There is, on a well-baked squash, a crisp, caramelised outer section. This is something that excites me immeasurably. It is a sweet outlier to the softness within. We are well into autumn now, of course, and each late squash is a welcome source of nourishment and sustenance.
I enjoy large squashes, medium-sized and small squashes. I like them green, yellow, orange, pale yellow or almost blue. Oh and those bumpy ones of varying greens and yellows are a marvel, aren’t they? They look a little diseased almost, as if they have been struck down with some sort of medieval plague. But this is not something to fear. Rather, a telling note to beautiful produce.
Later squashes might be the bonbon variety, small and plump; the delicata, a girthy striped oblong; the spaghetti squash, which is bright yellow and generous in flavour; the kabocha, originally from Japan, with a thick skin and a firm flesh; the uchi kuri, small, hard to find but wonderfully versatile and well worth sourcing; and the harlequin, an autumnal pin-up, and which lends itself to be roasted slowly – that caramelisation is achieved handsomely with this one.
Any of these squashes would work in the recipe below, but the best would be the latter in that it is round and easy to manage. Here, the chef Ben Tish uses sage, chilli, lemon and pecorino. He advises baking the vegetable before heaping on crème fraîche for a dose of fat and silkiness. I really do love squashes.
BAKED SQUASH STUFFED WITH CRÈME FRAÎCHE, SAGE, CHILLI AND LEMON AND PECORINO
4 evenly sized round squashes with tops cut off and the seeds and a little
flesh scooped out and discarded
200ml crème fraîche
1 red chilli, seeds removed and finely sliced
12 sage leaves
75g finely grated pecorino or Parmesan
Grated zest and juice of half a lemon
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Sea salt and black pepper
Heat an oven to 180c. Place the squashes cut side up in a roasting tray. It’s important they stand up straight – if not, sit them in a “nest” of baking foil so they sit upright. Also sit the cut lids in the tray.
Mix the crème fraîche with the chilli, cinnamon, seasoning and the lemon juice and zest.
Fill the cavities of the squash with the crème fraîche mix and then drizzle the tops and lids with oil and season again.
Lay over a sheet of foil and crimp around the tray. Cook in the oven for about 50 minutes to 1 hour or until the squashes are tender. A knife inserted into the skin should glide through.
Remove the foil and sprinkle over the grated pecorino and divide out the sage leaves on to the tops of the squashes.
Turn the oven up to 220c. Place the squashes back in the oven for 15-20 mins or until the cheese has gratinated and the tops browned.
Serve the squashes immediately with crusty bread to dip in the molten crème fraîche.