There are a few recipes throughout the book featuring squashes and pumpkins in various guises. The most common way for them to show up on a Paradiso menu, however, is treated fairly simply and used as a secondary part of a dish or on the side. This is true at home too, and in New Zealand where I first made their acquaintance. There, many dinners were accompanied by huge wedges of pumpkin (Crowns, usually), slowly roasted until meltingly soft and eaten with butter, skins and all. A lovely way to cook a whole, smallish squash is to slice off the top, scoop out the seeds, put in some garlic butter, replace the top and bake in a moderate oven until a knife goes easily through the flesh. We sometimes get a few tiny ‘Jack-be-littles’ which are brilliant like this, one per person. I love chilli with squash, especially if there’s some butter involved too. It’s got all the comforting, melt-in-the-mouth qualities but with an added touch of excitement. I’d eat this for breakfast but what it’s perfectly suited to is accompanying dishes flavoured with interesting but mild flavours. The skin of most squashes and pumpkins is edible but that’s up to you. This recipe is simple and works equally well on any kind of squash or pumpkin, but is best with the orange-fleshed sweet varieties. The quantities are all dependent on the size of the pumpkin. Three of the wedges described below will be a substantial amount for each person. If your squash is bigger than that, cook only as much as you want and the leftover piece will keep for a day or two, or longer if wrapped in paper and kept in the fridge.
The worst part of dealing with pumpkins, especially large hard-skinned ones, is cutting them down to manageable pieces without injury. Be careful. First chop the squash in half and scoop out all the seeds and stringy stuff. Now place the halves cut-side down on a board and carefully chop them into smaller pieces until you have wedges of about two- or three-bite size. Toss these in just enough butter to coat them, enough chopped chilli to tickle your palate and some salt. You can speed up the process by boiling the wedges in water for a minute first, but they cook very quickly in water and will fall apart in the oven if they have been cooked too much already. Roast the wedges in a fairly hot oven, 350-400°F (Gas Mark 4-6), until the squash is soft and caramelizing at the edges, tossing and turning them once or twice in the process. About 20 minutes should do it.
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