As Autumn progresses, with every week you cannot help noticing, that a new harvest comes and goes by. Apples, pears or quinces, then time for digging out root vegetables, like carrots, parsnips or celeriac. By the time October arrives, we inevitably think about pumpkins. This month, market stalls and shops are flooded with orange pumpkins for carving. Myself, I am on the lookout for a different fare: those oddly shaped, sized and coloured pumpkins or squashes. They often are so gorgeous that I find it difficult to chop them up, as they look more like a home decoration than edible ingredient!
Pumpkin or Squash
Pumpkins and squashes are cousins, so all stays in the family: pumpkin actually is a type of a squash, while squash is considered a fruit as it grows on the vine. I love versatile pumpkins for their orangey, nutty flesh and addictive edible seeds. Squashes are more mild, tasting great roasted or in soups. Choice is hard, so I would go for both of them instead!
Baked Kabocha Pumpkin
I simply cannot have enough of this gem. I cut Kabocha into thick chunks and add to curries or soups. It has this nutty flavour, and starchy texture similar to a sweet potato and cooks pretty fast. However, to appreciate its uniqueness, I simply cut Kabocha into wedges, skin on and scoop out the seed. Don’t discard them though! Clean the seed and roast them in an oven for a delicious snack - they are as addictive as sunflower seeds.
Once cut, drizzle Kabocha pieces with oil or goose fat and pop into a hot oven for about 30 min, until flesh is soft. Once it is done, sprinkle it with Fleur de Sel and serve immediately. Kabocha done this way makes a perfect match for stews or roasted meats, anything saucy will do as you can use the chunks to wipe clean all that gravy from your plate.
Roasted Acorn Squash
Acorn squash flesh has light yellow flesh and a good way to prepare it is to cut the squash into wedges or halves. You need to scoop out the seed pulp and discard it, squash seeds are inedible. Then you treat the squash the same way as pumpkin - put it into a hot oven for about 30 minutes. When it is roasted, seasoned it with salt, I recommend using Fleur de Sel from Guerande to finish it perfectly. Squash has a bit neutral taste and you could pair it with more distinctively flavoured dishes.
Roasted Butternut Squash
In the UK Butternut Squash is available all year round. I use it very often to make soups, in slow pots or simply bake it for an easy side dish. It has a sweet nutty flavour. Butternut squash is quite easy to peel, unlike other pumpkins or squashes - a pear like shape and smooth skin makes it easy to process. Butternut squash seed pulp is relatively small and once you scoop it, you are left with a quite a lot of flesh to cook.
I suggest to turn it into a centre piece on your dinner table and give it a recognition it deserves - just because it became so easily available it does not need to be a boring fare. Cut Butternut squash halfway and scoop seeds. Place the squash on a hot tray, inside facing up and drizzle it with oil of your choice or goose fat. Bake it for 30 min and check with a fork if it is soft enough and then scatter on a top of each half of squash a handful of crumbled feta and walnuts. Pop it in the oven for an extra 10 min and serve it. Once on a table, you can season it with salt, but be mindful that feta itself is quite salty.
1 Kabocha pumpkin
1 Acorn squash
1 medium Butternut Squash
A handfuls of walnuts
Hazelnut / coconut oil / goose / duck fat to drizzle
Fleur de Sel