Pumpkins and squashes - Annie Stirk's recipes

PUBLISHED: 19:33 18 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:29 20 February 2013

Annie Stirk

Annie Stirk

Our food and wine consultant Annie Stirk tackles pumpkins and squashes in this month's cookery session PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANDY BULMER

Pumpkins bring a dramatic splash of colour to the kitchen along with marrows, squashes, gourds, cucumbers, melons and courgettes, all with their weird and wonderful shapes. I love seeing them piled high in higgledy piggledy heaps at the farm gate or displayed in farm shops. It is local produce at its best and announcing the arrival of autumn.

Halloween, or All Saints Day, marks the end of the agricultural season and the beginning of winter and for many of us it's the only time we get our hands on this big, plump, orange beauty of a vegetable. Once the spooky Halloween lanterns have been carved, the sweet earthy flesh of the pumpkin is often thrown on to the compost heap, which is a shame because this lovely buttery flesh is ideal in many sweet and savoury dishes.

My all time favourite pumpkin recipe is spiced pumpkin soup, which has the most fabulous colour and a lovely velvety texture. I like to serve it piping hot, in big deep bowls with chunks of granary bread after an autumnal ramble.


THYME ROASTED RATATOUILLE

This is a lovely colourful dish which makes the most of squashes and other autumn vegetables at their peak. This roasted version is far removed from the usual style of cooking ratatouille when the vegetables often end up as a watery stew. Roasting helps to keep the colour and shape of the vegetable and it's really up to you whether you go for a more al dente texture by not cooking for so long or by roasting the vegetables until they are caramelized. Either way, this is a great dish to accompany most meats and fish or simply serve on its own as a great lunch time with a chunk of bread to mop up the juices.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 medium butternut squash or 2 sweet potatoes
450g plum tomatoes
4 medium courgettes
2 red peppers 2 yellow peppers
4 fat cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium red onions, peeled, halved and sliced finely
Olive oil 400ml can of chopped tomatoes
Handful fresh thyme Handful of torn basil leaves
Coarse sea salt and black ground pepper

Method

Peel and dice the butternut squash/sweet potato.

Parboil for 5 minutes until just softened. Drain well.

Halve the plum tomatoes. Top, tail and slice the courgettes into fat chunks, and deseed and slice the peppers.

Take a large robust roasting tin and sprinkle the crushed garlic and onion on the base, along with a few glugs of olive oil.

Gradually add the rest of the prepared vegetables.

Season with sea salt and plenty of coarsely ground black pepper and then throw in a handful of fresh thyme.

Add another generous glug or two of olive oil and then, using your hands, gently mix the vegetables together.

Roast at gas 5/195C for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are beginning to soften and caramelize.

Remove from the oven, pour over the chopped tomatoes and return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling and hot.

Garnish with plenty of torn basil leaves.

SPICED PUMPKIN SOUP

Serves 4/6

Ingredients

Olive oil

1 large onion, chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 generous tbsp Thai red curry paste
1kg pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cubed
600ml hot vegetable stock
400ml can coconut milk
Coarse sea salt and ground black pepper
Garnish (optional) 2 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped
150ml natural yoghurt

Method

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat.

Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook gently for a few minutes until softened.

Stir in the curry paste and continue to cook for a minute.

Add the prepared pumpkin or butternut squash and stir well.

Gradually add the vegetable stock, season.

Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 25 minutes or until tender.

Now blend the soup in batches in a food processor until smooth.

Alternatively, use one of those nifty stick blenders if you have one.

Return the soup to the pan, stir in the coconut milk and gently heat through again until piping hot - be careful not to let it boil.

Serve in bowls with a swirl of natural yoghurt and a sprinkling of roughly chopped coriander leaves.



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