Squashes are available in a wide variety of weird and wonderful shapes, sizes and colours from the familiar pumpkin to the more exotic spaghetti squash. Choose squashes that feel firm and dense not hollow. The beauty of squashes is that all types whatever their size or shape can be used in any recipe in place of another (with the exception of spaghetti squash).
To store: Keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 month.
With a slightly sweet, buttery flavour and a firm texture this golden-orange fleshed variety is a popular choice. It has a pale creamy brown skin and is a similar shape to a rounded pear, butternut squash are 15-20 cm long.
Uses: Suitable for baking, roasting or boiling and mashing. Delicious in soups and risottos. Puréed butternut squash make a delicious baby food.
To prepare: Peel, remove the seeds and chop into chunks for boiling and roasting. For baking, leave whole and simply wash and pierce the flesh with a sharp knife.
To cook: Boil cubed butternut squash for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Roast chunks for 40-50 minutes at 200°C, gas mark 6, drizzled with olive oil. To bake a whole squash, cook for 1-11/2 hours at 200°C, gas mark 6 or until tender, peel and discard the skin and seeds and cut into chunks to add to dishes.
A dark green variety about 15-20 cm long, so called because of its similarity in shape to the acorn. It has a subtle chestnut flavour and the flesh is edible.
Uses: In soups, stews and simply boiled as an accompanying vegetable.
To prepare: Halve and deseed before baking.
To cook: To bake, season well and bake the two halves at 190°C, gas mark 5 for 40-50 minutes or until tender. To boil, peel, deseed and chop, cook in a pan of boiling water for 15-20 minutes or until tender.
One of the smallest members of the squash family, gem squashes are about the size of an onion. They are dark green in colour and are just the right size for stuffing.
Uses: Stuff whole gem squash with chopped vegetables and cooked rice. Or quarter and roast with thyme and serve with pork or slice and grill with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.
To prepare: Wash and remove the top and deseed. Leave whole or slice or quarter - gem squash do not need to be peeled.
To cook: Boil whole, prepared squash for 20-30 minutes or until tender. Bake stuffed squash for 1 hour at 200°C, gas mark 6 or until tender. Roast sliced gem squash for 30-40 minutes at 200°C, gas mark 6, drizzled with olive oil and thyme.
A medium-sized dark green variety, kabocha squash have a softish texture.
Uses: Ideal for soups, roasting, puréeing or as a pie filling. Particularly good served with ginger or orange juice or zest as flavourings.
To prepare: Peel, deseed and dice before cooking.
To cook: Boil diced kabocha squash in salted water for 8-10 minutes or until tender. Roast for 40-50 minutes at 200°C, gas mark 6 until tender.
A large orange onion-shaped squash this variety has deliciously soft melt-in-the-mouth flesh.
Uses: In soups, bakes and risottos, also delicious roasted, especially with other varieties of squash.
To cook: Cook with chilli or cheese for a delicious flavour.
To prepare: Cut into chunks and cook as desired (the skin does not need to be removed).
To cook: Boil chunks for 8-10 minutes or until tender. Roast chunks for 40-50 minutes at 200°C, gas mark 6 until tender.
Most often associated with lanterns at Hallowe'en, pumpkins have a sweet, honey flavour and they are especially popular in North America. When choosing a pumpkin, it should have a smooth skin and be firm to the touch. Smaller pumpkins contain more flesh and are best for eating.
Uses: In pies, soups and breads.
To prepare: Peel and cut into large pieces and remove the seeds.
To cook: Cook in boiling water for 15-20 minutes or until tender.
Named after the yellowy flesh which separates into strands when cooked, the flesh of this squash has a very different appearance to the other varieties.
Uses: Suitable for boiling or baking. The flesh of spaghetti squash can be used in the same way as pasta and can be served with a sauce. It can also be served cold as a salad with green beans and dressed with toasted sesame oil and rice wine vinegar.
To prepare: Cut in half lengthways and remove the seeds before cooking, or wash and prick the skin to bake whole.
To cook: Boil for 20-30 minutes or until the flesh is tender and has the appearance of spaghetti. Bake for 40-60 minutes at 200°C, gas mark 6 or until tender, scoop out the seeds and use a fork to fluff up and remove the strands.