Butternut Squash and Stichelton Gratin
Mmmm, a gratin of any kind gets the thumbs up from me. Cooked in cream and smothered with cheese is just the kind of food I need at this time of the year. Still warm during the day, but as soon as the sun goes down the chill sets in and the urge for warming rich foods sets in. Well, perhaps not for everyone, but then a treat every now and then is not such a bad thing is it?!
We get organic butternut squashes delivered to our back door from Foskets Farm located in our village. It’s a great sight for tired chef’s eyes so early in the morning, opening the back door and tripping over crates of butternut squashes. It’s the beauty of living in the country and perhaps ‘living the dream’. I make my life here in Suffolk sound all fantastic and cosy don’t I?! Don’t get me wrong, it is wonderful being here and I love it, but it’s also a lot of hard work, long hours, some blood, sweat and tears, no days off and no holidays. But then James the farmer appears on the doorstep with a smile on his face and a delivery of some wonderful produce, and then all the sorrows are forgotten.
One of my highlights for 2013 is joining the chef’s alliance of Slow Food UK. We joined earlier this year and are participating in a forgotten foods project. As part of this, we received the most precious gift of Stichelton cheese delivered by Neal’s Yard Dairy. My challenge is to conjure up some amazing recipes and take images using Stichelton cheese. Well, it’s not a challenge in the slightest and it’s one of the most pleasurable tasks I have ever been set. Not only do I love cheese, but the blue variety is one of my favourites. This cheese has just made my life a whole lot happier!
The recipes I created will soon be revealed on the Slow Food UK website, and this one is just one of those fabulous recipes.
- 25g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1kg (prepared weight) butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 4mm-thick slices
- 400ml double cream
- 200g Stichelton cheese, crumbled
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and grease an 18cm rectangular ovenproof dish with butter (or grease two 15cm diameter round x 5cm high cast iron dishes). Set aside.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat, add the onion, garlic and salt and pepper, then cover the pan and sweat the vegetables for 5–8 minutes or until the onion is soft and transparent but not coloured, stirring regularly. Stir in the butternut squash, then add the cream and cover the pan. Increase the heat to medium and bring the cream to the boil, then remove the pan from the heat, and taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
Reserve half of the Stichelton cheese. Layer the butternut squash slices, onion slices and cream in the prepared dish (or dishes), sprinkling some of the remaining crumbled cheese between each layer, and finishing with a layer of butternut squash slices. Pour all the remaining cream from the pan over the top layer of butternut squash and then scatter the remaining crumbled cheese evenly over the top.
Bake in the oven for 20–25 minutes or until the butternut squash is tender and the gratin is golden brown and bubbling. This gratin is delicious served hot as an accompaniment with grilled chicken or pork chops or braised beef shin. Alternatively, you could try serving it with a salad or steamed purple sprouting broccoli for a light lunch.
Serves 4 as an accompaniment