Arriving in autumn (but known as ‘winter’ squashes), cold-weather squashes are set apart from their summer cousins by their thick skins, orange or yellow flesh and large, tough seeds. In her book Seasonal Food Susannah Blake invites you to try autumn squashes suggesting delicious recipes. Read on her vegetarian suggestion, a delicious Barley risotto with butternut squash.

There are many different types. The pumpkin, with its dazzling orange skin, is widely available, as is the creamy, smooth-skinned butternut squash and the smaller acorn squash, with its fluted dark-green or bright-orange skin. Less common are the hubbard, the onion and the Asian kabocha squash.

With their sweet flavour and smooth texture, all squashes are delicious sautéed, roasted, baked or steamed in their own juices and can be added to stews, pies and soups, used to stuff pasta or tossed into salads. Their natural sweetness also makes them ideal for using in cakes
and pies, pumpkin pie being the classic dessert served at a US Thanksgiving dinner.

Buy only unblemished squashes that feel heavy for their size. Avoid really large ones, as they often lack flavour. To prepare, halve or cut into segments, then scoop out the seeds, which may be roasted, cracked open and eaten as a snack. If sautéeing or adding to a soup or stew, cut off the skin; if baking or roasting, remove the skin before or after cooking.

Barley risotto with butternut squashrisotto recipe

Serves: 4
2 butternut squashes, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g/9oz pearl barley
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
80ml/21⁄2fl oz/1⁄3 cup white wine
125ml/4fl oz/1⁄2 cup vegetable stock
3 tbsp crème fraîche
4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
25g/1oz Parmesan cheese, grated


  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Put the squashes in a roasting tin, drizzle over about half the oil, tossing to coat, and
    season well with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning once or twice during cooking, until tender.
  • Meanwhile, cook the barley in boiling water for about 25 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.
  • Heat the remaining oil in a large pan, add the onion and garlic and fry gently for about 5 minutes, until soft. Stir in the drained barley, pour over the wine and stock, and leave to bubble gently for about 5–10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Stir in the crème fraîche, sage and Parmesan cheese, then fold in the squashes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.


Susannah Blake
Seasonal Food
Available from Nourish Books



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