Roasted Squash and Lamb Chops by Blanche Vaughan

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Roasted Squash and Lamb Chops

Blanche Vaughan – Food writer and Chef

Squash

You know Autumn has arrived when the eye catching assortment of pumpkins and squash decorate the greengrocer’s shelves. With their bright colours, shapes and sizes they cheer up even the greyest of days.

Beyond the ubiquitous butternut (which is imported most of the year), there’s a choice that would rival any toyshop window display for sheer visual delight.  Amongst others there are squat round shapes like Acorn; huge, long striped Delicata; a smooth skinned bluey-silver variety majestically know as Crown Prince and glowing-orange Onion squash (the name refers to the shape rather than flavour – think of the onion domes in Istanbul).

These vegetables (well, technically they are fruit as they contain seeds) are one of the cooler season’s greatest produce. The Italians have always had a passion for squash (or zucca as they call them) and the flavour of their nutty, firm flesh suits many of the ingredients they use – pancetta and chestnuts in a risotto, crisp sage and Parmesan sprinkled over squash-stuffed ravioli or baked whole squash with oregano, nutmeg and cream are a few of my favourites.

However, despite the soft and yielding consistency of the flesh once cooked, the raw ingredient often needs some forceful (even brutal) work to cut into. A large, sharp knife is a crucial tool, along with a steady surface and a bit of muscle power.  Some people use a bread knife, which works well with smaller varieties. I tend to give a sharp chop with a large cleaver and then firmly bear down on it to cut through the skin and flesh. Scoop out the seeds then remove the skin with a peeler, or slice it off using the knife.

Once chopped, the reward is in the cooking and eating. This is a vegetable which can be used in many different ways – simply roasted with herbs, boiled and mashed with potato for gnocchi, braised and pureed to make into soups, or even added to curry or autumnal salads.

This recipe uses the vibrant, long purple leaves of winter Radicchio di Treviso (but you could use round radicchio or other chicories). The leaves have a slightly bitter flavour which becomes softens when roasted and goes beautifully with the sweetness of the squash. It is a dish full of the colours of autumn. Served with some grilled lamb chops, this is a perfect, easy meal.

Serves 4

8 large lamb chops

1 onion squash

4 heads of Treviso or other red chicory

2 cloves garlic, crushed to a paste with salt

a small bunch of sage and thyme, chopped

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

 

For the chop marinade:

2 cloves garlic, crushed

a few sprigs of thyme

a few squeezes of lemon juice

3tbsp olive oil

 

Heat the oven to 220°C

Mix together the marinade for the chops and rub into the meat. Set aside.

 

Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and peel off the skin. Chop it into thin wedges. Toss in the garlic and chopped herbs and season well. Lay out flat on a roasting tray and roast for about 15-20 minutes or until it is starting to brown around the edges.

Slice the Treviso into long wedges and when the squash is nearly ready, lay it on top. Pour over a little more oil and salt and pepper and continue to roast for another 10minutes or so until it has become soft.

 

Season the chops well and grill them in a griddle pan or under the oven grill. Leave to rest for 5minutes or so.

Serve the chops with the roasted squash and Treviso, a green salad and a spoonful of crab apple or redcurrant jelly.

 

A little bit of squash history:

The squash is a genus of the cucurbita family. There are a number of varieties of the cucurbita species, found growing naturally in the Americas as early as 10,000 years ago.

The English word ‘squash’ comes from askutasquash (green thing eaten raw). We must have learnt quickly how much better they taste cooked.

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