Squash Baked with Beer, Cheese, Cream and Pretzels
I love this recipe from Claire Thomson's brilliant new book Home Cookery Year which I'm tempted to say is the only cookery book you'll ever need although if you're anything like me it's highly unlikely you're going to give the other however many dozen books you've got away.
Claire writes: Squash (and pumpkins) are the prize jewel of autumn, practically toppling supermarket and greengrocer fruit and veg stands.
Always choose the variety (whether squash or pumpkin) that are superior in taste and provenance. Avoid the juggernauts set aside for Halloween, as these are produced specifically for sculpting and are usually pretty tasteless. Look for sensibly sized, ripe, firm varieties of squash: medium-size squash, like the blue-grey skinned Crown Prince, or the dark green Kabocha; or any of the smaller varieties, such as sweet Uchiki Kuri or Acorn.
Lopping the top off and pouring in beer, three types of cheese (some hard, some soft) and also cream to bake like a fondue makes this a hugely impressive centrepiece, fitting of a feast.
1 x 1.5–2kg (3lb 5oz–4lb 8oz) squash (such as Crown Prince), or use 2 smaller squash (such as acorn)
100g (3½oz) aged gruyère cheese, grated (shredded)
100g (3½oz) emmental cheese, grated (shredded)
100g (3½oz) reblochon cheese, finely chopped (or use taleggio, fontina, raclette or camembert)
1–2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
2 tsp plain (all-purpose) flour (optional, to stabilize the cheese)
150g (5½oz) pretzels, bashed into large crumbs
100ml (3½fl oz) ale or beer (such as amber ales, Belgian beers, not too hoppy)
100ml (3½fl oz) double (heavy) cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Cut the top off the squash to make a lid, then hollow out the seeds. Season the inside cavity with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper and place on a baking tray. Replace the lid loosely and bake the medium-size squash for about 1–1½ hours or small squash for 30–45 minutes, until tender when skewered.
Meanwhile, mix the cheeses together in a bowl and combine with the garlic, and the flour (if using).
Increase the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Remove the squash from the oven and put to one side, leaving it (or them) in the baking tray and removing the lid(s). Scrape any cooked flesh off the lid(s) and place it in the squash cavity along with a few of the pretzel pieces.
A little at a time, add in the cheese mixture, beer, pretzels and cream (a little of one, then another, then the next, and so on – and repeat), finishing with a good sprinkling of pretzel pieces and cheese. Put the lid(s) back on the squash. Carefully put the squash back into the hot oven on the tray and bake for 20–30 minutes, or until the fondue is melted and bubbling within.
What to drink: Claire suggests - and I agree - the same sort of beer you use for the recipe "not too hoppy - an amber ale or Belgian beer would be ideal."
From HOME COOKERY YEAR: Four Seasons, Over 200 Recipes for All Possible Occasions by Claire Thomson (Quadrille, £30) Photography: Sam Folan
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