The GAPS part of our diet doesn’t allow starches so you won’t find the likes of sweet potato, parsnips, yams and plantains in our kitchen. One day that’ll change but I don’t get stressed about it, because squashes are fine and fortunately there’s a load of varieties to choose from. Whatever recipe you have in mind, there’ll be a squash out there for you. I love that versatility and I also love the myriad of weird and wonderfully odd shapes, sizes and colours. Not to mention flavours! Whilst the summer squashes tend to be lighter and more delicate, their winter cousins are more gutsy in both flavour and texture and make great bases for a vast number of recipes, be they savoury or sweet. In fact I’m trying to think if there’s anything out there that is any more adaptable? And on top of all that they are seriously good for you. They are a good source of Omega-3 and betacarotene, which we know is required to bring inflammation down. There are huge antioxidant, anti-diabetic and insulin regulating properties and then all those Vitamins A, C and B-complex will make your immune system sing. Friends … I’m sold!
Because delicata squash has a softer flesh than others, I’m thinking butternut and spaghetti, it is great for making ribbons or eating raw. Its thin skin makes it easy to peel and quick to cook and its flavour is about the closest you can get to a sweet potato. If you select a delicata that seems heavy for its size and is yellow with good green stripes, you’re good to go .. and get this, keep it in a nice cool place it’ll be happy for up to three months, which means you’re unlikely to find one rotting in the back of the vegetable rack.
One of my favourite ways of cooking potatoes is the French classic, Pommes Anna. A ‘timbale’ of mandolin-sliced waxy spuds, layered with clarified butter and seasoning then oven-baked, it is not only unbelievably tasty but extremely pretty too. I first made a Pommes Anna at cooking school and it nearly blew my mind, it was so amazing but my version uses delicata squash instead, which makes a fine stand-in to be honest because this variety holds it shape when cooked. Squash and sage is a winning combination so I have used it here to add a bit of rustic earthiness to my French(ish) dish. A friendly word of warning though: If you use a mandolin, do yourself a massive favour and mind your fingers, those things are the stuff of nightmares!
Delicata Squash ‘Anna’
The beauty of this recipe is that it can be prepared ahead of time and left in the fridge until an hour before you need to serve it. I’m a great fan of making life simpler in the kitchen, especially at dinner time when you’re likely tired and would really rather be flopping in front of the goggle box! Be generous with the seasoning, it really does need it and this will push the squash well and truly into the savoury category as opposed to the sweet.
Print the recipe here
3 delicata squash (approx 1.2 kg in total weight)
1.5 tbsp duck fat, melted
4-5 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
sea salt (I use this one)
Preheat the oven to 400F / 200C
Peel, halve the squash width ways and then remove the seeds. Slice the squash very thinly with a mandolin if you have one, and failing that in a food processor or by hand. The important part is to ensure they are thin and evenly sliced. Grease the bottom of a medium sized ovenproof dish with some of the duck fat. Arrange a neat layer of overlapping squash on the bottom of the dish. Brush the squash with duck fat and season generously with salt and a small amount of sage. Continue to layer the squash, fat and seasoning until all the squash is used up. Finish with fat and seasoning. Cover with a greased piece of baking parchment and weight it down with something heavy enough to compact the squash. This is important because otherwise it’ll just fall apart (I use a smaller ovenproof dish filled with some rice that I found in my cupboard, which will never be used for anything else!). Cook for around 45 minutes, or until lightly coloured and tender when pierced with a knife.
Place a serving plate over the pan and turn upside down to release the ‘Anna’. Gently turn out and serve immediately.