I’m sure I was subconsciously influenced by the Halowe'en marketing mania when I bought a butternut squash last week, since I don’t really know what to do with them, and especially since my main audience hates the things in the first place. Still, there it was, and I hate throwing food away, so something had to be done with it. I’m sure the spirit of this recipe is not original, but insofar as the below method and ingredients are concerned, I made it all up on my lonesome – and hugely successful I thought it, too (himself still wouldn’t touch it, though).

So, for a seasonal treat, a warming side dish or a slightly exotic vegan main dish, take:

  • 1 butternut squash, or about 1kg of pumpkin
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp mild chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • A few sprigs of thyme, or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Good quality olive oil – about ¼ cup

  1. Start by crushing the garlic in a pestle and mortar with the salt. It should turn into a fragrant, shiny paste within 1-2 minutes tops. Add all the spices and the olive oil (the flavour of the oil is quite prominent in this dish, so the purer it is, the better); mix well to create an even thin paste. Set aside to let the flavours develop.

  2. Cut the butternut squash in half. Using a small knife or (my preferred tool) a metal spoon, scrape the seeds and pulp from the cavity and discard. If using pumpkin, all sorts of faffy routes open to you of drying and roasting the seeds, but personally I’d rather buy mine pre-roasted, thankyouverymuch.

  3. Peel the two halves of the squash with a small and sharp knife. If you prefer to use a peeler instead, you may have to do it twice over, as the skin on squashes is quite thick and often doesn’t all come off first time round. Lay each half flat on a chopping board, cavity side down, and cut lengthways with a large knife into strip about 1.5cm (1/2 inch) thick. The slices from the fleshy middle will be thicker than the rest, so lay them on their side and cut in half again, then cut all the strips into cubes.

  4. Cut the onion into quarters, then slice. Place in a bowl with the squash cubes and the spice mixture and mix thoroughly so all the vegetables are well coated. You can cook the salad immediately, however it is vastly better to let it marinade for a while – preferably over night.

  5. Preheat an oven to 190C (Gas mark 6). Place the squash evenly in a shallow baking or roasting tin and scatter the sprigs of thyme or the dried leaves; bake for 45 minutes, stirring at least twice to make sure all the pieces cook evenly. Discard thyme sprigs when taking out of the oven. Let the salad cool in the tin for 20 minutes before serving, as it’s best eaten at sort of body temperature (although I’m sure it would be nice hot as a side dish as well).

Enjoy – and if you’re doing me the honour of trying this at home, do let me know how it came out!

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