When thinking about autumn recipes the first things that come to mind are pumpkins and sweet potatoes. I’m not sure whether or not this is due to Halloween’s influence, but they seem to just fit this time of year. Both are light enough to eat when the temperature hasn’t dropped below 15°C yet, but also wholesome enough for when it gets down to 10°C and you need a bit more fuel.
Personally, I’m a massive fan of Middle Eastern-inspired food, so in my opinion you needn’t look further than the recipes of the famous Yotam Ottolenghi to satisfy your autumnal pumpkin-y cravings, as he, without a doubt, dishes out the goods… (pun intended). My dad discovered Ottolenghi back in 2013 and this recipe, along with its cousins (found in his books, through our own improvisation or by other Middle Eastern-inspired chefs) has been a family favourite ever since.
‘Serve with a crisp green salad in a lemony dressing. Serves eight as a starter, four as a main course.
1 small butternut squash, peeled, ends trimmed 1 tbsp olive oil 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary leaves, plus 1 whole sprig 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed Salt and freshly ground black pepper 45g caster sugar 150g goat’s cheese log (with rind), cut into 1cm-thick discs 350g ready-rolled all-butter puff pastry
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Cut the squash in half lengthways, scoop out and discard the seeds, then cut the flesh into 0.5-1cm half-moons and put these in a medium bowl; you should have about 500g in total. Add the oil, chopped rosemary, garlic, half a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper, and toss to coat.
Heat a 24cm nonstick, oven-proof frying pan on a medium-high flame. Add the sugar, cook for four to five minutes, until it melts and becomes a semi-dark caramel, then take off the heat (it will keep cooking, so don’t leave it too long). Leave the caramel to cool a little, then lay the sprig of rosemary in its centre. Arrange the squash slices around the rosemary in a circular pattern, working from the outside in and overlapping as much as possible. Dot cheese here and there (you want some underneath the squash, some in between and some on top), and spoon over any rosemary and garlic left in the bowl.
Cut the pastry into a rough 26cm circle and lay it on top of the squash, making sure it covers everything (if need be, use the offcuts to patch up any gaps). Prick all over with a fork and bake for 50 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the caramel is bubbling up at the edges. Put a large plate upside down on top of the frying pan, and invert so the tart comes out on to the plate (make sure to protect your hands from the scalding caramel). The squash will now be on top of the tart. If any pieces of squash stick to the pan, just lift them out and put them back in place on the finished tart. Serve warm.’
This recipe is really easy, the only downside being the cooking time, which can be a long wait if you’re hungry. However, the recipe leaves a lot of room for interpretation! I’ve substituted the butternut pumpkin/squash for sweet potato, and have added caramelised red onion to the mix. Also, goats cheese can be a bit pricey when you buy it in the round form that Ottolenghi suggests, but there’s not much harm in opting for a slightly cheaper version. Feta works too if you’re in a pinch or not a goats cheese fan. And if you’re feeling ambitious, you could always try making the pastry yourself…