Antipasto of summer squashes and courgettes

Serves 4-6

There are some interesting summer squashes around now, including acorn squash, onion squash and butternut, the old faithful which these days seems to be readily available for most of the year.

I've added some deep-fried courgette flowers to this dish. They can be picked from the male courgette plants that don't develop a courgette, or you can buy them from specialist greengrocers. Farmers' markets may also sell the flowers, and you can use squash or pumpkin flowers if you come across those instead while you're looking.

A simple batter can be made by mixing together equal quantities of flour and cornflour along with some finely grated Parmesan and baking powder, and mixing to a smooth paste with water and seasoning, or you can cheat and use a tempura batter mix which always comes out well. The flowers are then dipped in the batter and fried until crisp.

Just to add to the flavour I've drizzled the cooked squashes and courgettes with toasted pumpkin-seed oil which you can buy from good delis.

1 squash, such as an acorn, cut into segments and seeded, with the skin left on
1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-3cm chunks
2 large courgettes, cut lengthways into 1cm-thick strips
4-5tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2tbsp pumpkin seed oil
1tbsp pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
2tbsp pesto, thinned down with olive oil for the deep-fried courgette flowers
8 courgette flowers
1tbsp cornflour
1tbsp flour
tsp baking powder
tbsp grated Parmesan
Water to mix

Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan with a little oil. Season and cook the squashes on a medium heat until lightly coloured then finish them in an oven pre-heated to 200C/ gas mark 6 for 15-20 minutes, or until tender. Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, heat a ribbed griddle plate brushed with a little olive oil, or a heavy frying pan, and lightly season and cook the courgette strips for about 4-5 minutes on each side, then remove from the heat and leave to cool. Pre-heat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed frying pan, or use an electric deep-fat fryer. Dip the courgette flowers into the batter, then into the hot fat and fry until crisp, removing with a slotted spoon.

To serve, arrange the squashes and courgettes on a serving dish and drizzle with the pesto and pumpkin-seed oil and scatter the pumpkin seeds and courgette flowers on top.

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