JP McMahon: Size up some squash

Whether tiny or a two-hand job, this seasonal vegetable can be enjoyed many ways

In the west of Ireland, the word pumpkin is used to describe anything large and orange. Photograph: iStock

In the west of Ireland, the word pumpkin is used to describe anything large and orange. Photograph: iStock

 

What’s the difference between a pumpkin and a squash? Not much, it seems in the west of Ireland, where the word pumpkin seems to be used quite loosely to describe anything large and orange.

But what if it’s small and yellow? Is it then a-kind-of courgette? Who knows. All I know is that the taste is great. The smaller squash (I’m talking really small, you could fit five in the palm of your hand) can be eaten raw in a salad. They’re usually yellow or orange. I love them with sheep’s yogurt and buttermilk (as a light dressing), perhaps some roasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds for texture: crunch in a salad is important.

The slightly larger squash (one fits in your hand) need to be cooked and I find roasting them is the best way. Simply quarter them, season with oil and salt and roast at 200 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes, until charred and tender. Of course, you can add red onions in with them while they are roasting and then scatter the whole dish with a nice Irish-style feta cheese (such as St Tola).

Seeds would be good here too, or maybe nuts. If you can get your hands on some fresh Irish hazelnuts, then you’re in for a treat. We’re getting some from Co Clare at the moment, from foragers called Thalli Foods and they’re really wonderful. I never knew Irish hazelnuts growing up and it’s a real pity we don’t get out there and pick them more often. It’s a nice thing to do with the kids on a Sunday, if you know where the hazel trees are located.

How to cook squash and chorizo soup

Really large squash (that take two hands to carry) are best for soup. Years ago in Cava, we made a chorizo and squash soup that everyone loved. Here’s how to cook it: fry one diced onion and one minced garlic clove in 50g of butter. Add 200g of diced cooking chorizo and then some peeled and diced squash. Cover the lot with chicken stock and add a few sprigs of fresh thyme. When the squash is tender, add 200ml of cream and blend until smooth.

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