Favourite Five Pumpkin & Squash Recipes

Last weekend we went to the Slindon Pumpkin Festival, enjoying the amazing display produced using these autumn fruits. Nothing says autumn more than a pumpkin or winter squash. They echo the changing colours of the foliage of our trees; transforming from the green of the summer to the blue-grey, orange, cadmium, gold, and yellows of autumn. As an ingredient, they bring an earthy sweetness, bringing a warming richness to a plethora of dishes. I love them and never manage to grow enough on the plot, despite annual attempts to have vast numbers of plants. Still, with the various pumpkin and squash I do grow, I like to make these Favourite Five dishes.

Blue Cheese, Squash and Rosemary Gnocchi – I love the pillowy lightness of good gnocchi. They’re soft and go brilliantly with the punchy flavours of squash, blue cheese and rosemary. Simply roast the squash and a few quartered red onions, combine with blue cheese and rosemary and mix into cooked gnocchi. For more details check out this post.

Butternut Squash Soup – Soup is perfect for this season, and simple to make. Heat some olive oil and throw in a finely chopped onion, celery, carrot, garlic, rosemary leaves and a a few chilli flakes. Cook for ten minutes, until the veg is sweet and soft. Add in the peeled and chopped squash, a litre of good chicken stock and simmer for roughly half an hour. When the squash is tender, remove from the heat and whizz in a blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a few crispy sage leaves on top.

Pumpkin Risotto with Sage and Walnuts – Start by making a simple risotto bianco, before adding pumpkin purée to the rice during the last few minutes. In a separate pan heat some butter until frothing, adding a few sage leaves until they are crispy. Remove and add some chopped bacon and walnuts, frying until nicely coloured. When the risotto is almost finished, take off the heat, add a good knob of butter and some Parmesan, put the lid on and leave for a few minutes. To serve, ladle out the risotto and top with the walnuts and bacon, and the crispy sage leaves.

Roasted Squash and Puy Lentil Salad – Roast a squash, cut into 2cm cubes, with rosemary and garlic for 30 minutes until soft and just starting to brown. Meanwhile, cook some Puy lentils and then mix with mustard and honey dressing. Toss lentils with the squash, season and serve, with the addition of a few toasted walnuts.

Roasted Pumpkin Purée – Peel and cut your pumpkin or squash into large chunks and place in a roasting tin. Toss with olive oil, a few sprigs of rosemary and a couple of cloves of garlic. Roast in a medium oven for 40 minutes until the pumpkin is soft. Peel the roasted garlic and whizz the contents of the roasting tin, seasoning as required. Delicious as an accompaniment to sausages.

April at Plot 4

March has been a bit of a mixed bag at the allotment. We’ve had barmy, sunny, spring days; but also frost nipping at the young shoots of growth. I’ve started sowing then had to wrap things up as it became colder and colder. Its been a stop start spring. All this has meant that I’ve not really got myself sorted in terms of planning where I will plant everything, and even now I’m a bit behind the digging. On the plus side, after 9 years of having the allotment I have finally finished creating a fence around it all. The wonderful and free resource that is pallets has been my supporter in this task, and I’ve even used pallets to create a vertical salad planter.

The plot is still producing, though only a few of the vegetables from last year are ready for harvest at the moment. There is still Swiss chard of course, and we’ve used the last of the root vegetable supply recently to make some super delicious Homemade Root Vegetable Crisps. Perhaps the star of the show has been the increasingly frequent emergence of the ‘Allotment Salad’ on our plates. Its been a delight to sit down at lunch (once or twice outside even) to a vibrant salad of fresh leaves from the allotment. Teamed with a mustard dressing, they have really given this month a lift and convinced us it really is spring.

As I mentioned above I’ve been sowing with earnest and the tomatoes in particular are really developing well; they’ve been pricked out to one plant per module and I’m looking forward to potting them on during the month ahead.  I’ve already sown a few peas, but the majority of them have been snaffled by some small rodent visitors to the greenhouse. I decided to grow them in the greenhouse in order to avoid mice digging them up outside, but it seems I’ve been thwarted and they have followed the seeds into the glazed warmth. Not to be deterred, I’ll re-sow this month; and will do so in raised lengths of guttering to add a further obstacle into the path of my rodent friends. Whilst at the fabulous Weald Allotment shop I picked up some new 6ft tall climbing peas (a heritage variety called Telephone) to give a go. It will be interesting to see if we get many of the harvest peas home this year, they’re usually grabbed and devoured at the plot by the family before they get a chance to be put in the pot. April is also the time to start to sow winter squashes. They’re hungry crops, so need a good amount of manure and other organic matter to be put on the bed before they’re planted out later in the year. We’re going to sow Crown Prince again this year; but also a couple of Italian varieties, Pumpkin Marina di Chioggia and Pumpkin Padana. This selection should keep us going into the winter months. What winter squashes do you grow?

One of the big jobs last month was to finish the fence around the plot, but it does leave me with the task of painting it and also tying in the blackberry so that it is easily managed when the fruits form in the months to come. One of the last construction jobs to do is to create another cover to prevent birds eating the brassicas. I’ve got some old blue piping and I’m going to be constructing a hooped design to hang netting on. Hopefully the birds will then not compete with the mice for the amount of crops they can eat! As the soil warms up, so do the weeds and so one of the big jobs over the next few weeks is to give the plot a good weed and try to keep on top of those perennials which I don’t really want reappearing. The potatoes will go in to, although I think I’ll wait until the end of April for the majority of them, planting them in 15cm deep trenches about 5-6cm apart.

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.

 

Gnocchi

I love these pillow soft potato dumplings. Up until now we’ve bought them, but with some leftover mash in the fridge I decided to have a go at making them myself. Not only was it really easy, the resulting gnocchi were even better than any shop bought ones we’ve had.

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Like many families, we eat a lot of pasta. Not many days go by without a dish of pasta pesto, macaroni cheese, or pasta with a tomato sauce. Gnocchi gives us a different vehicle for our range of sauces. Today the gnocchi were split, with the children having them with pesto (a firm favourite with my son), and my wife and I having them combined with crown prince squash and blue cheese.
What you will need (makes enough for 4-6 people)
1kg potatoes
Salt and pepper
1 egg
250g plain flour (you may need more flour depending on the water content of the mash)
Flour for dusting.

Peel and dice the potatoes and bring to the boil, cooking until tender. Cool a little, then mash, and allow to cool completely. Combine the cooked potato with the other ingredients to form a sticky smooth dough; it is best to work the dough quickly to give the gnocchi a light structure. Sprinkle flour on a surface and roll the dough into long sausage shapes. Cut into 2cm lengths, using a fork to press the distinctive ridges in the gnocchi (the ridges allow the sauce to stick easily). If you want, you can open freeze the gnocchi at this point, cooking them straight from frozen for twice as long. To cook the dumplings, bring a saucepan of salted water to boil, drop the gnocchi in, and simmer until they all rise to the surface (about 2 mins). Take the gnocchi out if the water with a slotted spoon, drain well and add to your sauce of choice.

Crown Prince Squash, Blue Cheese Gnocchi
1 Crown Prince Squash
1 red onion (peeled and cut into 8)
3 garlic cloves
1 handful of rosemary leaves
75g blue cheese

Peel and deseed the squash, and chop it into 2cm dice. Place in a roasting tin and add the onion and garlic, as well as half of the rosemary. Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes at 180C until they are soft and slightly coloured. When the squash and onion are soft and cooked, add the remaining rosemary and the blue cheese in small chunks. Allow the cheese to melt a little, then combine with the cooked gnocchi and serve.