Greengrocer’s shelves are bulging at the moment with brilliant and weird pumpkins and squash, which is fantastic for those of us who love the stuff. There’s so much more to these versatile veg than carving Halloween heads – the sweet flavour and fleshy texture is fantastic in everything from soups and curries to risottos and salads. It’s also incredibly good for you.
We always have a bit of fun picking our Halloween pumpkins at a local pumpkin patch. This decorative variety is great for carving but is pretty bland, fibrous and watery to eat. Butternut is always lovely, but our favourite this year is coquina squash, with its firm but tender flesh and full flavour. A Crown Prince caught my eye the other day but it was a disappointment – after roasting, the flesh was unappetisingly dry. Perhaps it was just one rotten apple.
Roasting squash at a highish heat is the best way to cook it, regardless of what you eventually use it for - the caramelisation really enhances it sweetness. The other night I tossed some chunks in a yummy concoction of maple syrup, nutmeg, bay leaf, melted butter and olive oil and roasted chunks of squash for 30-40 minutes. Delicious. The version below is simply roasted because there are punchy flavours in the dressing (which was inspired by a Yotam Ottolenghi dressing in Plenty More). Don’t worry if you cook too much squash – leftovers are splendid mashed up into bubble and squeak. But if the onslaught of comfort food at this time of year gets a bit too much, it’s well worth trying squash raw. When I was designing recipes for a salad cook book recently, I experimented with raw grated squash and was surprised at its deliciousness, especially with a vibrant dressing.
Warm salad of roast pumpkin and chestnuts
- 180g coquina or other squash, cut into wedges
- Olive oil, for drizzling
- Sea salt flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 60g vacuum-packed chestnuts, halved
- a large handful of beet greens, baby kale, rocket or a mixture
- 3 tablespoons Greek-style yoghurt
- 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 garlic clove, crushed
- a handful of coriander, chopped
Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Place the pumpkin in a baking tray, drizzle with olive and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes until almost tender. Add the chestnuts to the pan, turn to coat in the oil and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together the yoghurt, sriracha, olive oil and garlic.
To serve, scatter the beet greens over a serving plate, drizzle with olive and toss. Top with the squash and chestnuts, drizzle over the yoghurt and scatter with the coriander. Serve immediately.
Raw pumpkin salad with coriander, jalapeno + lime dressing
Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side or starter
For the dressing
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 4g or 4 tablespoons chopped coriander
- 1 tablespoon chopped jalapenos
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- ½ garlic clove, crushed
- freshly ground black pepper
For the salad
- 400g peeled and deseeded butternut squash
- 25g pumpkin seeds
- 2 quantities coriander, jalapeno and lime dressing
- sea salt flakes
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 avocados
To make the dressing, place all the ingredients in a screw top jar and shake vigorously until combined.
For the salad, grate the squash on the largest holes of a box grater. Place in a salad bowl with the pumpkin seeds and toss with enough of the dressing to coat generously. Add salt and pepper to taste, then set aside for 10 minutes. Chop the avocados, add to the grated squash and drizzle over more dressing. Gently toss. Add more salt or pepper to taste. Serve immediately.