Sunday, 25 March 2012

One squash, two dinners

I bloody love squash.  I think it has to be one of the most marvellous vegetables around (if you're sitting there going, "It's quite clearly a fruit, it has seeds", then good luck to you trying to add it to your breakfast compote (because you are clearly the sort of person who would have breakfast compote)).  When I eat it I can't help but wonder how they have only recently become fashionable in the world of gastronomy.  It makes me look around wildly for other vegetables which, for whatever reason, we haven't noticed for a while.  And not only is it a bit like a carby, rooty pudding, but it's also good for you. GO FIGURE.

If a squash were your friend (bear with me here) they would be the sort of friend that both you and your parents approve of.  You'd go out and have a great time, but at the end of the day they're looking after your best interests; you have a few drinks, but they remind you to down a pint of water before you go to bed and text them to say you've got home safely.  Those fair-weather potato friends on the other hand, they're pretty bland characters; they suggest adding some recreational substances like cream and butter to the mix to liven things up and all too quickly the party's over and you're there with sick in your hair.

Maybe you don't all imagine being friends with your vegetables, but I think we can agree that squash is good.  So here are two squash dishes to keep you entertained. 

Squash, girolle and sage risotto

1 large butternut squash (will make enough for this and the dish below)
Couple of handfulls of mushrooms - I used girolles (poncey dried Italian ones) but use whatever you like
1 knob of butter
Slug of olive or rapeseed oil
1 white onion finely sliced
2 cloves garlic finely sliced
1 glass white wine
1 cup risotto rice (or whatever looks reasonable for two people)
Handful or parmesan
Few sage leaves chopped

Peel and chop your squash into whatever shape/size pieces you like - I did mine about 1cm cube - drizzled with a bit of oil and seasoning in a baking tray and roast in the oven for about half an hour on gas mark 6 (until they are soft and starting to colour).  If you're using dried mushrooms then soak them in some boiling water or if you're using fresh fry them off in a pan and put to one side. 

Fry off the onion in the butter until softened, then add the garlic and fry for a further minute. Add your rice and stir until it is coated in the butter, then add the white wine.  Now you basically have to stand at the hob and stir for twenty minutes, gradually adding stock until the rice is nice and soft and has a smooth/binding texture to it. 

Once the rice is done add your squash, mushrooms, sage and Parmesan and a slosh of cream if you're feeling a bit skinny.  Top with more Parmesan and sage and serve. 

Squash, puy lentil and goat's cheese salad

Half of the roast squash from above
1 tin puy lentils
1 pack of lardons or a couple of strips of bacon finely chopped (omit for veggies)
Couple of sprigs of thyme
2 firm goat's cheese
Rocket or watercress leaves

Now, if you've been sensible, and roasted a large squash for the risotto like I suggested, then this dish is a mid-week piece of piss of a dinner, yet it feels like you're being relatively civilised.  The base is also great with chicken thighs and a dollop of mustardy crème fraîche, but forgot that I've said that as I'll probably cook it in a few weeks and try and pass it off as a totally unique creation.

Fry off your lardons/bacon until starting to colour and crisp up.  To the same pan add your lentils, thyme leaves and a slosh of white wine if you've got some spare.  Cook for about five minutes until the lentils have soaked up all the juices, then add your squash and stir till it's warmed through.

Whilst the lentils are cooking put the goats cheese under a hot grill until starting to brown and go gooey in the middle.

Scatter the lentil mix over the leaves and top with the goat's cheese.

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