PUBLISHED: 10:13 27 October 2015 | UPDATED: 10:13 27 October 2015
Courgettes, squashes and other members of the cucurbit family work well in October as a seasonal culinary cross-over for Stephen David, chef-director of Bespoke Events
Halloween and those ghoulish Jack O’Lanterns are not the only reason I love all things cucurbit – that’s courgettes, cucumbers, melons, squashes and, of course, pumpkins – though our children, Maddy and Seb, would disagree.
They love carving out spooky faces on the biggest orange pumpkins they can lay their hands on and come up with the scariest designs possible. The delicious by-product of this autumnal craft is the sweet orange flesh, perfect for warming soup or spiced pumpkin pie.
Earlier in the month, as summer lingers, their greener cousins such as cucumbers and courgettes work well as flexible weather-friendly fare. They are delicious cool and marinated alfresco, but if it comes over grey and murky, head inside and dish them up in a zingy warm salad.
For a warm salad try roasted wedges of pumpkin with middle-eastern spices, pan-fried courgettes with rosemary, garlic and sea salt, sweet-pickled cucumber ribbons, fragrant mint-marinated charentais melon, simple cubes of iced watermelon. They come together well with a salty feta cream dressing, swirls of basil pesto, some ruby chard and peppery rocket leaves, slow-roasted tomatoes and rustic croutes of char-grilled granary bread.
You can mix up the garnishes for your salad with things like earthy softened lentils, slaked whilst hot with a red wine vinaigrette, caramelised aubergine slices, roasted red peppers, warm marinated baby beets, port-poached pears, honey-roasted figs or peaches, and spicy parsnip chips. Go wild in the greengrocery aisle.
The choice of greenery for your plates is wide. Besides traditional lettuce or salad leaves, how about wilted brassicas, such as spinach or kale, perhaps partnered with balsamic-roasted sprouting broccoli or brussels sprouts, pan-fried with pancetta. Starch for contrast is a must in any good warm salad. There’s a plethora of breads, pasta, rice, cous cous, quinoa, potatoes, other roots, and much more to play with.
Dressing-wise I favour keeping it simple. Things like lemon, garlic, balsamic, or honey and mustard won’t dominate the sweet earthy flavours of the vegetables.
But if chilli, soy and other spicier things are more your style, play around and create your own epicurean heaven. n
Bespoke Events provides restaurant-quality cooking for wedding and party celebrations, with personal professional service, local Suffolk produce and fresh seasonal ingredients, award-winning chefs and attentive staff, creating a truly individual occasion to remember. To find out more call Rebecca Mackenzie, event director 01986 802000 www.bespoke.events