How to season your squash

Here are some herbs that pair great with the autumn vegetable.

Sage and squash is like a match made in heaven. If you really want the flavour of sage to come through, get some butter going in a pan and fry the sage—a few seconds each side—to bring its oils out. The butter and sage alone make for a great butternut squash ravioli sauce.

Oregano is one of those herbs that you didn't realise your dish tasted better with, until you actually put it in. Try roasted squash with red onion, oregano, and mint.

The ever ubiquitous Basil is great with squash! Try risotto with butternut squash, leeks, and basil.

Squash and pumpkin for the most part are fairly mild in flavour, though quite sweet. With the addition of pungent, spicy Chives, you get a better balance of flavours.

Marjoram is a fairly delicate herb, which makes it great alongside squash, as it won't overpower squash's natural sweetness.

Parsley, like basil, is one of those wonderfully versatile herbs that go with just about everything. Chop it up and liven up your squash dish for something with a little more depth.


Get to know your Squashes!

Winter squashes are some of the most delicious and versatile ingredients of the season. Unlike summer squashes, these are harvested in autumn when they are hard and ripe, and most varieties can be stored and enjoyed for use through the winter. Here is a list of the most common and delicious ones:

Butternut Squash

  • What it looks like: This pear-shaped squash has a smooth, cream-coloured exterior with bright orange flesh and comparatively few seeds.
  • Buying and storing: Look for squash that’s firm, heavy for its size, and free from cracks and soft spots.
  • Flavour: This is the sweetest variety of winter squash.
  • How to use it: Butternut squash is extremely versatile. It’s perfect for roasting and sautéing, or making a smooth purée or soup.

Acorn Squash

  • What it looks like: The Acorn squash is small in size, typically weighing between one and two pounds, with orange-yellow flesh and thick, dark green and orange skin.
  • Buying and storing: Choose acorn squash that have a firm exterior, are free from soft spots and blemishes, and feel heavy for their size. Store them in a cool, dry place and they will keep for at least one month.
  • Flavour: Acorn squash has a mild, subtly sweet and nutty flavour. Its skin is also edible.
  • How to use it: Like most varieties of winter squashes, acorn squash is really versatile. It can be baked, roasted, steamed, sautéed, or even cooked in the microwave.

Buttercup Squash

  • What it looks like: Buttercup squash is squat and round with an inedible dark green rind that has green-gray striations. It has firm, dense, vibrant orange flesh. It resembles kabocha squash, though is distinguished by a round ridge on its bottom.
  • Buying and storing: Choose a squash that’s heavy for its size, with even colouring. Avoid squashes with blemishes, soft spots, or dull skin. Buttercup squash can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to three months.
  • Flavour: Buttercup squash has a sweet, creamy flavour and is considered sweeter than other winter squash varieties.
  • How to use it: The flesh tends to be dry, so steaming and baking are the best methods for cooking this squash. And its firm texture makes it ideal for a curry.

Kabocha Squash

  • What it looks like: Kabocha squash is squat and round, and similar in size and shape to buttercup squash, though the base points outwards. It has a dull finish with dark green skin that sometimes has small lumps, and a bright yellow-orange flesh.
  • Buying and storing: Look for a squash with dull colouring that’s firm and heavy for its size, and free from soft spots. Store it in a cool, dry place for up to one month.
  • Flavour: Kabocha squash is remarkably sweet with a nice nutty flavour, and texture that’s similar to a blend of sweet potato and pumpkin.
  • How to use it: Kabocha squash is very versatile and can be used as a substitute for any other winter squash. It can be roasted or steamed, added to soup, or used for a pie filling.

Sweet Dumpling Squash

  • What it looks like: This squash, with bright orange to dark green striations, may be the cutest of the bunch.
  • Buying and storing: Look for squash with deep colouring, with a smooth rind that’s free from soft spots, blemishes, or cracks. Stored in a cool, dry area, away from sunlight, this squash can last for up to three months.
  • Flavour: The flesh tastes very much like sweet potato, and the skin is edible as well.
  • How to use it: The small, single-serving size of this squash makes it ideal for stuffing and roasting. Use sweet dumpling squash in recipes calling for sweet potato or pumpkin.

Carnival Squash

Breed an acorn squash with a sweet dumpling squash, and you get a carnival squash. While the carnival squash's exterior resembles both of its relatives', its yellow flesh is mellow and sweet. Use it wherever acorn squash or butternut squash is called for in a recipe.

Red Kuri Squash

The red kuri has an asymmetrical, lopsided look to it. Its yellow flesh is smooth and has a chestnut like flavour.

Pumpkin

  • What it looks like: Pumpkins used for cooking and baking are smaller than the field pumpkins used for decoration. They’re round with a firm exterior that can range in colour from pale yellow to bright reddish-orange, with a vibrant orange flesh.
  • Buying and storing: For the best flavour and texture, choose pumpkins grown specifically for eating rather than carving, such as sugar pumpkins, sweet pumpkins, cheese pumpkins, and different heirloom varieties.
  • Flavour: Large field pumpkins — ones you’d put on your front porch — are best left for decoration since they’re dry and flavourless. Sugar pumpkins, and like varieties, have a sweet, earthy taste.
  • How to use it: You can use smaller pumpkins just as you would other varieties of winter squash — bake, roast, or purée them. Pumpkin is ideal for soup, curries, and of course, pies!

Cucumber Face Mask

Keeping your skin hydrated helps improve elasticity and firmness. Lack of hydration  can make your skin look dry and flaky, and be more prone to fine lines and wrinkles. Maintain a healthy, glowing complexion by replenishing your skin with hydrating ingredients like cucumber.
Cucumber has anti-inflammatory properties: it helps reduce swelling and morning puffiness. Similar to aloe-vera, cucumber can soothe mildly burnt or damaged skin and help alleviate sunburn due to its cooling properties.
Cucumber is a mild astringent, meaning that it tightens pores, helps regulate oil production, as well as reduces the appearance of pore size. Excess oil and large, clogged pores often contribute to breakouts, so if you have oily or acne-prone skin, cucumber will be your skin’s new BFF.

Cucumber Face Mask:

  1. Blend or puree half an unpeeled cucumber in a blender or food processor until it’s the consistency of a watery paste.
  2. Separate the juice from any solid bits by pouring the mixture through a strainer.*
  3. Apply the cucumber juice to your freshly washed face. Let the mask sit on your skin for 15 minutes.
  4. Wash the mask off with cool or lukewarm water and pat your face dry with a soft cloth.
*To boost your skin hydration, add 2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel to the mixture. Blend until smooth.

Courgette Flowers

Courgette plants have both male and female blooms, which have distinct, visible differences.
Male Courgette Flowers: male flowers have a single, long stamen that is covered in pollen.
Female Courgette Flowers: female blossoms have a stigma with multiple stems inside.
Courgette Flowers are edible, they provide a plentiful supply of vitamins along with minerals like zinc, magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper, and calcium.
The best way to enjoy courgette flowers? Stuff them with herbs and cheese (like Ricotta) or with ham and cheese, dip in a light batter and deep-fry.


Colourful Tomato, Feta & Olive Salad

Ingredients

  • Colourful tomatoes from The Tomato Stall
  • Green olives
  • Kalamata olives
  • Feta cheese
  • Spring onions
  • Salt and pepper
  • Coriander
  • Olives
  • Oregano

Method

  1. Slice the tomatoes in half or quarters, and combine with olives, feta and spring onions.
  2. Dress with olive oil and season to taste with oregano, coriander, salt and pepper.

Courgette & Ricotta Fritters

Ingredients

  • 250g Ricotta cheese
  • 250g Courgettes
  • 1 Egg
  • Salt
  • 50g Bread Crumbs (plus extra for the coating)
  • Vegetable oil, to fry

Method

  1. Grate the courgettes and squeeze out any excess water. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl mix well the ricotta cheese and 1 egg. Add grated courgettes, salt and bread crumbs.
  3. In a large pan, over medium heat, add the oil to fry the fritters.
  4. Meanwhile roll the ricotta and courgette mix into balls and coat them with bread crumbs.
  5. When the oil is ready, fry the courgette and ricotta fritters, flipping them over once, until they are golden brown.
  6. When ready, move them on a plate lined with kitchen paper.
  7. Serve them with mayo or ketchup.

Not a fan of fried food? You can cook the fritters in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius until golden brown.
For a nice twist, once cooked, put them in a pan with tomato sauce, for 20 minutes (over low heat) and enjoy with a crusty baguette to dip into the sauce!


Courgette Carbonara

Ingredients

  • 300g Courgettes (3 small courgettes)
  • 350g Spaghetti (or your favourite pasta)
  • 100g Pancetta (cubed)
  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Fill a saucepan with water and add some salt. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the pasta following the instructions on the package.
  2. In a separate pan, add olive oil and cook the pancetta until golden. Meanwhile cut the courgettes in small slices and add to the pancetta. Let it cook for a few minutes mixing every now and then.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs well, Parmesan cheese and pepper.
  4. Drain the pasta cooked "al dente" and add it to the pan where you cooked the pancetta and courgettes. Mix it well.
  5. Remove from the heat and add the egg mix until you get a creamy sauce.
  6. Sprinkle with parmesan  and serve immediately.

Are you cutting on carbs? Try to make the same recipe using courgette noodles (spiralised courgettes) instead of regular spaghetti!


Courgette Roll with Ham & Cheese

Ingredients

  • 5 Eggs
  • 25g Parmesan cheese
  • 500g Courgettes
  • Salt
  • Cheddar cheese (or any melting cheese you like)
  • 120g Cooked ham

Method

  1. Grate the courgettes and squeeze out any excess water.
  2. In a bowl whisk the eggs, then add Parmesan cheese, grated courgettes and salt. Mix well.
  3. Line a 32cm x 22cm oven tray with greaseproof paper. Add the courgette mix, spreading well with a spatula.
  4. Cook in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes or until golden.
  5. Once cooked, cover the courgette omelette with thin slices of your favourite melting cheese and cooked ham.
  6. Move it onto a bigger sheet of greaseproof paper, and with the help of the paper, roll it up, twisting the paper closed on each side, like a big wrapped sweet.
  7. Move back to the oven tray and cook it in the oven for extra 15 minutes, until the cheese has melted.
  8. Open the paper, let it cool for 5 minutes, slice and serve immediately.

How to choose and store sweetcorn & how to use bare corn cobs

How to choose and store sweetcorn?

When shopping for corn, look for bright green husks, tightly wrapped around cobs that are firm and plump when gently squeezed. Avoid husks with small brown holes, a sign of insects. The bottom stalk-end of the corn should be pale; brown bottoms are likely several days old and not as fresh. The tuft of corn silks at the top should be light brown or gold; skip the black or mushy tassels. And FYI: you don’t need to pull back the husk to check out the kernels inside. Exposing the corn to air causes it to dry out, shortening its shelf life.

Once you’ve got the corn home, keep it at room temperature if you plan to eat it that day. For longer term, keep the corn from drying out by tightly wrap the cobs in a plastic bag and refrigerating for up to 3 days. If you need to store it any longer than that, blanch the corn immediately after purchasing, then freeze it.

How to use bare corn cobs?

  1. To smoke meat: you don’t only have to smoke meat with wood chips. You can replace wood chips with leftover corn cobs. Completely dry the cobs out in a low oven, then use them as a replacement for wood chips. Naked cobs are placed over the charcoal and give meat a sweet but mellow smoky flavour.
  2. To scrub a pot: yes, you read that right! You can use bare corn cobs as a scrubber for any pots or pans that need a good cleaning. Just dry out the naked cobs in a low oven until they harden and scrub away. It's safe on cookware and is so much better than a smelly sponge!

Coleslaw

Ingredients

  • 1/2 white cabbage, core removed and cut into quarters (you can use some red cabbage too)
  • 1 small red onion, peeled
  • 3 carrots, peeled
  • 2 red apples, washed and cored
  • a small bunch of flat leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • some mayonnaise
  • 1 heaped tsp English mustard

Method

  1. Slice the cabbage as finely as possible (you can use a food processor). Slice the onion in the same way and mix with the cabbage in a large bowl.
  2. Julienne the carrots and apples with a mandolin or cut into matchsticks. Add to the bowl along with the chopped parsley, a few dollops of mayonnaise and the mustard. You can adjust the quantity of lemon juice and mayonnaise to how you like it.
  3. Season to taste and toss together.