cook for a further 25 minutes, or until everything is soft and the liquid is reduced and creamy. Stir regularly during cooking, to ensure it is not sticking. Check seasoning and add salt to taste. Finish with some freshly chopped coriander. Serve with rice or poppadoms.

kabocha

Roast Butternut Squash and Red Onion Salad with Tahini Dressing

It is nearly Halloween and the fields are full of pumpkins so I thought I would devote this week purely to them. If you are passing any of the four Riverford’s farms celebrating “pumpkin day”, be sure to pay them a visit. Apparently it’s a real family friendly event with plenty to keep everyone entertained, including pumpkin carving, face painting, wildlife spotting, chilli stringing, Christmas food and drink tasters and plenty of organic refreshments. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it as I’m off to Sardinia for, hopefully, a little last sun before winter truly sets in. However, these pumpkin recipes, with their beautiful, bright orange colours, are full of sunshine too.

First up, a variation of salad from Ottolenghi.  Unusually for a Ottolenghi recipe it has surprisingly few ingredients in it (and I even managed to cut some of those down) and it is really very easy and quick. You don’t even have to peel the squash.

roast-butternut-squash-and-red-onion

I wanted to serve my version as a salad so I added couple of handfuls of wild rocket leaves. Remember you can use one of the many different varieties of pumpkin to replace the butternut squash. Try kabocha which also does not need peeling. Don’t forget that Riverford are selling a Squash Box right now with a selection of at least three different varieties for £9.95.

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Roast Butternut Squash and Red Onion Salad with Tahini Dressing

1 large butternut squash (around 1.1kg), cut into 2cm x 6cm wedges

2 red onions, cut into 3cm wedges

50ml olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

3½ tbsp tahini paste

1½ tbsp lemon juice

3 tbsp water

30g pine nuts

A couple of handfuls of salad leaves, such as rocket

A little extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt, mixed to make a salad dressing

Heat the oven to 180C. Put the squash and onions in a large bowl, add three tablespoons of oil, a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper, and toss well. Spread, skin down, on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes until the vegetables have taken on some colour and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions: they may cook faster than the squash, so may need to be removed earlier. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Put the tahini in a small bowl with the lemon juice, water & a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Whisk to the consistency thin cream, adding more water or tahini as necessary.

Pour the remaining oil into a small frying pan on a medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and half a teaspoon of salt, cook for two minutes, stirring, until the nuts are golden brown, then tip the nuts and oil into a small bowl.

To serve, dress the leaves with the salad dressing and scatter them on a large plate. Top with the vegetables. Drizzle over the tahini dressing. Scatter the pine nuts on top.

selection-of-pumpkins

Soba Buckwheat Noodle Miso Soup with Squash, Cauliflower & Mixed Seeds

My personal diet message to myself as I get older is all about re-hydration. There is no doubt as we age everything: our hair and nails and skin gets drier and moisturising from the inside as well as the outside can really help.  We are used to rubbing fatty moisturisers into our skin, but this is constantly at attack from the environment, so it would seem that it might be more effective to put the fats inside you so that your body can do the job of lubricating you itself. Of course I mean good fats rather than bad fats, namely Omega 3 fats, essential fatty acids. I think we all panic at this word, imagining that we have to consume bucket loads of sardines and mackerel to achieve our daily quota, but whilst fatty fish is clearly good for you all sorts of vegetables, seeds and nuts are also excellent sources.

Here are a few to try and include in your diet
Flaxseeds
Walnuts
Beef
Brussel Sprouts
Cauliflower
Winter Squash
Broccoli
Kale
Spinach
Green Beans
Parsley

I really like this miso broth. It is clean and restorative. You can add all sorts of vegetables that you want, preferably from the list above and then you know it is going to be super good for you!

Soba Noodle Soup 2

Soba Buckwheat Noodle Miso Soup with Squash, Cauliflower & Mixed Seeds
100g per person Soba Buckwheat Noodles(Try Clearspring or Yataka )
½ a Squash or a piece of pumpkin (Sweet Mama, Butternut, Acorn)
½ Cauliflower
Sunflower Oil
Seeds (Pumpkin, Sunflower, Sesame, Black Sesame etc)
Organic Barley or Brown Rice Miso (Try Clearspring or Yutaka)
Sesame Oil
Large knob of Ginger, grated preferably on a Microplaner
1 clove garlic, grated preferably on a Microplaner
Fresh Red Chilli, Very finely chopped
Fresh Lime Juice or Pon Zu

Put a pan of salted water on to boil. Peel and cut your pumpkin or squash into 1cms chunks. Cut the cauliflower into bite-size florets. Add the noodles, cauliflower and squash to the boiling water and cook until the noodles are completely cooked. They should no longer taste floury. Drain well in a colander and then toss in some sesame oil.  In the same saucepan fry the garlic, ginger and chilli in a little sunflower oil for a few a few minutes. Add a litre of water and a couple of tablespoons of miso to taste. When you have got a really delicious tasting broth add the noodles and vegetables back in with a good squeeze of lime to taste, Do not boil as this will kill the active enzymes in the miso. Scatter with seeds and serve.

Soba Noodle Soup 3

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