By Georgie Hayden
If I had to list my top five vegetables, squash would be well up there. Heck, I’ll go all out and say it would probably be in my top three. And I have a lot of love for a particular squash – a forgotten Halloween pumpkin. One of the first recipes I ever made was Delia’s pumpkin soup with cubes of Gruyère laced through it, and it remains one of my favourite comfort dishes today.
But there are so many different kinds of squash, and they all can do wonderful things. What cannot be achieved with a butternut squash? A gorgeous, creamy, rich soup – check. Asian curries – check. Mediterranean bakes and slow-cook roasts – check, check, check. And it doesn’t stop there, think of a crowd-pleasing carrot cake, but using grated squash instead of carrot, and what about the all-American Thanksgiving classic pumpkin pie? Such a sweet treat!
It really is the most versatile veggie. We pretty much always have a squash of sorts kicking around the kitchen because, like me, I consider it “low maintenance”. They take up no fridge space because they’ll sit happily on the side for a few weeks at least, which means they’ll be your go-to vegetable when everything else looks a little sad.
If you’re boiling or stewing squashes, just remove the skin, chop up the flesh and continue as you would with any other robust veg. But for a little more sweetness and flavour, I think they’re best roasted. You can’t go wrong cutting one into wedges, rubbing it with a little spice, olive oil and seasoning, and roasting them for about 45 minutes at a medium-high heat until they’re golden around the edges, and caramelised, sticky and soft in the middle.
From there there’s loads you can do. Some squashes, such as butternut, can be served with the skin left on, as it is delicious when roasted, but pumpkin skin is a little too thick to eat so scoop out the flesh and carry on. To make it into a healthy light meal, serve it scattered with dressed salad leaves, crumbled feta and toasted seeds. Alternatively use the slow-cooked squash in the base for a pasta bake, through a vegetarian lasagne, or cannelloni with ricotta and spinach.
If after all that excitement I haven’t sold you our super seasonal, super versatile squash friends then I have failed them, as there really aren’t many things as exciting as a pumpkin.