Things have been quietly getting on in the pumpkin patch. The big leaves have been hiding some steadily enlarging pumpkins and squashes. `I went away for a while and when I came back one of them had grown to gargantuan proportions. Perfect for Halloween but a bit overgrown for the pot. The Crown Prince and Onion squash varieties have grown a little slowly and are at the perfect size. The Turk’s Turbans looked so good, I just wanted to keep them as decoration with their toy shop shapes, colours and patterns.
Different varieties suit being cooked in different ways: the Crown Prince is perfect for soup – it can sometimes be a little floury so it suits having some moisture added; the Onion and Acorn squash are good for roasting, and the big old pumpkins, well, I think they’re best for the children at Halloween.
I usually make risotto or stuff ravioli with the squash, but this time I thought I’d make fat little gnocchi to eat with a delicate oregano infused butter. To add to the squash, I used the last of a good crop of blue Danube potatoes which we’d harvested a few weeks before. They had been disappointingly floury and kept exploding out of their beautiful purple skins when I boiled them – no good for boiling but ideal for making a smooth mash.
Roasting the squash beforehand intensifies the flavour, which when mixed with potato becomes delicate with a lovely background sweetness. You can of course serve it with sage butter but I enjoyed the change of using the oregano, which is an even better companion.
Note on the recipe: use these quantities just as a guideline as both potato and squash can vary in water content.
Serves 6 as a starter
1kg onion squash, peeled and seeds removed
salt and pepper
750g potatoes, peeled
3 large eggs
200g good quality plain flour
flour for dusting
100g unsalted butter
A few sprigs of oregano leaves, picked from the stem
Preheat the oven to 220◦C
Cut your squash into slim wedges and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and a sprinkle of dried chilli and dried oregano.
Roast in the oven for 10 minutes or so or until soft and cooked through.
Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in plenty of salted water until they are completely soft. Drain and mash. If you have potato ricer, this is definitely the time to use it as the smoother the mash, the better.
Then mash your roasted squash and gently stir together. Season well with salt and pepper and a few grates of nutmeg. Beat the eggs and add them to the mixture one by one. You don’t want the mixture to become too sloppy and you can always add more egg later so be careful at this stage. Add most of the flour and beat briskly, just to mix everything as you don’t want to overwork the flour and potatoes. You are looking for a fairly stiff dough but one that is smooth and soft. Adjust with more flour or egg as necessary and finally check the seasoning.
Dust a work surface well and taking a small handful of the mixture, roll it around in the flour on the surface and gently roll it with your palms into a long sausage shape. Repeat this with the rest of the mixture before cutting it into short lengths.
Cook in plenty of salted water which is at a good simmer but not a rolling boil. After sinking for a bit, the gnocchi will float to the surface where you should allow them another couple of minutes cooking before scooping them out to drain.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan with the oregano until it just begins to brown then pour over the gnocchi and grate over a little parmesan.