“The only thing about the onset of Autumn that excites me more than the prospect of not having to apply sun cream to a toddler for the next six months is the arrival of some of the best fruit and veg of the year.
As the nights draw in, the vegetable patch, orchard and hedgerow serve up a positive treasure trove. Roots, squashes, brassicas, fruits and fungi abound. And with so much delicious and relatively inexpensive produce available, there’s no easier time to keep your food choices seasonal, local and sustainable.
The start of the colder months has many of us hungrily contemplating the first roast beef of the year, but the hearty flavours of Autumn’s veg mean that making them the stars of the show can prove equally satisfying. This recipe pairs some of the season’s most robust flavours with a sausage meat stuffing and smoked cream to create a tasty meal worthy of a table full of friends, a roaring fire, and a few glasses of something good.”
Stuffed Squash with Apples, Onions and Smoked Cream
(Quantities will vary depending on the size of your squash. You may want to hollow one out to see how much room there is inside the cavities before making the stuffing. If you end up with surplus stuffing mixture it’s no hardship—it makes a great breakfast shaped into patties, fried until golden brown on both sides and topped with an egg. If using smaller squash, serve one per person. If yours are larger then carve them at the table for people to share.)
For the squash, apples and onions:
2-4 squash, depending on size (roughly 400g per serving)
1-2 bulbs fennel (depending on size), finely sliced
1 white onion, finely sliced
4 cloves of garlic
400g good quality, high-welfare organic or free-range sausage meat
3 tsp fennel seeds
3 tsp chilli flakes
50g sultanas (soaked in cider for an hour before using)
50g mature hard cheese, grated (I used a delicious extra mature Cornish Gouda from the Cornish Gouda Company)
1 egg, beaten
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
50g chunky breadcrumbs
A good handful of thyme, sage and rosemary (or whichever of these you have available)
8 good eating apples
8 red onions
For the smoked cream:
1 clove garlic, crushed
1tsp Dijon mustard
A grating of nutmeg
Smoked cream (can be made up to three days in advance):
1. Open the kitchen windows, just in case…
2. Place a heatproof bowl containing the cream on a trivet (this can be improvised) inside a hot smoker, casserole, or large saucepan with a snug fitting lid. Scatter a thin layer of oak sawdust on the base of the pan or smoker.
3. Place over a medium heat until the sawdust begins to smoulder, then put the lid on. After five minutes take the pan or smoker off the heat and leave for another five minutes with the lid on for the smoke to infuse the cream.
4. Carefully carry the smoking vessel outside to remove the lid. Drop in one clove of crushed garlic and allow to cool. Store in an airtight vessel in the fridge. To serve, remove the garlic and gently heat the cream in a saucepan. Finish with a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a grating of nutmeg, a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
Stuffed squash, apples and onions:
1. Over a medium-high heat, fry off the sausage meat, chilli flakes and fennel seeds in rapeseed oil until the meat is slightly browned. Deglaze the pan with 100ml cider and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the pan and set aside.
2. Add a little more oil to the same pan and cook the fennel and sliced white onion until softened. Add a generous handful of chopped sage, thyme and rosemary and grate in four cloves of garlic. Cook for two to three minutes before adding the sausage meat back into the pan. Cook for a further five minutes before deglazing the pan with another 100ml cider. Once the liquid has evaporated remove from the heat, taste and adjust the seasoning.