Gosh, isn’t autumn forgiving? I mean, forgiving in the ‘providing you with all of the squash and pumpkin that you could ever need, plus some more’, sense.
You get to dream up lots of ‘interesting’ ways of consuming the funny looking things and if, one day, your dish is something of a cock-up, you have the rest of the season to try again.
Thankfully, yesterday evening was only half a cock-up. Or maybe even less than that. The squash dish was pretty darned amazing, in fact.
Believe me, so far this autumn, we’ve eaten squash fatayer, squash and rosemary risotto, roasted squash with walnut and parmesan salad, pumpkin soup, and pasta with squash in a walnut and ricotta sauce. Most of these dishes didn’t even make it onto the blog and the majority were delicious and gorgeous-looking, to boot.
But as I said, on this occasion, the squash wasn’t the problem. It was the hastily thrown-together apple custard tart, which wasn’t quite up to scratch. Edible. Tasty, even. But not quite right.
The pastry was too crispy and the custard was too eggy and there was a distinct lack of apples for my liking. So, I give the recipe to you today solely on the premise that you will remedy these elements for me – that is, if you should be swayed by the pictures and feel the need to rush to the kitchen and bake it.
I would suggest removing an egg from the custard and adding the yolk to the pastry instead of water, but hell, I wouldn’t even trust me when it comes to apple custard tarts at the moment.
So, back to the squash.
Throughout the last eleven months living in Switzerland, there has been a significant lack of heat-inducing spice in my diet. Recently, this has seen me tearing down the mountain to our favourite Thai restaurant and practically begging to be fed chillies. On this occasion, to save myself the cost of petrol and the expense of eating out in Switzerland, I thought a squash curry was in order.
This Sambal is one I adapted from Chris & Carolyn Caldicott’s World Food Café, which is the book I always dig out on the days that I’m feeling spice-needy. I have only adapted it insofar as the vegetables have been altered in line with the season and therefore, so has the cooking method. Serves 6.
Onions – 1 medium, roughly chopped
Garlic cloves – 4
Hot, red chillies – 4, deseeded if you only want gentle heat
Ground almonds – 45g
Lemongrass stalks – 2, thinly sliced
Root ginger – about a 5cm cube, peeled and roughly chopped
Tomatoes – 400g (or about 4 medium-sized), roughly chopped (no need to peel or deseed, here)
Sunflower oil – 4 tbsp
Squash – 2/3 of a medium sized squash, peeled, deseeded, and chopped into 4 cm cubes
Turnips – 2 medium, peeled and cut into fairly slim wedges
Carrots – 2 medium, peeled and cut into batons
White cabbage – ½ a small one, finely shredded
Spring onions – a bunch of about 4, cut into 2½cm strips
Kaffir lime leaves – 4, rolled up and thinly sliced
Coconut milk – 200ml
Brown sugar – 1 tbsp
Lime – juice of 1
Beansprouts – 125g
Cucumber – 1/3 of a medium sized one, grated
Hot red chillies – 2, deseeded and finely sliced lengthways
Coriander leaves – a handful, chopped
Lime – juice of 1
Roasted peanuts – 60g, crushed in a pestle and mortar
Dump the chopped onion, garlic, chillies, almonds, lemongrass, ginger and tomatoes in a food processor and blend until smooth. Leave this alone for a few minutes, while you get on with the rest.
Heat the oil in a wide pan, or wok, until hot. Add the squash and fry for a few minutes and then add the turnip. A few minutes later, add the carrots and keep frying until the vegetables are lightly brown and the squash has begun to soften around the edges. Then add the cabbage and continue to cook until it has softened down.
Next, add the spring onions, lime leaves and the mixture from the blender, gently turning all of the vegetables over until they are coated. Add enough water to make a thickish sauce which barely covers the vegetables, add salt, and simmer until everything is just about tender. The carrots should still have ‘bite’ to them, while the squash and turnip should be a teensy bit more done.
Pour in the coconut milk, sugar and lime juice and taste again for salt. Bring back to a light simmer and cook for another couple of minutes.
Serve the Sambal in bowls and garnish with the remaining ingredients. The Caldicotts recommend a shake of soy sauce over each serving too, but I didn’t have any to hand. Serve with rice.
Now, to the aforementioned tart. The only bit of cookbook referral I did when it came to this, was to remind myself of Nigella’s pastry-making method. After one too many baking upsets and “… but this never used to happen to me!” incidents, I remembered how I always used to follow her fail-safe approach.
For the pastry:
‘00’ flour or plain flour – 120g
Golden icing sugar (if such a thing should exist where you are) – 30g
Unsalted butter – 80g
Iced water – 3 tbsp
Vanilla essence – ¼ tsp
Salt – a pinch
For the filling:
Whole milk – 85ml
Sour cream – 2 heaped tbsp
Free range eggs – 2
Nutmeg – a good grating
Golden caster sugar – 2 tbsp
For the topping:
Apples – 2, thinly sliced (I used Boskoop and didn’t peel them)
Golden caster sugar – for sprinkling
Ground ginger – for dusting
Butter – a few shavings, for dotting on top
First, the pastry. Sieve the flour and icing sugar together in a bowl and add the butter, cut into small cubes. Place the bowl in the freezer and leave it there for 10 minutes.
I’m presuming, you’ve got your iced water sitting somewhere in the fridge. To this, add the vanilla essence and salt.
After 10 minutes, remove the bowl from the freezer and tip the contents into a food processor. Pulse together all the ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse sand and then, tablespoon by tablespoon, add the iced water until the mixture only just begins to come together. Go cautiously after the first couple of tablespoons, as you may not need all the liquid.
Scoop out the mixture, flatten it slightly, wrap it in clingfilm (or something similar, as I can’t stand the damn stuff) and place it in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Once it’s had it’s time, flour your worksurface and rolling pin well, roll out the pastry and line a 24cm tart tin. With my tart, I rolled the rolling pin over and made it all uniform, but I would advise to leave the pastry hanging over the edges for you to neaten up later, as mine shrank pretty drastically.
Prick the base of the tart all over and pop it back in the fridge for another 20 minutes, while your oven warms up to 200 degrees Celsius/gas mark 6.
Blind bake the tart case for 15 minutes, then remove the baking beans and give it another 10 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius/gas mark 4, until lightly browned all over (you may want to cover the pastry edges in foil to prevent them from browning too much). Place the tart shell on a wire rack to cool for a while.
While the tart shell is cooling, make the custard. Place the milk and sour cream in a small pan, grate over a decent amount of nutmeg and heat gently.
In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until pale, and then slowly pour the heated milk mixture over the eggs, whisking as you go. Pour this mixture into the semi-cooled tart case. You don’t want to fill it right to the top, so you may not need it all.
Arrange a layer of apple slices over the custard and sprinkle this layer with golden caster sugar. Don’t worry if they sink a bit – this means that hopefully, the second layer will stay neatly on top.
Arrange a second layer of apple slices on top of the first, sprinkle again with golden caster sugar and dust all over with ground ginger. Dot shavings of butter here and there, before placing the tart back in the oven for 45 mins, or until the custard has set and the top is a golden brown.
Allow to cool for a while on a wire rack before serving.