There are few crops that store so well that you can eat them right up until next year’s sowing time, but winter squash is one. The squash that I sowed at this time last year, grew on in my greenhouse, planted out in early summer and harvested in autumn are still in perfectly good nick. Or rather one of them is. Or rather, it was this morning. I count running out of squash as something of a triumph. It means I grew roughly the right amount, because normally I have piles of the things right through to the following summer. This feels like a good time for a final winter squash. Maybe it means spring is coming.
It also means that I grew the right varieties. It is only when I have grown duff, bland, watery types that they have sat around daring me to eat them all winter, and I have been too uninterested to rise to the challenge. But it is no trial at all to eat ‘Uchiki Kuri’, ‘Crown Prince’ and ‘Thelma Sander’s Sweet Potato’. All have butter-dense, sweet flesh that caramelises well on roasting and I can recommend them if you are seed buying and sowing now (and you should be soon, in a heated propagator ideally). Don’t ever grow pumpkins, except for making lanterns. People will even tell you that you can eat your Halloween pumpkin. Yeuch. No.
I wanted to do something special with this final squash, and set my mind upon making a kind of winter baba ganoush (sticklers can call it burnt squash dip). Being able to make heaps of baba ganoush – smoky smooth aubergine puree with garlic, tahini and lemon – was one of the highlights of my first polytunnel year. I had aubergines galore and baba ganoush became a regular feature of my life, rather than an occasional treat. Such days! Well they are long gone now and with them my baba ganoush tsunami, and so this is an attempt to use my final squash of the winter to make a version. I wont deny it is a bit of a faff, but the result is glorious: silky, nutty and smoky. If you have one of those big, oversized ‘Crown Prince’ type of squashes and a party coming up then do the whole thing for a huge bowl of very special dip.
Winter Baba Ganoush or Burnt Squash Dip
This recipe is based on one acorn squash. You will need to scale up if your squash is bigger.
1 acorn squash
1 tbsp tahini
1 small garlic clove
The juice of ¼ lemon
Small handful of pumpkin seeds
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat your oven to gas mark 6/200C.
The beauty of baba ganoush is its smokiness, caused by grilling the outside of the aubergine on an open flame, so that is what we are trying to achieve here. I started off with the acorn squash under the grill, but when this was a little slow turned to a cook’s blow torch and had plenty of fun blackening the outside. You could also scorch it on an open fire or a barbecue. Whatever, the first step is to burn the skin of your winter squash. Unlike an aubergine, post scorching the squash will need plenty of further cooking, so put it into your hot oven and bake whole for an hour or even two, until you can poke it and feel that the flesh is soft beneath the skin. Take it out of the oven and leave it to cool completely. Crack it open, scoop out the seeds and discard, then scoop the flesh into a bowl and add the tahini, garlic, lemon juice and a little salt and pepper. The sweetness of squash means that you can be quite generous with the salt. Every squash has a slightly different texture so add olive oil if yours needs it, don’t if it doesn’t. Mix and smooth into a fresh bowl. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan and pour on top, then add a little olive oil and serve.