Spiced delicata squash salad

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At this time of year I become borderline obsessive about squashes in all their beautiful guises and tend to become overexcited when new varieties come into the shops. Through the season I tend to use as many types as I can and come up with new ways to enjoy them and this recipe is no exception. The sweetness of delicate squash lends itself to being paired with the heady aromatic spices of the Middle East and all it needs is a drizzle of a simple dressing to bring it to life. Here is the recipe for the warm squash salad and it can be served either as the main meal or an accompaniment. It is delicious with pan friend lamb cutlets if you fancy.

Ingredients- serves 2-3
For the salad

1 delicate squash
1 large red onion
4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
Seasoning
Handful of pine nuts
100g feta
Fresh coriander

For the za’atar mix- makes plenty to use and to keep
5 tsp sesame seeds
5 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano
5 tsp dried marjoram
5 tsp ground sumac
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
5 tsp ground cumin

1.Firstly I would make the za’atar mix so then it is ready and on standby for later. Simply take a small dry frying pan and toast the sesame seeds until golden and realising their flavour. Allow to cool and combine with the other ingredients; use a pestle and mortar or food processor to whizz them up and that’s all there is to it!

2. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Prepare the squash by peeling the skin using a speed peeler, cutting it in half lengthways and scooping out the seeds. Cut the squash into crescents and place in a deep baking tray. Peel the red onion and cut into wedges and add to the tray along with the garlic cloves (still in their papery skins).

3. Season the vegetables well. Combine the pomegranate molasses, oil and honey and drizzle over the vegetables; toss well to combine. Roast in the oven for around 15-20 minutes or until tender. While it roasts use a dry frying pan and toast the pine nuts.

4. Remove the squash from the oven and toss through the pine nuts and crumble in the feta. Sprinkle around a tablespoon of the za’atar spice mix and finish off with some freshly chopped coriander if you like. Serve immediately.

Spiced delicate squash salad- bring the soft glow of autumn to the dinner table!

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Squash and blue cheese macaroni bake

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Before thoughts turn to Christmas food and festivities, there’s time for one more recipe to get you through once you’ve had enough roast potatoes and sprouts! This squash and blue cheese bake is simple and can be made in advance so it is perfect for a casual dinner as well as if you’re entertaining. I have used coquina squash for this which makes a change to the usual butternut squash. Coquina squash is slightly more sweet and the flesh is soft and tender which lends itself perfectly for roasting. To offset the sweetness I have used a creamy blue cheese and some salty pancetta to give the dish a lift. I served this in individual dishes but you can make a larger one if you prefer.

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Ingredients- serves 4
1 coquina squash
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
30g plain flour
30g unsalted butter
150ml double cream
150ml milk
200g blue cheese such as dolcelatte or gorgonzola
250g macaroni
50g cheddar
50g parmesan
4 slices of pancetta

1. Get going by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160 fan ready for roasting the squash. Use a sturdy sharp knife and halve the squash lengthways. Scoop out the seeds, drizzle with the olive oil and place one garlic clove in each of the hollows. Roast for around 50 minutes or until tender. When the squash is ready, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and place in a bowl. Squeeze out the roasted garlic and add to the bowl with the squash. Use the back of a fork to mash it down until smooth and set aside whilst you make the base for the sauce.

2. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente as per the packet instructions; drain well and set aside.

3. Use a medium sized saucepan and add the flour and butter. Heat gently so the butter melts and combines with the flour to make a roux. Gradually pour in the milk and cream, stirring all the while so no lumps form. Increase the heat a touch and keep stirring until the sauce thickens. Remove the pan from the heat and add the blue cheese as well as most of the cheddar and parmesan (reserving some for the topping).

4. Take a frying pan and heat on a medium- high heat. Place the slices of pancetta in the pan and cook until crisp. Roughly chop the pancetta and add to the sauce. Add the roasted squash flesh to the sauce and stir well to combine. Stir the sauce through the cooked macaroni and place in an ovenproof dish or individual dishes. Top with the remaining cheese. Bake for half an hour or until golden and bubbling. Serve with a simple side salad.

Squash and blue cheese macaroni bakes- a twist on a well loved classic!

 

 

Butternut squash, sweet potato and parmesan soup

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Autumn days mean curling up with a roaring fire, rain beating against the window and plenty of comforting food. It also brings the squash season and this means that butternut squash soup is hard to resist. This soup combines squash with sweet potato and parmesan which brings the sweetness into balance with the umami edge that parmesan brings. The rind of parmesan is a secret weapon in cooking so I always keep them in the freezer so they are on hand to use in soups, stews, risottos and pasta dishes. My added extra is a delicate hint of spice and a hit of roasted garlic. I have also used the squash seeds to create a crunchy topping that can be sprinkled over the soup to serve so don’t delay- get cooking!

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Ingredients- serves 4-6
1 large butternut squash
2 sweet potatoes
Olive oil
2 bulbs of garlic
2 white onions- chopped
1.5 litres of hot vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
1-2 rinds of parmesan

For the seed topping
Sea salt
Chilli flakes

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Use a sturdy knife to cut the butternut squash in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and set aside for later. Use a knife to score the flesh. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into inch chunks. Place the squash on a baking tray and the sweet potatoes in another one before drizzling both with olive oil and sprinkling with salt. Roast in the oven for approximately 40 minutes or until tender. The squash will start to caramelise at the edges and this adds to the flavour. Cut the tops of the garlic bulbs off and wrap in a foil parcel with some oil and roast until tender.

2. Meanwhile you can prepare the seeds. Simply wash them and pat them dry. Pop them on a baking tray with a drizzle of oil, the sea salt and chilli flakes. Roast with the vegetables until the seeds are golden and crunchy. When they are ready, set aside and allow to cool.

3. Take a large pan that will be able to hold all of the soup. Heat a glug of oil over a medium heat and cook the onions until softened but do not allow them to colour. When the vegetables are cooked add the sweet potato and roasted garlic to the pan whilst you scoop out the squash before adding the flesh to the pan too. I then used a potato mashed to slightly break the vegetables down to make blending even easier later. Add the hot stock to the pan. Take the pan off the heat and allow it to cool until you are able to blend it. Blend until you reach the consistency you like. Return the pan to the heat, drop in the parmesan rinds and simmer gently. Simmer for at least an hour if you can so the parmesan has time to infuse. Taste as you go and adjust the seasoning according to taste. Serve in warmed soup bowls with plenty of fresh bread to dip.

Butternut squash, sweet potato and parmesan soup- the perfect antidote to a blustery autumn day!

 

 

Prawn and squash red Thai curry

When life gives you plenty of frozen king prawns and leftover butternut squash then the answer is to use them to create a beautifully fragrant Thai curry. Now for a word about the curry paste: yes, the ingredients list does look lengthy but it really is worth the effort! The paste can be made in large quantities ahead of time and then kept in the fridge. You will need the equivalent of around 2 tbsp worth of paste if you are cooking this for 2 people and simply double the amount for 4.

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g raw peeled king prawns- deveined
Half a small butternut squash- cut into bite sized chunks
300ml coconut milk
100ml chicken stock

For the red curry paste
6 whole dried red chillies
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tbsp galangal- chopped finely
1 tbsp lemonsgrass- chopped finely
1 tsp peppercorns
5 garlic cloves- finely grated
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- finely grated
2 shallots- finely chopped
1 lime- zest finely grated
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt

1. Start off by making the curry paste by toasting the coriander and cumin seeds in a small pan over a medium heat. As the spices start to release their fragrance, remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly before grinding in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine to form a thick paste.

2. Heat a small amount of vegetable or groundnut oil in a wok or wide frying pan and fry off the curry paste for a couple of minutes. Add the coconut milk and stock and stir well to combine. Increase the heat and bring to the boil before lowering to a simmer. I covered the pan and simmered it for around half an hour so it begins to reduce down and gives the flavours time to the flavours develop.

3. The chunks of butternut squash will take around 10 minutes for bite sized pieces so pop them in when you’re ready and simmer until almost tender. Check the chunks by piercing them with a knife; if it sinks in easily then it is ready! Towards the end of cooking, add in the prawns and simmer until they are cooked through. Serve the curry immediately with some extra chopped red chilli or a little freshly chopped coriander if you like and dig in. This is also delicious with sticky Thai rice which is easily accessible in supermarkets now.

King prawn and squash red curry- delicate, fragrant and oh so delicious so get cooking!

 

Chickpea, squash and spinach curry


In our household we love a great vegetable curry- often so much fresher and more appealing than their meaty counterparts. This curry is quick, easy and low of faff so no excuses for not rustling up a midweek feast! The ingredients here really need to speak for themselves so keep it simple! Of course, if you are a chilli fiend then add a little more here and there to suit your tastes but not so it drowns the sweetness of the squash. I have used spinach which is one of my favourites but this would also work well with kale. Sometimes I like a drier curry and in this case I usually halve the quantity of tomatoes and roast the squash a little beforehand to cut down on the cooking time. Squash which is roasted with some curry spices is delicious!

I served the curry with homemade brussel sprout bhajis which are a great twist on the traditional onion version. They are quick to make and they also freeze well (if there are any left of course!). See here for the recipe: http://wp.me/p4O5jd-px. Why not make it part of a vegetarian curry feast and also make a side of paneer shashlik which I absolutely love. Check out the recipe here, it’s so simple: http://wp.me/p4O5jd-j9.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
Half a butternut squash
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1 fresh red chilli- roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves- chopped
1 red onion- chopped
400g chopped tinned tomatoes
200g chickpeas- drained and rinsed
100g baby spinach- washed and dried

1. Start off by prepping the butternut squash. I will happily admit it, I hate cutting squash but fear not, I have a trick up my sleeve to take the work out of this task! Simply place the squash in the microwave for a couple of minutes, remove and place on a sturdy board ready for chopping The heat will slightly soften the squash and it makes it much easier to remove the skin so give it a try! Remove the skin and cut into bite sized chunks before setting aside.

2. Next, you need to make the curry paste. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, chilli and garlic to a pestle and mortar with a splash of water and work it until if forms a paste.

3. Heat a small glug of oil in a large pan over a medium heat and fry the red onion for a couple of minutes until softening. Add in curry paste and cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant- keep it moving so it doesn’t catch. In goes the cubes of squash next! Stir well to ensure the paste coats each cube of squash before adding the chickpeas, again, making sure they are well covered. Pour in the tinned tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the squash is tender and the sauce is thickened. Towards the end of cooking add in the baby spinach and cook until wilted.

Serve with your choice of side such as chapatti or simply enjoy it as it is with a final flourish of freshly chopped coriander.

Chickpea, squash and spinach curry- a spicy offering to keep you warm this winter!

Chard, butternut squash and goat’s cheese gnocchi

Chard, butternut squash and goat’s cheese gnocchi is the perfect way to make use of the new season vegetables and boost their flavour even more! Chard can be found in most supermarkets but can often be overlooked in favour of its better known friends such as kale and spinach. It’s flavour is akin to beetroot leaves but it is so versatile and just all the colours it comes in is incentive enough to pick up a bunch. I used butternut squash in this recipe but autumn is the time where there is an abundance of different varieties of squash so play around and experiment. Choose a sweeter squash for this recipe to balance the slight bitterness of the chard and the savoury goat’s cheese. I have used Carmarthen ham in this recipe which you can learn more about and order here: http://www.carmarthenham.co.uk. If you don’t use this then simply replace it with parma ham or omit for a vegetarian meal.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
Glug of olive oil
1 large red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
Few fresh sage leaves- finely chopped
Small bunch of chard- leaves and stems separated
200g butternut squash- cut into dice
70g Carmarthen or parma ham
3-4 tbsp. crème fraiche
Small log of soft goat’s cheese
Pack of fresh gnocchi- approx. 400-500g

1. Start off by taking a large frying pan and heating a glug of oil over a medium heat. Add in the onion, garlic and sage and cook together until they are softening. I often add a small amount of sea salt to the onions to draw the moisture out and this works well. Take the diced butternut squash and add to the pan; cover and cook the squash until tender. This will usually take around 15-20 minutes but keep checking as it will depend on the freshness of the squash and the size of the pieces. Stir from time to time.

2. Meanwhile you can prepare the ham; cut 50g of the ham into bite size pieces and reserve the other 20g. I then placed the reserved ham in a hot smaller frying pan and crisped it up before allowing to cool and cutting finely to sprinkle on the finished dish later.

3. For the chard, make sure the leaves have been separated from the tougher stalks as they need to be treated differently. Cut the stems into centimetre pieces and roughly chop the leaves. Quickly blanch the stems in a pan of boiling water for around 1 minute before plunging into iced water and then draining. Shocking the stems in cold water stops them from cooking further and also helps them to retain their colour. Add the cooked stems and the leaves to the pan with the butternut squash which should be lovely and tender. Pop in the squares of ham.

4. I find that fresh gnocchi can vary in texture and firmness a lot so I simply boiled the gnocchi for a minute and a half until starting to rise to the surface of the water before draining. While the gnocchi is boiling, add the crème fraiche to the pan with the squash and chard and stir well to combine. Tip the cooked gnocchi into the pan and combine so each piece of gnocchi is coated with the crème fraiche.

5. Lower the heat to low/ medium and give the gnocchi a few minutes to relax into the pan and combine with all the fresh flavours of the vegetables.Cut the goat’s cheese into small pieces and scatter in the pan. Cook for an additional minute or so to let it start to melt through the gnocchi. If you find the crème fraiche gets a little claggy then add a small splash of water to the pan and stir in well. Serve the gnocchi in deep bowls and add a liberal sprinkle of the crispy ham pieces on top.

Colourful chard, butternut squash and goat’s cheese gnocchi- a surprisingly light meal that’s packed full of flavour! I challenge you not to sneak a taste straight from the pan- just look at it…

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Butter bean, butternut squash and chorizo crumble

Think of a crumble and most people would conjure images of a piping hot fruity creation but, oh no, not this one! This butter bean, butternut squash and chorizo crumble gives a range of textures and flavours that you will cook again and again.

I have given this a Spanish twist to enhance the flavours from the chorizo which marries beautifully with the gentle sweetness of the squash and the creamy beans. You could also add chicken if you wanted an even heartier dish or leave out the chorizo and add in some other vegetables to make it vegetarian. Supermarkets are becoming quite handy in helping out with shortcuts too so if, like me, you can’t stand having to cut a solid butternut squash you can buy ready peeled squash which is great to have when time is short.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the filling
1 large white onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed or finely chopped
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cayenne
1 red chilli- deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
100g chorizo- chopped
Small butternut squash- cut into small cubes
1 large red pepper- chopped (or alternatively you can use the ready roasted jarred
peppers)
Tin of butter beans- drained and rinsed
Jar of passata- approx 400ml
200ml vegetable stock

For the crumble topping
100g plain flour
50g unsalted butter- softened
Seasoning
Manchego cheese- as much or as little as you like

1. To get started add a splash of oil to a large pan and gently sweat the onions and garlic. You are looking for gorgeously softened onions which are beginning to get a little colour. Pop in the spices, chilli (if using) and chorizo and cook out for a further couple of minutes so they release their flavour and the chorizo begins to colour. The chorizo enhance the smoked paprika even more!

2. I then add the cubes of butternut squash and red pepper. Stir well so they get a spicy coating and cook for a few minutes. Pop in the butter beans and, again, stir through. Next goes the passata and stock, season and bring the pan to a simmer, cover and leave for 15 minutes before then removing the lid and simmering for a further 15 minutes. If you have left your chunks of squash a little larger then 20 minutes followed by another 20 minutes may be needed but give it a check as you go.

3. Whilst that is cooking away and then sauce is starting to reduce you can make the crumble topping. I have kept this as simple as possible but you could substitute it with a breadcrumb topping if you prefer. Simply take the softened butter and add to a bowl with the flour and rub between your fingers; this will form a crumb. Season and add some grated manchego cheese if you like.

4. When the passata and stock has reduced down spoon the mixture into either one large ovenproof baking dish or individual ones if you prefer. If you are a cheese fan then you could always add small chunks of any leftover manchego cheese to the mixture so this will melt as it bakes. Sprinkle over the crumble topping and bake at 200c/ 180fan for around 20- 30 minutes until the topping is golden. Serve with crusty bread or a simple side salad.

Butter bean, squash and chorizo crumble- a vibrant dish to brighten up any day!

P.S. If, like me, you made too much the leftovers as just as delicous! I added spinach and cooked it so it wilted and served it with pan fried white fish for a variation.