Mark Hix recipes: Squash and marrow make for a fine autumn meal

Members of the gourd and squash family don't really get used to their full potential

Buying good butter puff pastry makes all the difference
Buying good butter puff pastry makes all the difference

This time of year is great for many members of the gourd and squash family, including the common courgette and marrow. They are often underrated and don't really get used to their full potential. Some of the squash family aren't that practical in cooking – they can have more skin and seeds than flesh – so don't get too drawn in by fancy-looking ones. The best all-rounder for me is butternut: it's always sweet, with a deep orange colour and a good proportion of flesh.

Marrow curry

Serves 4-6

This makes a lovely early-autumn vegetable accompaniment or starter. Alternatively you can serve this with rice as a vegetarian main course.

60ml of ghee, butter or corn oil
2tsp ground cumin
2tsp cumin seeds
1tsp ground turmeric
2tsp ground coriander
Seeds of 6 cardamom pods
1tsp black mustard seeds
1tsp fenugreek seeds
20 curry leaves
¼tsp ground black pepper
2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2tsp finely-grated root ginger
1-2 red or green chillies, sliced
½tbsp tomato purée
600-800ml vegetable stock
Salt to taste
1 small marrow (800g-1kg), quartered lengthways with the seeds scooped out
1tbsp vegetable or corn oil
2tbsp pumpkin seeds
20-30 curry leaves
2-3tbsp chopped coriander

Heat the butter or ghee in a thick-bottomed pan, and gently cook all of the spices on a low heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring so they do not burn and the seeds start popping a little.

Add the onions, garlic, ginger and chillies, cover with a lid and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the tomato purée and stock. Season if necessary and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the liquid has reduced by about half. Meanwhile cut the marrow into 1cm thick slices on the angle. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the slices, a few at a time, for a few minutes until they begin to colour. Add them to the sauce and continue simmering until the sauce is just coating them.

Meanwhile fry the seeds and curry leaves in a little oil until the leaves crisp up. You can top up the curry with a little water if the sauce is reducing too much. Stir in the coriander and remove from the heat. To serve, scatter the curry leaves and seeds on top.

Squash tart

Serves 4

This is a pretty simple tart to make and buying good butter puff pastry makes all the difference. You can use any kind of squash or even marrow for this.

A small butternut squash, peeled, halved and with the seeds removed

Sea salt
200g butter puff pastry, rolled 1/₃cm thick
A little rapeseed or olive oil

For the topping

2-3tbsp fresh white or panko breadcrumbs
2tbsp freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan
1tbsp chopped parsley
1tbsp pumpkin seeds, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the end off the squash where the seeds were, then chop it in to rough pieces and cook in boiling salted water for 6-8 minutes until soft. Drain well then blend in a liquidiser, making a purée. With a peeler, shave the rest of the squash as thinly as you can. Blanch in boiling salted water for 30 seconds, then drain.

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas mark 6. Cut the pastry into 10-12cm x 6-8cm rectangles, lay on a baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Cook for 3-4 minutes in the oven, then flip them over with a fish slice and cook for another 2-3 minutes, then remove from the oven. This prevents the pastry from rising and distorting in shape.

When ready to serve, spread a little purée on each pastry base, toss the shavings in a little oil, season and arrange on the purée. Bake the tarts for 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the crumbs, cheese, parsley and seeds together and season. Scatter the topping on the tarts then return to the oven for another 4 minutes.

Gratin of squash

Serves 4-6

You can use any kind of squash for this, even spaghetti squash, which as the name suggests forms into long, delicate strands when cooked, or try a mixture of squashes so you have contrasting textures. You can use the shell of the squash as a serving vessel, as I have here, or just use a straightforward gratin dish.

1 or 2 squash or a mixture, weighing about a kilo or so
500g mascarpone cheese
110g Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
220g double cream
2 egg yolks

Halve the squash and cut a piece off the bottom so they stand up. Scoop out the flesh, discard the seeds and cut the flesh into even, bite-sized chunks. Cook them in boiling salted water for a few minutes until tender, then drain. To make > the sauce, melt the cheeses in a thick-bottomed pan and bring it to the boil. Add the double cream and season, then simmer for a couple of minutes. Pour the sauce into a liquidiser and blend until smooth. Mix the squash and sauce together, then stir in the egg yolks and fill the squash shells or gratin dishes. You can either bake in a moderate oven or under a medium-heat grill, until nicely golden, and serve immediately.

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