Monday, 9 November 2009

Crusty pumpkin and mushroom

Day Nine of NaBloWriMo and I nearly didn't make it today-a job interview some miles away took up most of the day and then I returned to practically the whole weekend's washing up. But this little blue squash has been patiently waiting to be cooked and I knew just the recipe-and it tasted so good I decided to post it despite the dire photo of the end result. I used to think I didn't like pumpkin or squash, and I'm only remedying that this autumn. I can find them rather too sweet, which in the right recipe (like a middle eastern pilaf with dried fruit) can be lovely but I wanted a rather savoury approach tonight.

This Ottolenghi recipe caught my eye for pairing squash with savoury mushroom, rather than tomatoes or the other sweet vegetables it is so often combined with. I also found this blue squash had to my mind a superior flavour to the orange varieties-less sweet and denser so it held up well to roasting and was a perfect match to the mushroom, although most varieties of squash will work well here and the original recipe does call for pumpkin. I am falling in love with the use of breadcrumbs in cooking (and have been putting pangrattato on top of practically all my pasta and risotto meals); as well as adding texture to a meal they carry fresher flavours such as lemon zest, chili and even anchovy so well.

Adapted from The Guardian's The New Vegetarian column, October 2006


1 small flavoursome squash (about 500g), peeled deseeded and skinned
1 red onion
200g mushrooms, preferably large, robust and open-cap, quartered
200g purple sprouting broccoli (or romanesco cauliflower, etc), separated into florets
1tbsp lemon juice
70g breadcrumbs
2 tbsp grated Grana padano (or parmesan)
3 tbsp pinenuts, roughly chopped
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 garlic clove
1 red chili, deseeded and chopped
the zest of 1/2 of a lemon
1 bunch of parsley
2 tsp rosemary


1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200C/400F.

2. Cut the squash and the red onion into wedges about 2cm wide. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Season and place in a large baking tray.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, herbs, nuts, seeds, chili and lemon zest. Add enough olive oil for it to bind together loosely (I used about 2 tablespoons).

4. Toss half of the breadcrumb mixture with the squash and put in the oven for about 8-15 minutes, checking that you don't overcook the squash (it could end up soggy, especially if you use a larger pumpkin variety) and that the breadcrumb mixture doesn't burn. You want the mixture to brown nicely, but if it looks as if it might go too far before the squash is tender then cover the dish with tin foil. My squash cooked incredibly quickly without needing the foil.

5. Leave the mushrooms in large chunks, and fry in olive oil and salt for a few minutes. Then add the second half of the breadcrumb mixture and let that fry for another minute. Remove from the heat.

6. Boil enough water in a large saucepan for the purple sprouting broccoli and cook until al dente, which should take about 4 minutes.

7. Pile all the vegetables together in the baking tray and mix gently, then serve.

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