I know, being a Floridian at heart, I should really prefer summer, but there is so much gorgeous produce to eat right now that late autumn and early winter are pretty hard to beat.
Okay, maybe the British weather is a bit
pants underwhelming much of the time, but the produce that’s coming in is stunning: crimson globes of pomegranate; sunny hues, ghostly blues and the forest greens of winter squash; glossy brown chestnuts bursting in the fire’s heat. I really cannot resist raking through the pyramids of produce at this time of year; an edible treasure hunt where everyone’s a winner.
One of the selling points of foods at their best in winter is that they last. I can store them in my capacious walk-in freezer (my garage!) for weeks on end and still they are fresh and perky; ripe for slicing and dicing whenever I want them.
And oh how I want them. I even eat squash for breakfast. Sliced thinly into smiling orange disks they saute up nicely to add to a plate of stir-fried kale and mushrooms.
As much as I adore butternut squash – they are the sweetest variety commonly available – I do like to try the other vivid, nutrient-packed, versatile and delicious varieties as I see them. This week I was over the moon to see a hodge podge of colourful squashes piled up at my local Lidl – for less than a pound a kilo.
Reader, I bought four.
With one of the spaghetti squashes I made a not altogether successful vegan version of Deb’s Squashsagna. Deb’s pic on Instagram looked so cosy and inviting that I thought I would use some tempeh already defrosted in the fridge to have my own cosy squashagna dinner. And then I got a bit sick, busted my knee (unrelated!) and couldn’t be bothered making anything. For days. Note to self: use tempeh within its use by date. But I love the idea so I will definitely give it another bash, perhaps with Puy lentils. And Andrew will be most grateful. As he said to me by text when I mentioned tempeh lasagne: Ain’t no good tempeh but Tinie Tempeh (British-only joke. Sorry).
Note to Andrew: this does not contain tempeh. Tinie or otherwise. 🙂
Squash, Sprouts, Freekeh and Chestnut Salad with Buffalo Ranch Dressing (vegan recipe)
An A/W warm salad using winter squash, shredded sprouts, hearty grains, juicy pomegranate, earthy chestnuts, all topped off with a zingy vegan Buffalo ranch dressing to chase away the winter blues.
1 Sweet Dumping or Delicata squash*, halved, deseeded and sliced into half moons about 1 cm thick
1 tsp oil of choice
100g uncooked freekeh or other grains OR 250g cooked freekeh
150g Brussels sprouts, thinly shredded
100g cooked chestnuts, broken up or sliced
Arils from one pomegranate (here’s how Jamie Oliver and I deseed a pomegranate.)
Vegan Buffalo Ranch Dressing
125ml vegan yogurt (or buttermilk)
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 small crushed and finely minced garlic clove or good pinch powdered garlic
2 tsp each of finely minced parsley and dill
1 1/2 tbsp Frank’s Red Hot Wings Buffalo Sauce
Small dash of maple syrup if not using bought mayo
1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Toss the squash with the oil and lay evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, turning halfway through the time (not crucial).
2. While the squash are roasting, rinse the freekeh and cook in a litre of boiling, slightly salted water for 12 minutes for slightly chewy, al dente grains. Drain well and air dry in the colander.
3. Pop all of the dressing ingredients in a small jug and whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust to your liking.
4. When you are ready to eat, either have as a “composed” salad or mixed together and drizzled with the dressing. For the composed style of salad (shown), divide the freekeh between two shallow bowls and arrange each of the ingredients in sections over the grains. Serve with the dressing.
* Here is a great guide to all of the winter squash varieties.