Monday 22 January 2018

Quite a squash

quite a Squash Looking for a curry with a new twist? Butternut might be the answer to your dreams, says Susan Jane White

Delicious butternut dish
Delicious butternut dish
Susan Jane White

Susan Jane White

Butternut is a type of squash, as well as a euphemism for Michelin-starred chefs. And Darina Allen. However, the butternut is not a nut at all. But, by golly, does it taste sweet and buttery.

This vegetable is carbalicious and full of stonking nutrients, such as beta-carotene and potassium. One cup of butternut is likely to give you more than twice the amount of potassium than your average supplement.

We love potassium to help keep our blood pressure dandy. Too much sodium pushes blood pressure up, while potassium helps coax levels back down. Nifty, huh? This mineral is also touted as a sporting ally. Leg and foot cramps are often a symptom of potassium deficiency.

Beta-carotene is just one of many carotenoids housed inside the amber flesh of the butternut squash. The carotenoid family receives a lot of attention among scientific researchers because of their protective role against many degenerative disorders, such as age-related macular degeneration, heart disease and autoimmune diseases. Weighing in at 750ug of vitamin A per cup, the butternut squash is a carotenoid giant.

There's clearly no point in horsing into healthy food unless it tastes good. Life is too short to tax your taste buds.

I recommend peeling the butternut, composting the seeds, and chopping its flesh into tiny pieces. Roast on high for 15-20 minutes in a little coconut oil.

Nothing else is needed except a little reverence. One of my favourite cafes, Bibi's in Portobello, serves it this way for breakfast with a harissa poached egg and chilli yoghurt. There's always a queue at the door before the cafe opens.

Sweet Butternut and Cardamom Curry Just. So. Good

Serves 2-4.

If the list of spices makes your kitchen cupboards wince, then replace them with 1 tablespoon of curry powder.

You will need:

2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin coconut oil

1 red onion, skinned and chopped

2 cups (480g/17oz) diced butternut

½ teaspoon ground fenugreek

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon mustard seeds (obligatory!)

1 fat garlic clove, sliced

1 can coconut milk

1 cup (240ml/8½fl oz) vegetable stock

1 big chilli, deseeded and finely sliced

½ cup of apricots, sliced into halves

1 cup (180g/6½oz) red lentils, washed thoroughly

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Using your largest pan, melt the coconut oil with the red onion and the diced butternut. Sweat on a gentle heat for 8-10 minutes. Add the ground fenugreek, the ground turmeric, the ground cardamom, the mustard seeds and the sliced garlic – your nostrils and neighbours will enjoy this.

You'll need to stir frequently to prevent the garlic from charring. When the spices start sticking, whack up the heat and add the coconut milk, the vegetable stock, the deseeded and sliced chilli, the apricots and the red lentils.

Once bubbling, cover with a lid and reduce the temperature to a gentle gurgle. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the butternut is sufficiently fragrant and soft. If the curry looks a little dry, add a few tablespoons of water to loosen it up. If it looks too wet, remove the lid during the final few minutes of cooking. Season to taste. How hard was that?!

We usually resurrect some peas or spinach from our freezer at this stage, and pop them into the party. A little bit of green is nice, but not integral to the dish. Serve in big cereal bowls.

Got a suggestion for future topics? Tweet @susanjanehealth

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