This recipe was devised on one of the rare occasions that we had a major power cut, with three young children needing to be fed and only the wood burner for warmth and cooking. We wrapped the squash in foil and tucked them into the edges of the wood burner, away from the flames. The children dipped cubes of bread into the cheesy, fondue-style filling. It became a popular supper dish in less chaotic times, too.
Our favourite squashes to use for this recipe are uchiki kuri (also known as onion squash), buttercup and blue ballet. All have dense, strongly flavoured flesh that soaks up flavours and fat without becoming mushy and marrow-like. The skin of the squash retains its beautiful, vibrant colour and is thin enough not to need peeling. We think it is the best part.
You can also serve this dish as a starter, using individual smaller squashes.
Serves 2 hungry people
squash 1, about 1–2kg
creme fraiche about 300ml (you need enough to fill the squash by three-quarters)
lemon juice of ½
celery leaves 3 sprigs, or 1 lovage leaf
rosemary, thyme or sage 2 sprigs
butter 1 knob
garlic 1 clove, finely chopped
nutmeg a little, grated, or ½ cinnamon stick
good melting cheese 150g, grated, such as comté, gruyère or cheddar
sea salt and black pepper
To garnish (optional)
olive oil 3 tbsp
sage 4–5 leaves
Heat the oven to 180C fan/gas mark 6. Cut the top off the squash to make a lid and set aside. Scoop out the seeds and a little of the flesh so that you are left with a clean squash bowl. To stop the squash toppling over, it is a good idea to make a base for it to sit on: take a roughly 30cm square piece of foil, squeeze it together and shape it into a “bracelet”. Put it in a roasting tin and place the squash on top.
Fill the squash three-quarters full with creme fraiche and then add the lemon juice, herb sprigs, butter, garlic and grated nutmeg or the cinnamon stick. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the lid back on the squash. Cover with foil and bake for at least an hour. The cooking time will vary, depending on the size of your squash. It is done when a sharp knife slides through the flesh with no resistance.
Remove the herb sprigs and sprinkle in the grated cheese. Place the squash back in the oven, without the foil, for about 10 minutes, until it has browned and the cheese is nice and gooey.
The fried sage garnish is optional, but it looks and tastes great. Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan and add the sage leaves, making sure they are completely dry if you have washed them. Fry for about 30 seconds, until crisp, then remove and place on kitchen paper to drain. Sprinkle the leaves on top of the squash filling.
The easiest way to serve this is to spoon out the creamy contents on to each person’s plate and then cut chunks off the squash horizontally, working your way down. Serve with toasted sourdough bread.