Archive for ‘Squash’

October 15, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Spaghetti squash with saffron infused stew of chickpeas and courgette, oven dried tomatoes and feta

Real-world followers will know this isn’t last night’s dinner but the dinner of 24 September. We had received a variety of squash in our weekly veg box that I didn’t recognise. Spaghetti squash, I thought, I bet it’s spaghetti squash. I was right.

Spaghetti squash is so called because when it is cooked its flesh comes apart in strands rather than chunks or a straightforwardly mashed texture. Which is all very well, but what to do with it?

First things first, I wanted to have some piquancy in the dish: half some cherry tomatoes, place them on a baking tray and cook them in the oven at a very, very low heat for anywhere between 2-3 hours. In fact don’t cook them so much as warm them, wither them, dry them out. With the moisture gone they are going to provide an incredible hit of tomato flavour. Promise.

Right, onto the main event. Half the squash and scrape out the seeds with a metal spoon. Place the squash, cut side up, in a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle over some salt and rub in a teaspoon of ground cumin to the surface of the flesh. Roast in the oven at 190 degrees celsius for 30-40 minutes or until the flesh is soft when you prod it with a fork. At this point remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes so the squash can be handled. Then, with a fork, start lifting the flesh from the skin, pulling it away gently. Those spaghetti like strands should start to appear. Spread the flesh loosely over the bottom of a baking/casserole dish.

While the squash is cooking, sautee an onion in a little olive oil in a deep frying pan. When it has softened, after five minutes or so, add a chopped courgette and a chopped fresh red chilli. Stir and cook for another five minutes. Then add two tins of chickpeas. Stir again.

Take a small pinch of saffron strands and infuse them in 500ml of vegetable stock for five minutes (you’ll need to ensure the stock is hot). Add the saffron stock to the chickpeas, onion and courgette. Sprinkle a level teaspoon of ground cinnamon into the pan and a teaspoon of ground cumin. Stir and simmer for 20 minutes. If the mixture completely dries out, add a splash of water to loosen it.

When done, spoon the chickpea mix over the spaghetti squash in the casserole dish, letting the juices soak into the squash. Dot the oven dried tomatoes into the topping and break some small pieces of feta into the mix too.

Bake in a medium oven for 10-15 minutes.

Advertisements
January 28, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Sweet Potato and Chickpea Soup ‘Berbere’

What a cold winter’s night really needs, of course, is a warming bowl of nutritious soup. This one was made after a rummage through the fridge and kitchen cupboards. We had some sweet potato that wasn’t long for this world, a tin of chickpeas, an onion, spices… and that’s all you need.

Now, we’ve often made a sweet potato and chickpea soup, or a butternut squash and chickpea soup and, usually, we spice it up with a little chilli and some cumin. But I’m bored of it: the cumin so often overpowers if it’s the dominant spice… and this was the thought in my mind as my eyes set upon a tin of ready-mixed ‘Berbere’ spice (widely available, just like this here that we picked up in the supermarket).

Berbere refers to the Berber peoples of North Africa. I’ve always associated Berbere spices with Morocco, having visited that country, but a little research reveals that the mix of spices including chilli, cumin, coriander seed, fenugreek, cloves, allspice, ginger, cardamom, plus varying others, as well as the term Berbere, is recognisable in Ethiopian, Eritrean and Somali cuisines. The exact origin, and infinite variations, could no doubt be argued over for longer than it would take the IMF to do the right thing and cancel African debt, so let’s just say that it’s fiery, with some sweeter notes than you might get in Indian spice mixes.

To the soup: it’s one-pot stuff. In a large saucepan or stockpot, saute a finely chopped onion in a little olive oil for 5 minutes. Add a clove of finely chopped garlic and cook for 3 minutes more. While it’s cooking, peel two large-ish sweet potatoes, cut into 2cm chunks and add to the pot. Stir and cook for 5 minutes. Next add one tin of chickpeas. Then add the Berbere spice mix. We added a heavily loaded dessert-spoonful. You might want to add less – it’ll be fine. Chilli addicts could also add one fresh red chilli. Stir in and then add around 500ml of vegetable stock – maybe a little more depending on the size of your potatoes. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Take off the heat, leave to cool until lukewarm then blitz it with a hand blender. Don’t overdo it though, it’s best if the soup is a little coarse. Reheat, season with salt and pepper and serve, perhaps with some crusty bread.

It warms the cockles, this one.

September 13, 2011

Recipe: Squash and Cider Soup

We almost – almost – had a butternut squash soup for last night’s dinner. It didn’t happen in the end, in part because I wanted a squash soup with a twist and something that didn’t feel too wintery (it’s not yet mid-September, whatever the wind is telling me as it rattles the windows and blows dark grey clouds across the creek).

This Squash and Cider Soup, here, from the New York Times, would have been perfect (and yes, that’s what I was thinking: it does seem a particularly English, Septembery soup for a US publication).

As the serving suggestion recommends, I think this would make a lovely lunchtime soup in a mug. We don’t do enough of that.

June 26, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Broccoli, Squash and Goat’s Cheese Salad

Friday 10 June

Something of a ‘superfood’ salad this, and a fallback for us on many an occasion. Oh and yes, you’re right, there’s a beetroot version of this somewhere in the lush green hinterland of this blog. Search it out.

We roast small chunks of butternut squash, lightly steam some broccoli, let it all cool and mix together with leaves, goat’s cheese and some toasted seeds. Or you could toast some walnuts or almonds instead. Oh and add a little olive oil, garlic and lemon juice dressing. That’s it. Go, make.

April 17, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Rainbow salad

Saturday 16 April

Ella’s rainbow salad is a big bowl of nutrition. It looks nutritious, tastes nutritious. It’s a robust thing too – and something of a pick-me-up. And it looks so lovely with the purples and oranges peeking through the green.

The main part of the preparation is in roasting some beetroot and squash. We peel and chop a couple of beetroot into 2cm chunks, then do the same with half (or so) a butternut squash. Place the chunks in separate roasting trays. Sprinkle a little sea salt, black pepper and a teaspoon of ground cumin over each tray of veg, drizzle some olive oil over it and then use your hands to coat the veg with the seasoning and spice. To each tray, add a couple of cloves of garlic with their skins left on. Roast at 190 degrees or so until soft and slightly caramelised. When done, remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.

As the veg is finishing cooking, steam some florets of broccoli for around 5 minutes until just about al dente but not soft. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes.

Put the broccoli, beetroot and squash in a large salad bowl and add a small bag of rocket. Crumble over some creamy goats cheese. We then make a simple dressing using olive oil, a squeeze of lemon imbued for a few minutes with the roasted garlic cloves (slipped out of their skins). Mix it all together.

Some toasted seeds – sesame, sunflower etc – are also a nice finishing touch and the salad should be served at room temperature or ever so slightly warm, certainly not cold.