My attempt to evoke and celebrate a sense of autumn amidst this glorious Californian sunshine has resulted in both an excess of squash, and a great excuse for experimentation. Captivated by my initial investigation, and in an attempt to recognise the true versatility of this vegetable (which is – apparently – a fruit), I’ve continued to explore and to try a number of new recipes. Throughout, I’ve been most intrigued by two issues: the delight that many derive from combining squash with particularly bold and vibrant flavours, and also by its use in both sweet and savoury dishes.
I’ve already talked about roasting squash with chilli, garlic and chorizo which produced a sweet, rich and caramelized flavour. Having some of this leftover, the following day I mixed the cold squash with assorted leaves, toasted pine nuts and goats cheese for a tasty lunch-time salad. I’ve also made a vegetable chilli, combining the squash in a spicy tomato sauce along with onions, zucchini, peppers, carrots, green lentils and red kidney beans. My Halloween cupcakes required puréed pumpkin, which I made by first roasting although you can also do this by boiling or steaming. I only needed a small amount for the cakes, and so the rest is in my freezer ready for next time – and which I’m hoping will be used in a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving later in the month. I’ve also read that you can dry and toast the seeds for a tasty snack, which sounds like fun and definitely worth a try.
I think my favourite dish has to be this wonderful soup though, which I developed from a number of existing recipes. We had it for a weekend lunch, but it would be perfect for other occasions too – particularly if you’re coming in from the cold. The chilli is incredibly warming and comforting, and the lemongrass and lime juice add a zest that is remarkably uplifting. Plus, I’m sure that eating a soup that is so wonderfully orange could never fail to cheer you up!
Recipe: Spicy Squash Soup
Red chillies – the amount depends on their strength and your taste, but you definitely want there to be some heat
2 garlic gloves – peeled
A piece of ginger – about an inch, peeled
1 stick of lemongrass – trimmed, the outside leaves removed, and cut into 1 inch pieces
Salt and pepper (optional)
Small bunch of coriander
1 teaspoon five spice
1 teaspoon cumin
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
Squash – equivalent to one large butternut squash, but if possible use a number of different varieties; remove the skin, deseed (using a spoon) and cut into chunks
4 cups vegetable broth
1 x 14 ounce can coconut milk (light)
Juice of 1 lime
Double cream (optional)
Begin by adding the chillies, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and a pinch of salt to a food processor, along with most of the coriander (leave some to one side for later). Process until everything is finely chopped. Add some olive oil as well as the five-spice and cumin to this mixture. Process until combined and then transfer to a large pan. Stir-fry over a high heat until it starts to smell fragrant. Add the onion and cook over a reduced heat for 10 minutes or so. Add the squash to the pan and stir to coat in the spice mixture. Pour in the broth. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook for about 25 minutes until the squash is soft. Add the coconut milk and bring back to the boil for a couple of minutes. Leave the soup to cool slightly and then blend until smooth. Check the seasoning and add some salt and pepper if you think it needs it – with all these flavours then it’s perfectly possible that it won’t. Reheat and add some lime juice to serve. Garnish with the coriander that you put to one side earlier, and perhaps some fresh-sliced chilli and double-cream if you fancy. Enjoy!