Butternut squash is defined by its sweet, nutty taste and unusual bulb-like appearance. Its flavour is slightly different to that of a regular pumpkin and it’s generally considered as very healthy; packed full of vitamins A and C. Also known as the “winter pumpkin”, this orange vegetable can be used to complement hundreds of dishes and has dozens of recipes of its own, ranging from cottage pies to soufflés, sweet desserts and vegetarian burgers.
As the squash is a seasonal vegetable, it’s essential to choose it carefully. The squash should be hard to touch, with no holes, softness or brown spots. The colour should be beige and it should feel heavy for its size. Use a very sharp vegetable peeler that has a carbon steel blade. When cutting up the squash it’s important to keep it stable – to achieve this you should cut a 0.5 cm slice from the bottom and the top, cutting off the stalk, to provide you with a flat edge.
Stand the peeled squash upright (if still wobbling, make another cut at the bottom to even it out, or cut the squash in the middle so that you separate the thinner end from the round one).
Cut the squash in half from top to bottom. Parts of the squash might be thick and hard to cut through so using a rolling pin can help to push the knife through difficult spots. Always steady the squash on a large cutting board and always cut away from you with caution. Using a metal spoon, scrape out the seeds and the stringy pulp from the body of the squash.
You can toast the seeds, as you would with pumpkin seeds, or simply discard them. Lay the squash halves on the cutting board, with their cut side down. Begin slicing the squash lengthwise in your desired width – recipes usually call for the pumpkin to be sliced between 1cm and 2.5cm or greater, but the thickness isn’t that important as long as all the slices are even. For cubing, stack a few of the slices at a time and make another set of cuts.
When roasting the squash make sure to space it out evenly on the baking tray. Without enough room, the vegetables risk steaming rather than roasting, leaving them with a softer exterior as opposed to a golden crispy one. To save time when cleaning up, line the baking tray with foil. The butternut squash should be roasted until it has turned a golden brown colour and become tender and lightly caramelised.
Try adding a pinch of cinnamon and cayenne for extra warmth and spice, or slightly sweeten the squash by adding a sprinkle of brown sugar. For super tasty butternut squash soup use chicken stock made from hot water and a melted Knorr Chicken Stock Pot which will help to bring out the nutty and sweet flavour of the squash.
You can make crisps with the butternut squash peelings by drizzling with a little oil and baking in a hot oven, seasoned with rosemary. These butternut squash crisps make a great accompaniment to the soup. Finish the soup with a swirl of cream or a sprinkle of grated Parmesan.