As autumn rears its russet head and the leaves begin to fall, it means that two of my favourite things are in season and waiting to be eaten. On the squash front there is everything from old reliables like Butternut and pumpkins to Acorn, Spaghetti, Onion, Kabocha – all grown right here in good ol’ Blighty.
For those of you who like your meat running, jumping and swimming wild, British game has so much to offer. If venison is as far as you’ve ventured before, why not have a go at partridge, grouse, wild boar or mallard? Here at the De Beauvoir Belly we have two great recipes for you, one from me and one from our very own Chef Jamil.
Let’s start with a combination of the two. These seasonal ingredients work so well together and can be quite a showoff dish if you’ve got someone who likes their duck a bit wilder. I’ve done for 4 as the squashes can be on the big side for 2 – but they make great left overs.
Juniper Roast Mallard with mixed squash puree, Green Wave mustard greens, duck jus and squash seeds
2 Mallard – I got mine from Rhug Esatate
1 butternut squash
1 onion squash
1 big bunch of Green Wave mustard greens
10 Juniper berries
100ml Duck stock
Big splash of Madeira
A drizzle of oil
Grab your trusty pestle and mortar – don’t mess around with a spice grinder, it’s not the same – and add 10 juniper berries, a teaspoon of sea salt and a couple of white pepper corns. Pound away the stresses of the day until you have a fine, aromatic seasoning salt. Have a little taste. You should get that juniper hit and white pepper warmth – if not, add accordingly.
Prep the squashes by cutting them in half and scraping out the seeds. DO NOT THROW THEM AWAY. Place in a preheated oven tray with a decent lip, drizzle with a little oil and a conservative sprinkling of the seasoning salt. Throw in half a pint of water to add steam and cook for 40 mins at about 180 – or until spoonably soft.
On to the mallard. These birds are a bit different from the normal waddlers you might get, as they spend more time in the water. They’re also much less fatty than their farm dwelling cousins which is great for your belly, but means that they can dry out if you’re not careful. So be careful. Prick the skins all over to let that fat render during cooking and liberally season with the juniper salt, inside and outside the cavity. If you’ve bought a big packet of juniper berries and don’t know what you’re going to do with them, crush a couple and put them in the cavity of the Mallard. Place the birds in an oven tray, on a rack if you have one, but no bother if not. Now, arrange those squash seeds that you definitely didn’t throw away in dripping distance of ducks. Roast everything for about half an hour, depending on the size of your birds at 180.
Back to the squash. Remove from the skins and put in a mixer or bowl. I used a kitchen aid because I’m lazy. Add some softened butter, as much or as little as you like, and beat until a smooth puree. If you’ve got the time or inclination, pass everything through a sieve to get a silky smooth puree. Season to taste. If you’ve got any of the juniper salt left, use that to keep the flavours going throughout the dish. If the puree is looking a bit watery, put it in a pan on the hob at a low temperature to cook off the excess liquid. If you’ve got this far, you know what a puree should look like.
Get the Mallard out of the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. It really does make all the difference.
The sauce is a really simple jus. Heat the Madeira until it is reduced by half. Add the duck stock and reduce again by half. Stir in a knob of butter for shine and that’s it. You want a fairly thin sauce, so don’t worry about reducing it all too much.
The greens are super quick as well. They are packed full of flavour so just steam them and season to taste. Start by spooning a generous portion of puree onto the bottom of the plate, top with the mustard greens and then the carved Mallard. Pour the jus round the plate and finish with those crunchy squash seeds. The photo is of mine. I would have got that smudge of sauce off, but it was a toss-up between getting the perfect photo and eating it… only one winner.
Here’s Chef Jamil’s recipe – a really warming spiced pick me up for a very satisfying lunch.
Creamed Butternut squash, Puy lentil, chilli and coriander soup - Serves 4
1 Large butternut squash, or 2 smaller ones
100g Puy lentils
2 banana shallots, chopped
1 clove of garlic chopped
1 red chilli, seeds removed and chopped
25ml olive oil
A handful of coriander, stems and all
A big drizzle of cream
500ml veg stock
Season to taste
First up, roast the squash. Peel and cut into chunks, splash of olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for about twenty five minutes at 180, or until soft. Also, you’ll need to precook your lentils. 30 minutes in a pan of boiling salted water will do the trick. They’re done when soft with just a little bite in the middle. Drain and rinse under cold water to get rid of the inevitable scum that will have come out in the cooking process.
While that’s all happening, preheat a nice big saucepan – give yourself a bit of extra room for stirring and blending later. Add the olive oil and sweat the shallots, garlic and chilli until soft but not too coloured. Add the veg stock (make your own if you have time, but plenty of good varieties available on the market) and bring to the boil.
Throw in your newly roasted squash and cook for a further five minutes. Next up is the coriander, roughly chop, add and cook for a minute or so. Blend the soup however your preferred method might be. I always go for the stick blender for fear of the lid falling off and showering everything in boiling butternut. Add the cream and check your seasoning. Add the lentils and cook enough to reheat. Serve with a big chunk of bread - a little extra drizzle of cream or perhaps some pumpkin oil to finish. Delicious.