Butternut Squash: With a rich history on all five continents, butternut squash’s true origin remains a bit of a mystery, although its versatility is appreciated by many cultures and cuisines to this day.
As a staple ingredient for the Incas in South and Central America, it was commonly found in authentic Peruvian dishes to add body, vitamins and sustenance to meals before migrating to Asia, Africa and Europe. High in fibre and a rich source of vitamins (A, C & E), magnesium and potassium, it is a brilliant addition to stews, risottos, soups and curries.
From the Cucurbitaceae family along with pumpkin and courgette, butternut squash is a winter vegetable harvested after developing a tough exterior. However, as one of the easiest squashes to peel and prepare, butternut has become a staple in many British kitchens and allotments.
Seasonal period: September to January
Flavour friends: This slightly nutty, creamy, sweet winter squash’s flavour is intensified through roasting. Enhanced by the addition of aromatic, seasonal spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg for a comforting roast, or pepped up with spicy chilli or smokey paprika, butternut squash has many flavour friends.
Its sweetness is emphasised by the addition of salty ingredients such as cured meats and hard cheese, making delicious side dishes to meat and fish.
Bring out the squash’s earthiness with the addition of woody herbs such as thyme and rosemary or even toasted nut to complement its creamy tendency.
Buying, storing and preparing: Squashes should be firm and weighty, and with a beige mottle-free skin.
Butternuts are good storers like other squashes – keep for up to 3 months in a cool place outside the fridge that is dry. Kept at room temperature, butternut squash will last a couple of weeks.
To prepare, first slice in half just above the bulbous end. Top and tail removing the root and stem before peeling the skin off with a sharp vegetable peeler or pairing knife. Scoop out the fibres and seeds using a spoon then cube or slice the flesh into wedges and roast, boil or add to soups, curries or casseroles.
Cooking: To intensify the flavour and keep texture, butternut squash is best roasted although it can also be boiled, then mashed or added to other dishes.
Roasted: Dice or slice into wedges. Coat with a little oil and seasoning before putting the oven at 180C/Gas 4 for 25 minutes, or until tender.
Boil: Dice into 2cm cubes. Add to a pan of salted boiling water and boil for 15 minutes until tender. Allow to drain fully to remove all the excess water. Boiled butternut can be mashed with a little butter and seasoning.
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Roast Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar
Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry
Beetroot and Butternut Squash Soup
Words by Helen Upshall