Now, it seems barely seven and candles are being lit and quilts thrown on the sofa. But for me, this is a time of great happiness. It’s hygge time. Time to get roasting, stuffing and braising. There still will be salad on our table most nights though, no one comes between me and lettuce. Not even nature.
I found these beautiful gem squash, fitting their name perfectly, at Crystal Palace Food Market on the weekend, among other great fruits of the season. A giant spaghetti squash, heavy as a medicine ball, striped yellow and green courgettes, firm and skinny, ready for dicing and sautéing quickly with some garlic and olive oil. There were thick, short cucumbers, perfect for a salad, tasty and thick skinned unlike the watery green sticks of the supermarket.
The colours of the season are reflected in the stalls. The oranges, browns and deep greens mirror the leaves on and off the trees. Black kale, red chard stalks and the inky purple of beetroot look like a Spanish still life and those evenings, warm inside against the soon to be here misty, haunted nights seem to be a comforting pleasure against the dark.
I stuffed the squash with cubes of lamb chop. Cook the lamb first to render the fat and give some colour to the meat. Then let it cool a little and shred it from the bone. And if you don’t have mushroom ketchup, use Worcestershire sauce. Be sure to have a gentle hand with the seasoning, those bottles pack a punch, and if you want chilli heat rather than warmth, add another chilli, or a sprinkle of chilli flakes.
6 gem squash, tops cut off and seeds scooped out
6 smallish lamb chops
1/2 a red onion, finely diced
1 fat clove of garlic, finely sliced
2 sprigs-worth of rosemary leaves, well chopped
2tbsp pearl barley (I used toasted barley for extra nutiness)
2tbsp mushroom ketchup
1 red chilli, chopped
A small handful of hazelnuts, chopped
Heat the oven to high and prepare the filling.
Sear the chops all over and add the onion, garlic and chilli to the pan. Turn the heat down and continue cooking until the onion is soft and translucent.
Add the barley and rosemary and a fairly large splash of water. Let that reduce away for a few minutes then add the mushroom ketchup.
Remove the lamb, let it cool a little so you can then take the meat from the bones and finely chop it.
Mix back into the pan and stuff each squash to the top. Sprinkle over the nuts and put the lids back on.
Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the squash are soft.
Serve straight from the dish.