These are not the squash you’re looking for

I don’t actually like pumpkin. It’s heresy to say that at this time of year, when my in-tray is full of recipes for cookies, casseroles, pies, cheesecakes, cupcakes, and, heaven help us, trifle. But I think it’s the wateriest of all the squashes, texture-free, and with an unpleasant, almost bitter aftertaste. One of the things that put me off J K Rowling was when she gave the Hogwarts students pumpkin juice to drink as a treat. Ick. For years I thought I liked it, because I had lots of American pumpkin flavoured things, and then I found out that what I liked was pumpkin pie SPICE, which is as close as they come to regular mixed spice in the States. And how could that not be yummy?

I’ve got to be careful with nomenclature here, after an Australian Masterchef episode where I was shouting “That’s not a pumpkin, it’s a butternut squash!” at the telly. To me pumpkins are one type of winter squash, the orange ones that you carve up for Halloween and put candles inside. But apparently there are parts of the world where it’s a more generic term for winter or harder-skinned squash. Butternut squash, on the other hand, is bright, firm, sweet and tasty, and lends itself to far more interesting concoctions. Pizza, risotto, curry, candied …it holds its texture so much better.

We’ve been growing them on the allotment, there’s one of the early ones in the picture, hanging out at the bottom of the apples. The small young ones were lovely just split and baked with oil or butter and some flavourings – even the skin was tender enough to eat. With cheese for a light meal, or as a side dish, or with a rich meat sauce. We tried a crisp pizza with roasted red onions, chunks of squash and baby mozzarellas earlier this week, and I shall do that again – experimenting with different cheeses, both feta and halloumi have come highly recommended.

Spaghetti squash is always fun, that’s on the list to grow next year. Acorns and Hubbards can wait their turn. Meanwhile, I’m off to find things to do with pumpkin seeds. Once you’ve carved a horrid face into it, that’s the best bit.

Boxing Day Soup

Waitrose do ready-trimmed veg and fruit at exorbitant prices, and one of the packs is a mix of butternut squash and sweet potato cubes. Just not having to cut and peel the squash is worth the extravagance. I'd made the gravy for the goose yesterday with goose fat, plain flour, the juice from the roasting tin, giblet stock, seasoning including allspice, some cooking port and a big dollop of redcurrant jelly.

Today I got a big pan, tipped in the gravy, topped it up with boiling water, and added 2 packs of orange veg. Simmered for a few hours, pureed it, leaving some lumps for interest's sake, tasted and added more allspice and some pepper. No extra salt, as when I served it I stirred tiny lumps of fresh creamy stilton into the bowl, so it went soft but not too melty. 

Just what we needed this evening, rich but subtle, almost bland but very moreish, gentle on the tummy and nicely filling without being fatty or sweet.

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