After mourning the lack of good pumpkin in Ireland, I’ve discovered an alternative option – squash! Now, there’s a terminology question here. What is the difference between squash and pumpkins? I think it was Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion that made the point that all squash in Australia (and New Zealand) are called pumpkins. My own understanding of the difference between the two is that a pumpkin is a rounded vegetable, like that used by Cinderella to get to the prince’s ball, while a squash can often be a different shape. That’s no hard and fast rule, however!
In New Zealand I usually bought the crown or Crown Prince variety of round pumpkin. It had rich orange flesh underneath a very hard grey-green skin, made gorgeous Pumpkin Soup and, as long as you kept it in a cold place, it lasted very well. Here in Ireland I haven’t seen any crown pumpkins as large or as proud as those that I regularly and cheaply bought in New Zealand so my attention has turned to squash, particularly the easy to find butternut type. Butternut squash have a hard yellowish beige skin, covering sweet orange flesh, and are shaped like a pear with a long neck and very bulbous end. They are much easier to peel than the iron-skinned crown pumpkin and I am able to substitute them for pumpkin in all my soup recipes.
For my first time cooking butternut squash, however, I wanted to try something different so I dug out my copy of Denis Cotter’s A Paradiso Year: Autumn and Winter Cooking and leafed through it until I reached the pumpkin and squash section. His recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash with Chickpeas and Cumin (chickpeas, mmm…) caught my eye and, with a few adaptations – more chickpeas, especially, that’s what I cooked for my first pumpkin/squash dinner in Ireland. Better get some more before they go out of season…
If you want to read more about these versatile vegetables, Elisabeth Luard has a wonderful piece on the Waitrose Food Illustrated website.
Roasted Butternut Squash with Chickpeas and Cumin
Butternut squash – 1, medium size
Olive oil – 1-2 tablespoons
Ground coriander – 1 teaspoon
Scallions – 6
Fresh red chilli – 2
Cumin seeds – 1 tablespoon
Cooked chickpeas – 1x 400g tin
Vegetable stock or water – 200mls
Fresh coriander – 1 small bunch, chopped
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Peel, core and chop the squash into pieces about 2cm square. Place them in an ovenproof dish and toss with some olive oil and the ground coriander. Roast for 40-50 minutes until tender and starting to caramelise.
Slice the scallions diagonally and chop the chilli thinly. Heat a pan and dry fry the cumin seeds until they are roasted. You should be able to smell them. Add two tablespoons of olive oil, the scallions and chilli, and fry for a minute. Add the chickpeas, stock or water and a large pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for a minute before pouring over the roasted squash. Return to the oven for five minutes then, before serving, scatter with fresh coriander. Serve with basmati rice.
Adapted from A Paradiso Year: Autumn and Winter Cooking by Denis Cotter.