Last weekend saw the first of my new seasonal eating columns appear in Waitrose Weekend newspaper. Designed to highlight different ways to prepare a seasonal ingredient, either vegetable or fruit, the column will appear once a month with three of my favourite recipes plus some simple preperation ideas.
If you’re at all like me, it’s so easy to buy a large bag of something like kale, a gorgeous crispy Savoy cabbage or squash, use half for a recipe and then wonder what to do with the rest. This feature is designed to help solve that challenge and I intend that the recipes I show are the ones that really highlight the best ways to get the most out of the ingredient. These are my hero recipes for that particular month.
If you didn’t pick up last week’s issue (Oct 12 – 15) and so missed out on the recipes, I’m posting them here.
I love this time of year when the rich colours of the season are nowhere more exemplified than in the wonderful variety of winter squashes with all their glorious golds, reds and oranges. When I started out as a food writer nearly forty years ago they were nowhere to be seen. Now I wouldn’t be without them for their versatility and ability to add colour and comfort to my favourite dishes. Each one has its own characteristics and flavour but are easily interchangeable in most recipes. I’ve picked three of my favourite ways of cooking them (plus some standby easy suggestions) – each of these recipes will be appearing again at my kitchen table over the next few months if I have anything to do with it.
Spiced butternut squash with chickpeas and coconut
A versatile dish that is better made a day or two ahead, I like to make it with chickpeas soaked and cooked from scratch for the texture they bring. I soak and cook a whole pack and freeze any I don’t use for other dishes such as hummus.
Serves 6/Prepare 20 minutes plus overnight soaking time/Cook 2 hours
200g LoveLife dried chickpeas
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves garlic
1 large butternut squash about 500g, peeled, deseeded and cubed
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
I large red onion, thinly sliced
3 tbsp rose harissa
2 preserved lemons, chopped
400ml can coconut milk
Greek yogurt and chopped fresh coriander to serve
1 Cover the chickpeas with cold water and leave to soak overnight. The next day drain and place in a pan with enough cold water to cover generously. Add a cinnamon stick and 2 whole garlic cloves, bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes then reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes until tender.
2 Preheat the oven to 220C gas mark 7. Toss the cubed squash with the oil, cumin, coriander, cardamom, sugar and seasoning. Arrange in a single layer in a roasting tin, and roast for 30 – 40 minutes turning occasionally until the squash is golden brown.
3 While the squash is roasting, drain the chickpeas. Heat remaining oil and cook the onion and remaining chopped garlic until soft then return chickpeas to the pan with 600ml of their cooking liquid. Add the harissa, preserved lemons and coconut milk and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes then stir in the roasted squash and all the juices from the roasting tin. Simmer together for a further 10 minutes then serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt scattered with chopped fresh coriander, accompanied by warm flat bread or pitta.
Mary’s tip: I love this dish so much I make this full recipe amount even if only cooking for a couple of us and then whizz up any leftovers with chicken or vegetable stock for a warming soup the next day
Pumpkin and chorizo risotto with pine nut crisp
In the darker months, this risotto is one of my favourites and a good way to use up all the pumpkin you don’t need after making Halloween lanterns with the kids. The cheese crisp isn’t essential but I like the texture it adds to the finished dish
Serves 3 – 4/Prepare 15 minutes/Cook 40 minutes
60g Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
60g Cooks’ Ingredients diced chorizo
500g Coquina squash, peeled, deseeded and cubed
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
250g risotto rice
75ml dry white wine
1 litre simmering chicken stock
1 Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking sheet with a sheet of baking parchment. Scatter half the grated cheese to a thickness of about 1cm and add a few pine nuts to each – don’t press down. Bake for 7 – 8 minutes until melted and golden. Leave to cool on the sheet for a few minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.
2 While the crisp is cooking put the oil, onion and chorizo in a medium non-stick pan. Cook over a medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes until softened. Add the cubed squash and cook over a medium heat for 12 – 15 minutes until the squash is tender and golden brown. Stir in the sage and rice and cook for a minute to coat in the pan juices, then stir in the white wine.
3 Gradually add the hot stock a ladleful at a time and keep stirring with the mixture bubbling gently until the rice absorbs each amount then add more stock and continue to stir until that is absorbed. This will take 15 – 20 minutes by which time you should have a creamy risotto with the rice just tender but not mushy.
4 Off the heat stir in the Parmesan and butter and season to taste. Leave the pan to stand with the lid on for 5 minutes. Serve in warmed serving plates with the cheese crisp broken into pieces.
Mary’s tip: Chill any leftover risotto then roll into balls and coat in egg and breadcrumbs. Fry in oil for a snack or tapa.
Squash and shallot tarte Tatin
Oh, the joy of ready-made all butter puff pastry for a dish like this! It’s so quick to prepare and cook, making this tarte a favourite for Saturday lunch or when cold, cut into pieces for tapas
Serves 2 – 3/Prepare 20 minutes/Cook 50 minutes
2 tbsp olive oil
400g onion squash, deseeded and cut into wedges (you can peel it or not depending on what kind of finish you want)
6 echalion shallots, skinned, trimmed and cut in half
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
320g ready rolled sheet all butter puff pastry
1 Preheat the oven to 220C gas mark 7. Heat the oil in a deep 23cm heavy duty omelette pan with an oven-proof handle over a medium heat (you could use a heavy-duty cake tin instead). Arrange the squash and shallots, cut side down, in a single layer over the surface of the pan so there are no gaps. Pour over the honey, vinegar and thyme and season well. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes on a gentle heat without turning or stirring until the vegetables are golden brown underneath and almost tender. Cover the pan with foil or a lid for the last 5 minutes to cook the top of the vegetables. Remove from the heat.
2 Cut a circle the same diameter as the pan from the pastry (use the trimmings for cheese straws). Lift carefully to cover the vegetables, pressing firmly into place and tucking in the edges neatly. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 25 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.
3 Remove the pan from the oven and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a warm serving plate and allow the tarte to drop onto the plate. If any vegetables have become detached simply place back in position. Serve warm or cold with a salad or green vegetable.
Mary’s tip: Roll out the pastry trimmings to a rectangle, brush with a little English mustard and scatter with grated cheese (a good way to use up dog-ends!) Fold over, cut into strips and bake until crisp.
Three quick ideas with squashes
Roast squash wedges – toss a pack of Butternut squash wedges (or any cubed left over pumpkin from the other recipes) in a mix of ground cumin, smoked paprika, a little chilli and dark brown sugar and some olive oil. Roast in a hot oven for about 45 minutes, turning once or twice until golden.
Squash, ginger and lentil soup –Sweat unpeeled wedges of Coquina or Onion squash with crushed garlic and chopped root ginger in a little oil until golden and tender, add to red lentils and vegetable stock and cook until soft then puree. Serve with a dollop of yogurt.
Braised pumpkin, apple and onion – cook chunks of pumpkin with sliced cooking chorizo or pancetta cubes until browned. Add cored wedges of Cox apples, chunks of red onion and season. Tip into in a baking dish, add the grated rind and juice of 1/2 lemon and pour over a glassful of white wine. Bake in a medium hot oven until tender. Add cooked puy lentils and a scattering of chopped flatleaf parsley to make a hearty supper dish or pour over half a small carton of double cream and scatter with grated Parmesan and grill until golden and bubbling and serve as a veg accompaniment..