When autumn arrives, it brings with it the most amazing excuse to eat comfort food.
I love it when autumn arrives, bringing with it the most amazing excuse to eat comfort food. This week’s main recipe is certainly comforting and is the sort of warming dish you can pop in the oven while you go out for a long walk.
Whole roasted and stuffed butternut squash with bangers and mash and rich onion gravy (serves 4)
1 red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic
50g fresh breadcrumbs
A handful fresh parsley, chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
20g sunflower seeds
20g pumpkin seeds
50g mixed seeds such as sunflower, sesame, poppy, flax
50g almonds, chopped
1 or 2 red chillies, diced
125g dried apricots, chopped
3 medium butternut squash
800g mashed potatoes
600g sausages, such as Cumberland
1tbspn plain flour
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
2tspns wholegrain Dijon mustard
A splash of red wine
500ml beef stock
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 3. Fry the diced red onion and garlic, with a generous splash of olive oil and a little butter, in a large frying pan, then add the breadcrumbs, parsley, rosemary, seeds, nuts, chillies and apricots, mix well, then set aside.
Carefully wash the butternut squashes—scrub them if necessary, because the skin tastes delicious once cooked—and cut them in half vertically. Remove the seeds with a melon baller and scrape a funnel a little deeper than the seed cavity along the full length of the squash, so there is space for the stuffing. Brush all over with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and then fill with the stuffing. Tie the squash halves firmly back together with butcher’s string and bake on a roasting tray in the oven for about 11⁄2 hours or until cooked.
While the squash is in the oven, prepare the mashed potatoes and cook the sausages. I suggest simply making the mash as you usually would and throwing the sausages into the roasting tin with the squash for about 25 minutes to save on washing-up.
To make the gravy, cook the chopped onions in a little olive oil and butter until soft, but not browned. Add the flour and mix again, followed by the remaining sprig of rosemary, the mustard and the red wine, being sure to keep mixing well, then slowly pour in the beef stock and simmer gently to reduce it. Season well—if it needs a little boost, add a teaspoon of Marmite.
Finally, serve the bangers, mash and butternut squash, piping hot, together with lashings of onion gravy poured over the top.
Butternut-squash and coconut soup (left)
Halve a butternut squash, drizzle it with olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning and roast with a chopped red onion in a moderate oven for 30 minutes. Scoop out the squash’s flesh and add, with the red onion, to a saucepan, with a chopped red chilli and enough of a 50:50 mix of chicken stock and coconut milk to cover. Bring to a simmer, add seasoning and a squeeze of lime, then serve with a swirl of coconut milk.
Warm roasted-butternut salad with freekeh
Cut a butternut squash into chunks, drizzle with olive oil and roast with 2 red onions that have been peeled and cut into wedges. Once cooked, scatter with a sachet of microwaved freekeh (a healthy grain), then combine in a bowl with two large handfuls of rocket, the juice of one lemon, a tablespoon of maple syrup and a tablespoon of wholegrain Dijon mustard. Season well and serve.
Roasted salmon and butternut with fennel seeds
Gently toast a tablespoon of fennel seeds in a frying pan, then scatter them over chunks of butternut squash and salmon and roast in a moderate oven for 20 minutes. Serve immediately with crème fraîche mixed with lime juice.
Done well, there are few things that beat a big bowl of al dente spaghetti tossed in garlic and chilli.