Halloween may be over but the season for pumpkins and squash is not; these sweet-fleshed vegetables will be with us until the end of the autumn. There are many varieties, each with their own, subtle taste, and a glorious array of colours. The bright-orange onion squash – so called for its shape – is my favourite. Its flavour isn't particularly sweet, but it is deep and rich. It won't disintegrate during cooking, and works beautifully with roast lamb or chicken. Do leave the skin on – it's almost the best part.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, www.petershamnurseries.com
Onion squash and chickpea soup
50ml/2fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 dried red chilli
1 small bunch of sage
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 onion squash, sliced in half, deseeded and sliced into one-inch chunks
16 small plum tomatoes
1 tin of Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
250ml/8fl oz water
350g/111/2oz chickpeas, soaked and dried
1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
60g/21/2oz grated Parmesan
Place a third of the oil into a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat. When warm, add the onion and chilli, turn down the heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes until the onion is soft. Now add the sage, garlic, onion squash and the small plum tomatoes. Add a good pinch of salt, stir once or twice, then return the lid to the pan and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, turn the heat up slightly and cook with the lid off until the squash is soft and just beginning to fall apart. Add the water and the cooked chickpeas, a little more salt and cook for a final 20 minutes. To serve, spoon into warmed bowls, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle over the parsley and Parmesan.
Pickled onion squash
Pumpkins are surprisingly delicious when pickled. I make three or four jars around this time each year. They are good with baked ham, or can be incorporated into a salad with chestnuts and cured meats.
Makes 1-2 jars
11/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
70ml/3fl oz red-wine vinegar
1 firm onion squash
Start by toasting the coriander and caraway seeds in a shallow saucepan over a gentle heat until the seeds just begin to pop. Spoon in the sugar and olive oil, pour over the vinegar and continue to cook while you prepare the squash.
Using a very sharp knife, slice through the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Now slice finely into half-moon shapes. Stir the sugar into the oil and vinegar until it has dissolved, then place the slices in the pickling liquid. Cook for 45 minutes over the lowest heat.
Sterilise one or two jars (wash them in soapy water, rinse well, then place in a cool oven – 120C/250F/Gas1/2 – for 15-20 minutes), depending on their size. Remove the squash from the heat, allow to cool, and ladle into the jars. This can be kept in the fridge for up to three months.
Baked onion squash
This dish has its origins in the south of France. It is very rich and very indulgent, but lovely on a cold autumn evening. A salad of autumn leaves is perfect to balance its creamy flavours.
1 onion squash
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 bunch of thyme, leaves only
200ml/7fl oz crème fraîche or double cream
Salt and pepper
2 slices of stale white bread
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Slice the lid off the squash a quarter of the way down its flesh. Set the top aside and scoop out the seeds. Place the mustard, thyme and crème fraîche or cream into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir well to combine. Spoon half into the base of the squash, followed by a layer of Gruyère.
Trim the crusts off the bread and tear into one-inch pieces. Layer the bread on top and then pour over the remaining cream. Return the lid to the squash, place on a baking tray and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for one hour. Remove and allow to cool slightly, then serve as it is or spoon on to plates, scraping all the squash out as you do so. Serve with salad.