I have a bit of an ambivalent attitude to pumpkins and squashes. They don’t have a huge amount of flavour and they tend to take quite a bit of work to actually get something edible out of them. It never seems to be a great reward to effort ratio for me. And pumpkin seems to be the go-to ingredient for restaurants wanting to provide a vegetarian option in all seasons. That prejudices me against pumpkin, but I had never tried spaghetti squash. Now, the flavour of spaghetti squash is the usual sweet, blandness, but the texture is much lighter. When roasted the flesh can be separated into strands and that makes it much more versatile and interesting to eat.
I have two recipes for this. The first one uses the squash and seeds only to bring out the best in both textures.
1 spaghetti squash
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp allspice
1 lemon, juiced
Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
Cut the squash in half lengthways and scoop the seeds into a bowl.
Separate the seeds from the pulp. I find this easiest by filling the bowl with water and rubbing the seeds and pulp. The seeds float free (mostly).
Fish out the seeds and dry them on kitchen paper.
Spread the seeds on a baking sheet, sprinkle with a little oil and the smoked paprika. Season with salt.
Rub the seeds in the oil and spice mixture until they are evenly coated. Try and spread them in one even layer across the baking sheet.
Drizzle a little oil on the squash halves.
Sprinkle with the all spice and rub over to evenly coat the flesh.
Put the squash on another baking sheet.
Place the squash and the seeds in the oven.
Take the seeds out after 20 minutes.
Leave the squash in the oven for another 10 minutes.
Take the squash out and fork the flesh until it forms long strands.
Squeeze the lemon juice over each piece of squash, season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.
Serve in the squash skins with the toasted seeds sprinkled over.
Serves 2 as a light lunch
This is a sweet, crunchy side-salad that would do well as an alternative to coleslaw. You can vary the sweetness by maybe using a green apple or even a cooking apple to add a bit more tartness to it.
4 medium or 2 large carrots (about 250g), cut into battons
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
30g toasted hazelnuts, chopped
1 apple, grated
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp allspice
Heat the oven to 300C.
Toss the carrots in 2 tbsp olive oil and the cumin.
Lay out evenly on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
When the carrots are tender and browned, put in a large bowl and add the other ingredients.
Mix well and season with salt and pepper.
Serves 2 as a side salad
This is another recipe from the Veggiestan recipe book. I made it, principally, because I had all the ingredients to hand, and I’m very glad I did. The star is the sauce, which is spicey, sour, sweet, tangy and fruity. It’s a perfect match for the soft and (at least when I make them) slightly crispy aubergine slices. However the sauce could be used with a whole range of other vegetables and once you’ve had it, you’ll be looking at the fridge wondering what else you’ve got in. It would also be an awesome dip. It’s just as well that this recipe makes enough for seconds!
I’ve stuck with tamarind paste, which you can find in most supermarkets ‘exotic ingredients’ section. If you don’t have it to hand then lime or lemon juice would work as well.
1 aubergine, sliced into 1cm rounds
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 chilli, chopped
5cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1/2 tsp allspice powder
1/2 tsp sugar
75-100 ml water
1/2 fresh mango, chopped
Heat some oil in a large frying pan and cook the aubergine slices until they are golden brown. This may take two batches.
While the aubergine is cooking, heat some oil in another pan and add the onion, garlic, chilli and ginger.
Sweat until the onion is translucent then add the allspice.
Stir and cook through for a minute before adding the tamarind paste, the sugar and the water.
Simmer for five minutes.
Season with salt.
Add the sauce ingredients to a blender and add the mango. Blend to a smooth paste.
Arrange the cooked aubergine slices on a serving dish and spoon the sauce over them.
Serves 2 as a side dish – with sauce left over
I really should call this Christmas Pudding Salad because everything apart from the chard and the olive oil was to hand because I was making Christmas pudding.
This salad breaks a couple of rules because firstly it uses allspice, which doesn’t normally get used in savoury dishes in this country (I think it gets used with lamb in Finland) and secondly because you’re not supposed to let green leaves sit in a salad dressing because they go wilted and nasty. Chard, however, has leaves robust enough to actually need sitting in the dressing for a bit – think coleslaw. If you don’t have chard to hand, kale would be excellent and even green cabbage would do. I do like the chard though, I used rainbow chard and its jewel-like colours shine out in this simple dish.
2 tbsp flaked almonds
1/4 tsp allspice
2 tbsp olive oil
Finely shred the chard leaves and stalks and place in a large bowl.
Segment half the orange and add the segments to the chard.
Juice the rest of the orange and reserve.
Sprinkle the almonds over the chard and orange segments.
Add the allspice and olive oil to the orange juice, mix thoroughly and season with salt and pepper.
Mix the dressing with the chard.
Leave to stand for about 15 minutes before serving.
Serves 2 as a main salad.