Wel­come to theGood Gour­dGuide

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The mem­ory of Hal­lowe’en is fad­ing, but pump­kins and squash are very much still around, and are bound to fea­ture in Amer­i­can Thanks­giv­ing cel­e­bra­tions next week. Even in the UK, most peo­ple know that squash make a great but­tery mash, and that they are de­li­cious among a plat­ter of mixed roast veg­gies – but they’ve got more to of­fer.

Th­ese days, thank good­ness, you can get a bit more than just but­ter­nut squash in the shops. But­ter­nut is fine, don’t get me wrong, but for me its almost ar­ti­fi­cially sweet na­ture and sim­ple tex­ture make it just an ap­peal­ing gate­way to more ex­cit­ing gourds.

There are loads of squash and pump­kins, and it’s worth ex­per­i­ment­ing when you see them at

the green­gro­cer. Some are a lit­tle wa­tery, but I have al­ready found that this year’s crop is de­li­cious and var­ied in flavour.

I’ve re­cently been buy­ing won­der­ful big del­ica squash from one of my Ital­ian sup­pli­ers (na­toora.co.uk). The del­ica is my ideal squash – it is sweet, but not too sweet, and has a great firm tex­ture, edi­ble pretty green skin (less work for the chef) and is as happy fried as it is roasted, mashed or in a risotto.

When cook­ing with squash, it’s im­por­tant to bal­ance the sweet­ness with some­thing in­tensely savoury: an­chovy, pancetta, salty cheese and chilli all help to make the sweet squash more de­li­cious.

Fried squash might seem a bit weird, but trust me on this, it works. I first came across this treat­ment in Ja­pan, where top chefs are un­par­al­leled masters of the fryer. Cut thinly and cooked in a tem­pura bat­ter, and served over a bowl of rice, it makes a won­der­ful sim­ple lunch — here I present it as I do at Ro­torino, my Ital­ian restau­rant in Dal­ston, east London: very sim­ple, with a tasty an­chovy­laced may­on­naise.

We all know squash risotto, it’s a pretty stan­dard recipe, but done prop­erly it can be truly fan­tas­tic. With the right weather, and the right wine, a plate of this rice can ap­proach a per­fect mo­ment for me.

Squash soup is another well-loved recipe that, when done cor­rectly, can safely de­liver that con­tented, warm-inside, cold-out­side feel­ing that is what au­tumn cook­ing is all about.

Serves 4-6 as a starter For the may­on­naise 4 an­chovy fil­lets 1 sprig of rose­mary, leaves picked 2 egg yolks Juice of ½ le­mon 400ml/14fl oz mild olive oil For the squash Veg­etable oil, for fry­ing 50g/1¾oz plain flour Ap­prox 75ml/2½fl oz sparkling wa­ter ½ crown prince squash, de­seeded, peeled and cut into 3-5mm-wide half moons

Make the may­on­naise first. Place the an­chovies and rose­mary on a board and finely chop un­til you have a paste. Put to one side. Place the egg yolks and a squeeze of le­mon juice in a food pro­ces­sor and pulse un­til smooth (or you can do it by hand with a bowl and a whisk.) With the pro­ces­sor go­ing, very slowly start adding the oil — a few drops at the be­gin­ning, in­creas­ing to a very slow stream. Add a splash of wa­ter if it is too thick for your lik­ing. Stir in the an­chovy and rose­mary and another few squeezes of le­mon and ad­just the sea­son­ing to your lik­ing.

In a deep pan, add the veg­etable oil to depth of about 6cm/2½in and heat to about 180C (360F) – you can test the tem­per­a­ture by drop­ping in a bit of bread; if it turns golden in about 30 seconds, then the oil is the right tem­per­a­ture.

Make a bat­ter by putting the flour in a large bowl and slowly whisk­ing in about 75ml of sparkling wa­ter. You want it to be the con­sis­tency of dou­ble cream – add ex­tra wa­ter or flour un­til it’s right.

Dip the squash slices into the bat­ter (you may want to do this in batches so as not to over­crowd the pan), shake off any ex­cess and then care­fully lower them into the hot oil. Once they turn golden and look crisp, scoop them out with a slot­ted spoon and trans­fer to kitchen pa­per while you fry the rest. Sprin­kle with sea salt, then serve with the may­on­naise.

Serves 6 Ap­prox 1.5 litres/2½ pints of chicken or veg­etable stock ½ squash, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes 1 cin­na­mon stick 10 slices of pancetta, cut into match­sticks 75g/3oz but­ter 2 small red onion, finely chopped 1 garlic clove, finely chopped A hand­ful of sage, finely sliced 1 red chilli, de­seeded and finely chopped ½ tin plum toma­toes, drained and rinsed 200g/7oz ar­bo­rio rice 150ml white wine 60g/2½oz grated pecorino or Parme­san

Bring the stock to the boil in a deep saucepan and sea­son lightly with salt. When it comes to the boil, add the squash and the cin­na­mon stick, then turn the heat down and sim­mer un­til com­pletely ten­der, about 20-25 min­utes.

Mean­while, place the pancetta in a large, deep pan and pace over a medium heat. Fry un­til it starts re­leas­ing some of its fat, then add 50g of but­ter, the onion, garlic, sage and chilli and a good pinch of salt.

Cook slowly for 15 min­utes un­til the onions are soft and sweet, then rip in the toma­toes and cook for a fur­ther 5 min­utes.

Turn the heat back up to medium and stir in the rice. Cook, stir­ring for a few min­utes so the rice cooks in the tomato juices, then pour in the wine and stir un­til it is all ab­sorbed.

Scoop out the squash, re­serv­ing the stock. Mash the squash un­til com­pletely smooth, sea­son well with salt and pep­per and put to one side for a mo­ment. Start adding ladle­fuls of the hot stock, stir­ring and al­low­ing the pre­vi­ous one to be ab­sorbed be­fore adding the next. Keep go­ing, stir­ring as of­ten as you can, un­til all the liq­uid has been ab­sorbed and the rice is just al dente – this should take about 25-30 min­utes. You want the

Thanks be to gourd: clock­wise from above, deep-fried squash with an­chovy and rose­mary may­on­naise; squash, pancetta and cin­na­mon risotto; spiced squash soup with sage and chilli but­ter

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