Smaller than a pumpkin and better looking than a turnip, the butternut squash rapidly established itself in our affections. Possessing all the starchy benefits of a potato, with the added bonus of counting as one of our 5-a-day, its versatility is one of its key attributes.
You can roast it, mash it, sauté it, turn it into soup, chuck it in a risotto/curry/stew or toss it atop a pizza and, while you decide, it will happily sit there for weeks on end and not go wrinkly, mouldy or flaccid.
Its sweetness and bold colour appeals to younger palates, making it a great baby food.
But it is also a great foil for stronger flavours such as the salty tang of blue cheese or smoked bacon, the pungent thwack of sage and chilli. If you want a bit more texture, pair it with roasted hazelnuts or walnuts; in fact a warm salad of roasted squash, blue cheese, walnuts and a chilli oil dressing sounds like a recipe in its own right. And boy, can it absorb a lot of butter!
If you start googling squash recipes, you may be gone for some time. There are hundreds, probably thousands of them, so it was with some trepidation that I set out to create yet another one.
They have been arriving in our veg box in pairs for about 3 weeks now and I have to admit, the more they stacked up, the blanker my mind became - a sort of squash blindness.
It was only when I was researching potato scones that the thought occurred to me that I could incorporate these into a bread recipe. I set to, more in hope than expectation, but was absolutely thrilled with the result.
These rolls were flavoursome and light in texture and, against the odds, lasted 3 days without detriment.
8 oz butternut squash (peeled weight)
12 oz strong white bread flour
1 tblsp rapeseed oil
½tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried yeast
5 fl oz of the squash cooking water
Cut the squash into chunks, place in a saucepan and cover with water.
Bring to the boil and simmer until soft. Drain the squash, reserving the coking liquid. Set the squash aside to drain completely and cool.
Mash or process the squash to a smooth purée.
Either place the purée with all the other ingredients into a food processor and mix thoroughly for 30 seconds or place them all in a bowl, bring together with a wooden spoon, then turn out on a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.
Cover with a damp tea towel or greased cling film and leave for 2 hours to double in size.
Turn out on to a floured surface and cut the dough into 8 equal sized pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth roll and place on a baking sheet. If, as I did, you are using one of our heavy duty baking sheets, that we developed with Val Stones, you don't even need to grease it.
Cover once more and leave until well risen.
Heat the oven to 200ºC and place the baking sheet in the centre of the oven.
Cook for 15 - 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and transfer the rolls to a cooling rack.
Delicious served warm, with lots of butter and a bowl of home made soup or a chunk of good cheese.
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