Tuesday 21 November 2017

Healthy eating: Susan Jane White says butternut squash will help protect you against the cold

It's an autumnal delight, says Susan Jane White, and butternut squash will help protect you against the cold

Butternut squash is a sweet, buttery vegetable that jumps on the circuit every autumn. Have you seen it? Although it looks like a giant peanut, it's not a nut at all.

Butternut squash is probably closer to pumpkin in colour and taste, but has the added bonus of not requiring a forklift to bring home from the supermarket.

Its amber flesh contains roaring amounts of beta-carotene, an easily absorbable and non-toxic form of vitamin A. One cup will ring in at a whopping 22,868IUs of this vitamin, trumping even the most sophisticated multivitamin pills.

Why does this excite me? Scientists agree that beta-carotene is required by our immune system to function at its optimum. It is the precursor to vitamin A. Clinic studies have shown that an increase in beta-carotene significantly improves our body's ability to fight off pesky foreign invaders, especially when the snifflies are doing their rounds.

So pack this dynamo recipe into an empty container for lunch this winter. I use the dainty cardboard ones from my local deli counter. Please ask before stuffing the empty boxes into your shopping basket, or I'll get blamed for promoting shoplifting. Another option would be to check out Avoca for their gorgeous polka-dot lunch packs, or Stock on Dublin's South King Street for trendier Nordic designs.

You'll save a fortune bringing in your own lunch this winter. I'm here to help you do that.

Squashed Butternut

This comforting, hummus-like dip was the star of a recent pot-luck party I attended. Everyone invited had to bring one dish, and, thankfully, it didn't matter if it was a dessert, soup, dip or main course.

Pot-luck parties are the perfect antidote to cash-strapped weeks, and glorious green cards for the unabashed gluttons among us. No one goes home feeling ripped off.

Serve it like hummus, alongside crudites, on top of avocado, with Sunday's roast chicken or smothered on lamb kebabs.

You will need:

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Sprinkle of good unrefined salt

5-6 rough tablespoons tahini

3 tablespoons thick Greek yoghurt

2 teaspoons soy sauce or tamari

Drizzle of date or maple syrup (optional)

2 small garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

Sesame seeds, to decorate

2 tablespoons chopped or torn coriander, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4. Spread the chunks of butternut squash out on a medium-sized baking tray, pour over the extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with the cinnamon and salt. Merrily toss it all together, cover the tray tightly with tinfoil and roast for one hour. Do check it once or twice during cooking and shake the tray, so the pieces cook evenly. Remove from oven and leave to cool.

Transfer the cooled squash to your food processor or whizzy machine, along with the tahini, the Greek yoghurt, the soy sauce, the date or maple syrup, whichever you are using, and the crushed garlic.

Roughly pulse into a coarse paste if you plan to serve it like a mash with roast chicken or fish. You can also do this by hand using a fork or potato masher.

Otherwise, pulse into a smooth paste and spread over a flat plate. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, an arty swirl of treacly date or maple syrup, if you are using, and a dusting of the chopped or torn coriander leaves.

A little battalion of toasted pitta breads and hungry toddlers are the perfect accompaniment.



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