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Butternut squash soup

I got this recipe a few years ago from the Irish mum of a dear friend and it’s become the soup I make the most often. It’s lovely and thick, and perfect for warming you up on cold nights. It’s also easy to make (chop, simmer, puree and eat!).

If making this for the younger munchkins in your family, use a low-sodium stock. I usually use a stock I’ve made using a leftover roast chicken carcass as I can decide how much salt to add to it, if at all, but a low-sodium stock cube works just as well.

Add a swirl of cream or yogurt to each bowl just before serving. Please excuse my ‘artistic’ swirls in the photo. I was trying to be too clever and it didn’t work at all (you should have seen the efforts I didn’t photograph!).

Nicholas is mostly enjoying having a vegetable soup starter before dinner. I’m definitely finding it the best way at the moment to get more vegetables into him, even though he’s going through a period of fussiness which means he’s sometimes eating very little for dinner. I spent a lot of time last week searching  for advice for fussy eaters and asking people for tips, then trying them out. There’s definitely a post on tips for fussy eaters in the pipeline.

In the meantime, enjoy the soup.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

Prep time: 10-15 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Makes 6 adult servings

1 large butternut squash, peeled and roughly diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and roughly diced
1 litre chicken stock
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper

Melt the olive oil and butter in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the vegetables and saute for about 5 mins.

Add the stock, bring to the boil and then simmer over a low heat until the vegetables are soft.

Remove from the heat and puree until smooth. Check for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed.

Serve with a drizzle of cream or yogurt.

 

Does your family have a favourite soup?

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Stuffed butternut squash (family recipe)

I love butternut squash (or butternut pumpkin as it’s called in Australia). It’s amazingly versatile for a vegetable and has a lovely rich sweet taste. Roasted, mashed, made into a soup, added to risotto, shaped into patties or even baked in a cake, you can pretty much do anything with butternut squash.

As as puree, butternut squash is often a favourite with babies. Have it on its own or add some extra natural sweetness with some cooked unsweetened apple. Once you want to start introducing some other flavours to your baby, warm spices like cinnamon and coriander, or herbs like sage and thyme work well with butternut squash.

If you’re making my stuffed butternut squash for the whole family, buy a squash that has a long neck. Part of the neck will be roasted and pureed for a baby, and another part of the neck will be roasted and stuffed for a toddler, while the adults are left with the main body of the squash and a bit of neck.

I stuffed my squash with veal, but you can use any minced meat or a combination of meats (pork, beef, turkey, etc.). You can also quite easily make this dish vegetarian by mixing the roasted mashed squash with some fresh breadcrumbs or cooked rice or couscous, or even some other roasted vegetables like courgette; top with some toasted pinenuts or fried sage for a different texture.

STUFFED BUTTERNUT SQUASH

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 1 hr
Serves 2 adults, 1 toddler and 1 baby

1 butternut squash with a long neck (approx. 1 kg)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
200g veal mince
1/2 onion, finely diced
about 2 tbsp of olive oil
salt and pepper
1 1/2 tbsp breadcrumbs
a handful of grated cheese (for example, cheddar or parmesan)

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line a baking tray or roasting pan with some foil or baking paper to minimise cleaning.

Wash the outside of the butternut squash and pat dry. Halve it lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Cut off two pieces from the neck. Place the squash on the roasting tray, cut side up, and drizzle each piece with a little olive oil. Sprinkle over the cinnamon. Season the main body pieces for the adults with some salt and pepper.

Roast for 35-45 mins until the flesh is soft (the two smaller pieces will take less time to cook). Remove from the oven to cool but leave the oven switched on.

While the butternut squash is cooking, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan over a med heat. Cook the onion until soft (about 3-4 mins). Turn up the heat a little, add the veal and fry until just cooked through (about 5 mins). Season and remove from the heat.

For baby:
Remove the peel from baby’s piece of roasted squash and mash or puree the flesh to the desired consistency. Add an extra pinch of cinnamon or ground coriander if you wish.

For toddler and adults:
Scoop out most of the flesh from the remaining pieces of roasted squash, leaving a thin border of flesh around the edge. Mash the flesh and stir in the veal mixture. Spoon back into the pumpkin pieces and place back on the roasting tray. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and cheese. Cook for another 5-10 mins in the oven until the top is golden brown.

Tip: rinse off the discarded seeds, pat dry and then roast in a dry frying pan. Sprinkle over the butternut squash to serve or eat them as a snack another day.

Soft butternut squash cakes

I’ve been more focused on toddler-friendly meals lately, natural since Nicholas is getting bigger, but I don’t want to stop experimenting with recipes that are also good for your smaller little ones.

These little vegetable cakes are very soft inside so great for babies without teeth. They are a simpler (and slightly quicker) version of my Butternut Squash and Chickpea Cakes, which are easily adapted to feed the whole family.

I made some medium and small-sized ones, but because of their softness the small ones (about 4cm in diameter) are easier for small fingers to hold and also easier to flip over when you’re cooking them.

If you’re making these for toddlers you can add some seasoning and also some spice (I used a teaspoon each of paprika and cumin for a warming spicy flavour). If you’re introducing a little spice to your munchkin, start with 1/2 teaspoon each of spices.

Use your preferred method of cooking the butternut squash, remembering that the quicker you cook it, the more nutrients remain. For toddlers you can leave the peel on as it will get chopped up in the food processor when you combine it with the other ingredients.

This recipe makes a large batch of cakes – perfect to have in the freezer for days you don’t feel like cooking.

SOFT BUTTERNUT SQUASH CAKES

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Makes about 40 mini cakes (or 26 medium cakes)
Freezable

Approx. 400g cooked butternut squash
1 medium courgette (zucchini), coursely grated
1 400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup plain flour
Drizzle of olive oil or cooking spray

For toddler version also:
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper

Put the butternut squash into a food processor and blend until smooth. If you’ve left the skin on, check that it’s broken up into small pieces.

Add the grated courgette, chickpeas, egg yolk and flour. Blend until combined (the mixture will be quite runny almost like a pancake mixture).

If making for a toddler, add the paprika, cumin and season to taste.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a med-low heat, spray with cooking spray or use a drizzle of olive oil.

Drop small spoonfuls of mixture into the pan (don’t overcrowd the pan to make turning them easier), flipping them after a few minutes when they’re golden brown and cooking the other side. Repeat with the remaining mixture.

Leave to cool a little (they’ll firm up a bit as they get cooler). Serve with yogurt to dip them into.

Variations:

  • Use sweet potato instead of butternut squash
  • For toddlers, try some different spices such as ground coriander
  • Add some fresh coriander to the mixture

What other soft foods do you like to make for your little ones, especially when they don’t yet have teeth?

Butternut squash and chickpea cakes


While we’ve been quite adventurous letting Nicholas try some foods (at 16 months he’s already tried frog legs, mussels, veal, pink beef and, if you’re not European maybe skip the next word… horse). I have, however, been quite cautious introducing stronger spices. Herbs like basil, oregano, chives, thyme and parsley I had no problem in adding pretty much immediately; they help give flavour when you’re not adding salt. But I’ve been concerned about spices like cumin and coriander and also garlic, possibly irritating Nicholas’ tummy.

If you’re interested in reading some more about introducing spices to your little one’s food as well as the health benefits of spices, this article gives a good overview and it also has links to Indian recipes for babies (suitable from 7-8 months) and toddlers (suitable from 10-12 months).

So in my quest to start introducing some stronger spices into Nicholas’ diet I thought I’d adapt Cook Eat Live Vegetarian’s wonderful butternut squash and chickpea cakes. Have a look at Natalie’s fabulous plating of her creations and I dare you not to drool! In fact maybe just look at her photos rather than my poor efforts!

This is an easy recipe to do two ways – cakes for your toddler and cakes for the rest of the family. I make my toddler version first (eliminating some of the spices and reducing others) then add the missing spices to the remaining mixture before making the adult cakes. I serve the toddler cakes with some yogurt to dip them into (toddlers love dipping!) and the adult cakes with whatever chutney we have in the fridge (will definitely make Natalie’s red onion marmalade soon though).

I don’t peel the butternut squash… I’m lazy. If I was serving this to guests I probably would just to be sure they didn’t find any big bits of peel. I also mix my ingredients in a food processor (the original recipe mixes them by hand). Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients as they’re actually very easy to make.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND CHICKPEA CAKES

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 30 mins (roasting the squash) plus 15 mins (cooking the cakes)
Makes 2-3 toddler servings (about 12 mini cakes) and 2 adult servings (6 cakes)
Freezable

400g butternut squash, chopped (unpeeled) into chunks of about 4cm
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Drizzle of olive oil
1 400g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup (40g) breadcrumbs (or polenta or cornmeal), plus extra for coating
1 tsp ground cumin
1 small clove of finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 egg
a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of black pepper

To add for family version:
1/2 tbsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 small-medium clove of finely chopped garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C. Put the butternut squash chunks on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle with the cinnamon. Roast for 20-30 minutes until golden and soft when pierced with a knife.

While the butternut squash is cooking, put the rest of the ingredients for the toddler version (chickpeas, breadcrumbs, cumin, garlic, lemon juice, egg, parsley, salt and pepper) into a food processor.

Once the butternut squash is cooked, you can decide whether or not to leave the skin on or peel it off. If leaving it on, you just need to blend your mixture a bit more to ensure the peel is broken up and you can always still check for big bits of skin when shaping your cakes.

Mix everything together until the butternut squash has broken up and the mixture is sticking together. If you have time, cover your bowl with cling film and put in the fridge for at least half an hour so the mixture firms up and it’s easier to shape your cakes. If not, it’s easier to drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the breadcrumbs and shape each one as you’re covering it.

Shape about half the mixture into little balls. Dip into breadcrumbs to cover completely.

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a medium frying pan at medium heat. Cook the balls for a couple of minutes each side, pressing them down into cake shapes, until they have a lovely golden crispy coating.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt.

For grown ups:

With the remaining mixture add the rest of the ingredients (garam masala, cumin, garlic, cayenne pepper, and extra salt and pepper) and mix well. Shape into 6 equal balls and dip into breadcrumbs to coat. Add some more olive oil to the frying pan and cook them for 4-5 minutes each side, pressing them flat.

Serve immediately with some fruit chutney and salad.

Variations:

  • the original recipe uses fresh coriander rather than parsley
  • replace the butternut squash with sweet potato

How do you feel about giving your little one strong spices?