Pumpkins & Squashes21/07/2012 14:39
I just love pumpkins and Squash. They come in many shapes and sizes and I just love their colours. Take butternut squash; it has a sweet, nutty taste and is great to use in many dishes. I also really like the Acorn squash, they have a green skin and are an acorn shape. They have a sweet firm yellow flesh, and are ideal for stuffing with couscous or spicy rice.
They really make great winter comfort food, are very easy to prepare and cook, and are delicious in many sweet and savoury dishes. The best thing about them is although they are quite sweet they are really low in fat. They are packed full of vitamins E & C great for kids who really like the sweet taste of them. Also the pumpkin seeds can be dried then eaten as a snack, they are rich in vitamin E, Zinc and Iron. Check out the recipe for pumpkin seeds in my Cookbook.
To get the best from your pumpkins and squash, they shouldn't feel soft or have any broken skin as they will go mouldy.They will last for up to five weeks on a veg rack, but once you have cut into them you should keep them in the fridge and eat with in a couple of days or so. The larger pumpkins are not always the tastiest, its the smaller ones with the darker orange or green skins which have the more sweetest and concentrated flavour.
Butternut squash is one of the finest of the winter squash. Like its name suggests, the flesh has a sweet, buttery flavour that is enhanced by roasting, goes very well with warming winter spices and seasonings. Delicious used in many recipes from stews, gratins, pasta dishes, risottos, soups and curries, also wonderful halved and baked with their skins on.
The butternuts hard rind and awkward shape means that they require careful cutting - The best way I find to cut up a Butternut squash is to use a good heavy chefs knife. Then, cut the top and bottom off the squash. Halve and scrape out all the seeds. Then peel using a sharp vegetable peeler to peel the skin away in long strips. Then, cut into strips the width you require for your recipe, then dice into cubes.
Pumpkins are a little easier to prepare, just cut wedges off the whole pumpkin.
ROASTING ~ really brings out their sweetness, try these ideas ...
Cut the peeled squash into wedges, put into a roasting tin, drizzle over olive oil, season and roast for about 30-40 mins. Try adding some herbs, sage goes really well with squashes and pumpkins, as does rosemary or thyme, also throw in a few quartered onions as well, makes a great side dish.
SAUTEEING ~ Pan fry peeled and cubed squash in a little butter and olive oil, add a splash of stock after 5 mins, the squash will absorb this, then spice it up by adding some chilli flakes.
STEAMING ~ This is a great way to cook squash as it doesn't absorb too much water. Cover and steam for 10 mins or until tender. Serve it with a drizzle of flavoured oil, or mash it, adding a little cream and a pinch of nutmeg.
Also pumpkins are great fun to carve and make jack o'lanterns at Halloween!
Try them in these recipes...
PUMPKIN AND PASTA
Cut 500g Pumpkin flesh into small cubes, then saute in a little butter until almost soft, add a few chopped sage leaves and a handful of chopped walnuts along with a little stock. When the pumpkin starts to break down a little, pour in some double cream and a sprinkle of grated parmesan.
Serve over your favourite pasta.
A lovely creamy gratin, very much comfort food!
~ Serves 4
1 butternut squash
2 garlic cloves, crushed
175ml double or single cream
75g grated parmesan or Gruyere cheese
few freah sage leaves
Heat oven 190C/170F/GAS 5
Peel the squash and cut in halve, remove the seeds, and cut into thin slices.
Place in a 1-litre baking dish. Scatter over the sage leaves and season with salt & ground black pepper. Put the garlic and cream into a saucepan, bring to the boil, pour over the squash in the dish. Sprinkle over the grated cheese. Cover with baking foil, pop into oven and bake for around 45 -50mins, until squash is soft and the top is bubbling and golden brown. Delicious served along side a roast dinner.
"Pumpkins, pumpkins plump and ready to eat, cut of their heads and scoop out their seeds and make them into tasty treats!"
ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS
1/2 Cup pumpkin seeds
2 tsp olive oil or vegetable oil
Sea-salt to taste
Heat the oven to 300F/150C
Rinse the seeds to remove some of the pulp then dry them well. Toss the seeds in a bowl with the oil and the seasoning of your choice. Spread them onto a oiled baking sheet and bake for about 30 mins, stirring them occasionally until they are golden brown.
Once cooled, store the seeds in an airtight container.
Seasonings to try ~
Garlic powder or salt
ROAST SQUASH WITH CRANBERRIES
2 Butternut squash or Acorn squash
100g Basmati rice
50g wild rice
2tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
100g dried cranberries
50g walnuts, roughly chopped
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
Nutmeg - for grating
Salt & Blackpepper
FOR CRUNCHY CRUMB TOPPING ~
Mix all these ingredients together.
70g fresh white or wholemeal breadcrumbs
25g parmesan cheese, finely grated
handful - flaked almonds
Cut through the centre of the acorn squash and trim the stalk and the root so the squash will sit level, then scoop out the seeds. If using butternut squash, cut lengthways in half and scoop out and discard the seeds. Place the prepared squash onto a oiled baking tray.
Cook the two types of rice separately according to your packet instructions, and drain well.
In the meanwhile preheat the oven 190C/375F/Gas5.
Melt the oil in a frying pan, add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and transparent.
Tip the cooked rice, onion and garlic into a bowl, add to that the cranberries, walnuts, parsley, grated nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste, mix well together.
Divide the stuffing mixture into the squashes, then sprinkle over with the breadcrumb mix and dot each with a little butter. Pop into the oven for about 45-50 mins or until squash is tender and the topping lovely and crisp.
Tip ~ you can vary the stuffing ingredients, try using other nuts like pine nuts or almonds.Or replace the cranberries with dried apricots or raisins.