Thursday, 9 June 2011

How to roast butternut squash

Butternut squash is a truly wonderful vegetable. The flesh is a luscious orange colour and when cooked is sweet and tender. It is also very healthy, being an obvious source of dietary fibre. However, it also contains vitamins C, A and E. Healthy and tasty? What are we waiting for – let's start cooking! Butternut squash can be used pretty much interchangeably with most forms of pumpkin in recipes, which means it is pretty versatile. I use it in risottos, salads, as a vegetable accompaniment to dishes and in soups. It can be used in many other dishes, such as curries, tagines and pastas.

What I intend to do in this post is show you how to roast a whole butternut squash to prepare it for a couple of dishes that I like to make using this most useful of vegetables. (Recipes to follow in the next few days).  I really think that its sweetness and smoothness when cooked makes it perfect for children who are suspicious of vegetables. The orange colour is also a world away from the green that children seem to instinctively dislike.

When buying a butternut, look for one with a good even colour. Ensure that the skin is intact. It should be like a tough, hard shell when raw. When you pick it up it should feel solid and heavy. They keep for quite a while if kept in a cool dry place, up to a couple of weeks. Don't wrap in plastic or it will get moist and start rotting. When raw it doesn't need refridgeration, but when cooked, keep the cooked stuff wrapped up and in the fridge. Perhaps if you only cook part at a time, you may want to wrap the uncooked squash up and keep it in the fridge. However, I would say that it will probably save time and a lot of energy to cook the whole squash (only one preheating and cooking time of power will be incurred) and keep the rest, planning another squashy meal later in the week. 

If you are cooking for a family, you may want to cook 2 squash in this way, and use one whole squash for one recipe and the second for another. These days with gas/electric bills being what they are (not to mention the cost to the environment) we should try to get our ovens to 'multi-task' wherever possible to save energy - getting the cooked ingredients for more than one meal is just one way of doing this!

So, you will need:
1 butternut squash
2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
4 small sprigs fresh thyme
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Cut the butternut squash in half vertically.
  3. Do not attempt to peel the squash. When cooked the skin will come off easily.
  4. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. You can wash the orange stringy flesh off them and roast them for a healthy snack – they need about 10-15 mins in an oven at 130-140°C. 
  5. Once the seeds are gone, scrape out any of the last bits of soft stringy flesh. The flesh you want should be solidly dense and quite hard to scoop. As soon as you start feeling resistance on the spoon, you are done.
  6. Place on a baking sheet/tray, cut side up.
  7. Pour olive oil onto cut surfaces. Rub in thoroughly. If keeping your oil/fat intake down, hold over baking tray to allow excess to drip off.
  8. Place herbs over cut surfaces.

  9. Cook in oven.
  10. The time this will take will depend on your oven. Fan assisted will be about 30mins. Non fan assisted could be up to 45mins.
  11. You will know it is done when you try to insert a sharp knife into the flesh. If the knife goes in easily and softly, the squash is done.

  12. Take out of the oven, throw away the herbs, put on a plate to cool.
  13. When you are able to handle the squash halves, peel off the skin.
    If you are thinking of having roast butternut squash as an accompaniment to a roast or other dish, you could leave out the herbs and instead sprinkle ¼ teaspoon paprika and a ½ teaspoon whole cumin on the cut surfaces of the squash before cooking. It will give a fragrant spicy smell reminiscent of Middle-Eastern and Indian food.


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