Ode To Butternut Squash

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Returning to Durham for the autumn term, my first purchase is always a butternut squash (usually less than £2 from Tesco). I stroll home watching leaves fall and scarves billowing behind those escaping freshers’ flu (which quickly develops into the serious condition, first term flu). The walk is easy and my shopping bag light; no matter which miscellaneous food-stuffs have survived the summer, my old reliable will keep me warm on nights when rushing back to town isn’t an option.

These recipes can all be achieved with one squash and are freezable, saving you from cooking whilst trying to remember how to write a coherent sentence after a four month holiday.

Also, I cannot stand eating the same meal in different shapes (pasta lovers will understand!) so I’ve varied the flavours so you can avoid an endless butternut cycle!

Roasted vegetables

  1. Dice some squash into large chunks (skin on) and put in a roasting tray with:
    • Bell pepper • Parsnip • Carrot • Onion • Courgette
    (As long as you have two or more veg, you’re golden!)
  2. Add enough oil to cover the veg and season with rosemary, thyme and a pinch of salt.
  3. Roast for 30-50 minutes at 190°/170°Fan/Gas Mark 5.
  4. Remove from the oven when the vegetables are slightly charred at the edges but soft in the middle – I use a butter knife to check.
  5. Sprinkle with feta and then serve with pasta or couscous. Leftovers can be frozen – they’re amazingin a wrap with salad and sweet chilli sauce.

Vegan butternut chilli

  1. Finely dice some squash, onion, pepper and garlic. Put in a wok with 1 tbsp oil and cook until soft.
  2. Season with cumin and paprika.
  3. Add a tin of tomatoes (or two if you want to make the chilli go further).
  4. Add a pinch of chilli flakes or a finely diced small chilli.
  5. Weird tip, but trust me: add a square or two of dark chocolate. It deepens the earthy flavour and balances the sweet acidity of the tomatoes.
  6. When the chilli is boiling, add in a tin of kidney beans, upping the protein in this vegan dish whilst making it go further. I tend to use beans that come in chilli sauce just to add a little extra flavour.
  7. If you want the chilli to go on forever, add a cube of veg stock and 200ml of boiling water and make a chilli-soup. Personally, I tend to leave it as I prefer a thicker chilli.
  8. Serve with rice, pasta or a jacket potato and freeze any leftovers (there’ll be lots!).

Curried butternut and chickpea soup

  1. Dice some squash into medium cubes and season with garam masala, ginger, paprika and cumin.
  2. Coat with oil and roast for 30 minutes at 190°/170°Fan/Gas Mark 5.
  3. Once roasted, place in a wok with onion, garlic, chilli and cook until the onions are soft.
  4. Add a vegetable stock cube, 200ml boiling water and blend in a soup maker or with a handheld blender.
  5. Whilst blending add 1tbsp of crème fraîche (or leave out to keep it vegan).
  6. Add a tin of drained chickpeas and serve with naan bread, a tablespoon of Greek yoghurt and mint if you’re feeling fancy.

Butternut bolognese

  1. Remove the neck of the squash so you have just the round base, then slice in half lengthways.
  2. Scoop out the seeds so you are left with two bowls, one of which can be put in the fridge for another day.
  3. Score and coat in 1 tbsp oil. Season with rosemary and thyme.
  4. Roast for 30-50 minutes at 190°/170°Fan/Gas Mark 5.
  5. While it’s roasting, make some bolognese using any recipe you like (even shop-bought will do).
  6. Remove when fully roasted (see roasted vegetable recipe for details).
  7. Use the squash as a bowl for the bolognese, sprinkle with cheese and serve with a salad for a hearty winter meal.

And there you have it! Four squash recipes that are perfect autumnal comfort food. However, if you really cannot stand more squash, substitute for carrot, sweet potato or even pumpkin. So concludes my love letter to butternut squash – with a little spice and all things nice, I believe it will save your (culinary) life this term!

Illustrations:

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