On cold nights, what better seasonal ingredient is there to warm empty tummies than a squash - or pumpkin, or kabocha - depending on what word you use to describe this beautiful gourd vegetable. I think it is safe to say that the Japanese are in love with their variety - the kabocha - in Japan you can eat it in many ways and they are all delicious. Most Japanese think of the kabocha as an indigenous Japanese vegetable but in fact, it is an import, introduced by the Portugese in the 16th century from South America. The giveaway is in the name - kabocha in Japanese was adopted from the Portugese name for the vegetable - camboja.
I thought I would use the last butternut pumpkin from my garden in a recipe that is also something the Japanese regard as their own but is, of course, French in origin, ie the gratin. You'll find gratin dishes in restaurants all over Japan and a gratin is a part of most Japanese mums' kitchen repertoires as well. The gratin is a great dish in which to use a squash - it is perfect for those evenings when the nights have closed in and chilly people need something warming inside them.
The kabocha is probably the sweetest of all the squash varieties. Because kabocha can be hard to come by outside of Japan, in this recipe, I use the next best thing in terms of sweetness - the butternut squash - which may be more easily available to you. I add in a little sugar just to make the recipe like it would be if it was made "back home" in Japan using a kabocha. If you can get a kabocha where you live, by all means use it - you'll be able to dispense with the added sugar . You may also need to cook the kabocha variety a little longer - amongst the squash varieties, its flesh is one of the firmest you'll find. You may be tempted to leave the skin on your squash - I know some people really like the skin. That's fine if you are roasting your squash but it doesn't really work in this recipe - the point here is to have a soft, creamy sweet mouthful of squash in every spoonful, so do leave the skin out.
Along with the butternut squash, I use some chicken in this recipe. If you prefer to go meat free, then by all means do so - you can just replace the chicken with more butternut and maybe some more onion. It will still be a rich, warming dish that friends and family will give the thumbs up. I make this dish quite a lot and there is rarely any left in the dish when everyone has finished.
If you're in the mood for some winter warming food, then look no further than this Butternut Pumpkin Gratin. You can watch the Youtube tutorial by clicking Butternut Pumpkin Gratin or scrolling to the bottom of the page. The written recipe is just below.
Happy cooking! Kurumi XXXX.
(makes 2 servings)
700g / 25 oz butternut squash or kabocha
1/2 medium onion
180g / 6.5 oz boneless chicken thigh or breast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
40g / 1.5 oz unsalted butter
40g / 1/5 oz plain flour
400ml / 14 fl oz whole or semi skimmed milk
80g / 3 oz fresh or frozen green peas
1 tsp French mustard
1/2 chicken stock cube
1/2 - 3/4 tsp salt
a little pepper
60g / 2 oz cheddar cheese
cut the butternut in half. deseed, peel and cut into bite sized pieces
slice & dice the onion
slice the chicken thigh or breast into bite size pieces
put the butternut pieces into a medium sauce pan. cover with cold water and add the sugar. (remember, if you are using a kabocha variety, you don't need to add the sugar). bring to the boil and cook for 10 - 12 minutes until softened
heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in another sauce pan. add & fry the onion and chicken for 3 minutes
next, add the butter and stir. once melted, add the plain flour and stir again into a roux
add the milk a little at a time. mix to incorporate it into the roux. keep adding and mixing until you have a smooth thick white sauce
add the green peas, French mustard, chicken stock cubes, salt & pepper and stir well
last, add the squash and mix together into your gratin base
heat your oven to 200C / 425 F (fan), gas mark 7
pour the butternut mixture into an oven proof dish,. sprinkle over the grated cheese and bake for about 20 mins or until the top is nicely browned
serve piping hot and enjoy!