Squash, curcurbitae, pumpkins, these bright and cheerful veggies are easy to grow and much more useful and delicious than just a jack-lantern at halloween.
With quirky names like Ichi-Kuri, Baby Bear, Hooligan, Hundredweight and Patty Pan, pumpkins are fun and colourful additions to your veggie basket and look great just sitting on your kitchen table.
They are a versatile food and have so many uses in the kitchen — you can make breads, pies, curry and soup.
Pumpkin is low in calories and bursting with vitamins A, C and E which make it great for your skin, it’s also helpful in controlling cholesterol.
Ichi Kuri and Butternut make great roasted wedges, simply drizzled with olive oil and maybe a little honey.
Hooligans have a delicious, sweet flesh and can be simply prepared by scooping out the seeds and filling with cream and grated cheese and baking for half an hour.
Pumpkin is a slow release carbohydrate and makes a good replacement for potatoes and ticks all the paleo and clean-eating boxes.
Happily, it’s easy to find a range of these exciting fruits at this time of year and they make a welcome change from the humble spud.
As pumpkins have a naturally thick skin, they don’t really need to be fermented to preserve them, but if you want to experiment in making more cultured foods then its very easy to make a ‘squashkraut’.
You will need a 1 litre clip-top jar that’s squeaky clean.
1 medium-sized butternut or ichi kuri squash
1 teaspoon salt
1 Peel the squash and scoop out the seeds ( you can wash these and toast them in the oven at 170 degrees C for 20 minutes with some sea salt for a tasty snack).
2 Grate the squash into a large bowl and sprinkle over the salt, massage it until the juices start to flow. Pick some up an squeeze it to see if it’s juicy yet.
3 Pack the grated squash into your jar and press it down well to make the juices rise to the surface. Place a piece of squash skin on top of the contents as it’s full of probiotics and will give your kraut a good kick-start.
4 Put a small weight, like a tiny jam jar or a glass inside the jar so that you can lever the lid down.
5 Store the jar, on a plate at a temperature of between 18 and 22 degrees for 10 days or so. Release the gasses once a day by opening the jar, be careful, it might spit at you!
Baked Butternut Squash
A great squash which can be bought year-round, is the butternut squash.
Don’t be fooled by the slouchy appearance of this dish, the rich flavours and richness of the ingredients will leave you more than satisfied.
This makes an excellent vegetarian main course and goes really well as part of a Sunday roast chicken too.
1 medium-sized butternut squash
1 carton creme fraiche
100g grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp cumin seeds Olive oil for baking
1 tblsp fresh sage leaves — finely chopped
1 Heat the oven to 180C/350F. Cut the squash in 2 lengthways, scoop out the seeds and score the flesh with a knife in a criss-cross pattern, this helps it cook through faster.
Place it on a baking tray and drizzle over a little olive oil, rubbing it in, and sprinkle over the cumin seeds. Bake in a hot oven for 30-40 minutes until it is soft enough for a knife to go through it easily.
2 Remove it from the oven and, with a desert spoon, carefully scoop out most of the flesh into a large bowl, taking care not to cut the skin, you want the shell to remain intact.
3 Add the contents of the créme fraiche carton, the grated cheese, chopped sage and some sea salt and ground black pepper, mix this all together and spoon it back into the cases. Sprinkle on some extra cheese
4 Return the squash to the oven and bake for a further 20-30 minutes until golden brown and bubbling, the more brown crispy bits, the better.
Pumpkin, Maple and Pecan Loaf
I used an Ichi-Kuri pumpkin for this, they have a lovely dense texture and the most beautiful burnt orange colour.
Pumpkins vary so much in size that you can maybe make a soup and a bread from one, and ferment the rest.
250g raw pumpkin, peeled and grated
120ml maple syrup 1 egg
175g butter - melted
350g white flour or white spelt
1 tblsp baking powder
100g chopped pecan nuts with a few extra for decorating
2 tblsp brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F
1 Butter and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment.
2 Mix the butter, maple syrup, egg and squash together in a large bowl, stir in the flour and chopped nuts.
3 Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and press some pecans into the top of the cake, sprinkle the top with brown sugar and bake the loaf for 1 hour 20 minutes.
4 Allow to cool and slice thickly, butter thickly or drizzle on some extra maple syrup. You can use the same mixture to make muffins which will bake in the faster time of 20-25 minutes.
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