EAT FOR AU­TUMN

In this new monthly fea­ture Rosie Bir­kett dis­cov­ers the joys of a sea­sonal in­gre­di­ent. She kicks off with warm­ing au­tum­nal squash

BBC Good Food - - Inside -

Rosie Bir­kett’s sea­sonal sup­pers

Gourds al­ways seem to me ul­ti­mate har­bin­gers of au­tumn, hav­ing grown and swelled through the heat of the year, fi­nally ready as the leaves turn the same colour as their skins and the nights draw in. After rather im­pa­tiently watch­ing my squashes get plump and bul­bous over the sum­mer months, from hum­ble be­gin­nings as spongy-leafed seedlings, it’s ex­cit­ing to fi­nally be cook­ing with them.

The joy of grow­ing squash and pump­kin your­self is that they are rea­son­ably high­yield­ing (if you keep them well-fed and wa­tered), and you can get ex­per­i­men­tal with va­ri­eties, mak­ing a move away from the clas­sic but­ter­nut – though of course, this has its place too.

If you’re buy­ing them, it’s well worth try­ing to seek out some more ex­cit­ing va­ri­eties. I par­tic­u­larly love acorn and del­i­cata for their in­tensely sweet and hon­eyed flavour. Spaghetti squash is also worth nab­bing if you can find it. So called be­cause, once cooked, its flesh pulls apart into fine strands re­sem­bling spaghetti, it’s won­der­ful tossed with but­ter and herbs and served on the side of a pan-fried chicken breast or hal­loumi steak.

Once you’ve got your hands on a squash or pump­kin, you have a meal or three at your fin­ger­tips. Their sweet­ness lends them the virtue of be­ing good in both savoury and sweet dishes, and don’t, what­ever you do, dis­card those glis­ten­ing seeds as they can be rinsed and crisped up in the oven with some salt, chilli pow­der and se­same seeds, or pan-fried with a glug of rape­seed oil un­til they pop – a per­fect top­ping for a salad with the flesh, or sim­ply an ad­dic­tive snack. Oven roast­ing is by far my favourite tech­nique for bring­ing out the sug­ars in the squashes and caramelis­ing their meat. If cut small enough, you can pan-fry it, and this works well for some­thing like a risotto, but noth­ing beats the crispy-edged, tof­fee sweet meat of an oven-roasted slice in my mind. Peel­ing is an ut­ter chore, so avoid do­ing it – most squashes will roast beau­ti­fully when cut into wedges with the skin on, and once cooked, it can eas­ily be peeled. Peel­ing is es­sen­tial though if you’re mak­ing a soup or purée. For a soup, try com­bin­ing the sweet meat with the smoky spice of chipo­tle chilli, and plenty of but­ter in a purée will make it per­fect for stir­ring with eggs, sugar and warm spices like cin­na­mon to fill a crispy pas­try case for pump­kin pie.

Fol­low the Ital­ians’ lead and plump for some fried sage leaves to ac­com­pany squash or pump­kin in savoury dishes, as no other herb works quite as won­der­fully as this woody, savoury leaf.

ALSO IN SEA­SON ap­ples au­tumn rasp­ber­ries beet­root black­ber­ries car­rots chest­nuts cobnuts figs grapes hazel­nuts leeks main­crop pota­toes mar­rows pears pep­pers quince shal­lots spinach Swiss chard wal­nuts wild mush­rooms

Good Food con­tribut­ing editor Rosie Bir­kett is a food writer and stylist. Her cook­book, A Lot on Her Plate, is out now (£25, Hardie Grant). @Rosiefoodie

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