In the autumn/fall time and in the run up to Halloween I automatically think of pumpkins and butternut squash with their sweet orange texture in warming stews, curries, roasted vegetables and risottos.
So, what’s the difference between pumpkins and squash? Not a lot actually and they can be used interchangeably in recipes. Both come from the cucurbita, family. Pumpkins can grow in many areas of the world while some of the squashes are restricted to specific weather conditions. One of the ways of classifying squashes is based on the seasons. They are classified as summer and winter squashes. Summer squashes are harvested at immature state, whereas winter squashes are harvested after maturity.
What’s so good about them?
- They are a very healthy choice with 100 g pumpkin providing just 26 calories and 100g squash 45 calories.
- Neither contain saturated fats or cholesterol and are often recommended by dieticians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
- Both pumpkins and squash are powerhouses of vitamin A; at 7384 mg per 100 g for pumpkin and 10630 for squash. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by the body for maintaining the integrity of skin and vision and recent studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A may help protect against lung and oral cancers in particular.
- Both are good source of B-complex group of vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid and minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
Enjoy some of my favourite pumpkin/squash recipes below:
Roasted Pumpkin/Squash with Pine nuts
This makes a great side vegetable side dish or salad! (Just beware of anyone with allergies to the pine nuts)
- 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 10 garlic cloves whole
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- Season the pumpkin/squash cubes with the salt and pepper and coat in olive oil lightly. Roast in a hot oven with the garlic (whole and in their skin) at 450F (230C) for around 35 to 45 minutes – until tender.
- (I like the garlic whole but you can grate if you prefer!)
- Sauté the pine nuts towards the end of the roasting time and add to the dish at the last minute and serve.
Optional: you may want to add some sage or thyme to the pine nuts when roasting to give a different flavor – experiment and see which you prefer.
This dish could be made in advance and then reheated and any leftovers make a nice salad alternative. You could also add in some crispy bacon bits or pancetta and/or some cubes of stilton cheese.
Seafood Pumpkin/Squash Curry
I love this Thai influenced recipe. A friend shared it with me many years ago and it has been a go to mid- week dish in our household for a while now.
For 4 people
- 1 tin coconut milk
- 1 – 2 tbs red (or yellow) curry paste
- 3 tbs Thai fish sauce
- 350 ml fish or veg stock
- Stevia to sweeten or 2tbs caster sugar
- 3 stalks lemongrass (cut into 3 and bruised with flat of knife)
- 3 kaffir lime leaves (destalked and cut into strips)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 pumpkin or squash (peeled and cut into cubes) –around 1 kilo needed
- 500g salmon fillets (preferably organic) skinned and cut into large bite sized chunks
- 500g peeled raw prawns (but cooked are fine too – just add them in at the very end to heat through)
- Green veg of your choice – spinach, Pak choy good options
- Juice of 1 lime (to taste)
- 1 bunch fresh coriander (to serve) or some Thai Basil leaves or a combination of both
- Steamed or boiled rice to serve
- This dish can be prepared in advance up to point 3.
- Scoop the thick creamy layer of coconut milk from the top of the tin and combine it with the Thai paste together until blended over a medium heat.
- Add the rest of the coconut milk, fish stock, fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass, lime leaves and turmeric. Bring to a boil and then add the pumpkin and simmer until the pumpkin is tender. (This may take a while but you want the pumpkin to not be too soft and mushy as it a nice texture if it has a bit of a bite to it).
- Five minutes before you are ready to eat, add the salmon and prawns (if you’re using the prawns from frozen they’ll need to go in before the salmon- if prawns are of the cooked variety add at the last minute) to the simmering pan.
- When the salmon and prawns have cooked through stir in the chopped green veg.
- When the veg has wilted, squeeze in the juice of the lime to taste. Add in half the coriander/holy basil leaves.
- Serve on a bed of rice and sprinkle over the rest of the coriander just as you are dishing up.
For 4 people
- 1 large or 2 small squash peeled and cut into cubes – roast as above
- 8 tbs olive oil
- 75g butter (grass fed and unsalted)
- 1200 ml vegetable stock
- 2 onions peeled and chopped finely
- 2 celery sticks chopped into small pieces
- 6 garlic cloves crushed
- 3 Bay leaves
- 280g risotto rice
- 200ml white wine (optional for flavour)
- 100 g parmesan cheese (or vegetarian alternative) grated
- Black pepper and salt to season to taste
- Parsley or coriander to serve
- Roast the squash as above in half the oil.
- Prepare the vegetable stock.
- Sauté the onion, garlic, celery and herbs in the butter in a large frying pan.
- Add in the risotto rice and simmer.
- Stir in the wine until reduced/ evaporated.
- Reduce the temperature and stir in the vegetable stock a little at a time so the rice absorbs most of the liquid.
- When the rice is cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed, add in the roasted squash and half of the parmesan.
- Serve with the rest of the parmesan, parsley and or coriander sprinkled on top.
Don’t let those Pumpkin seeds go to waste either!
I love a handful of pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds as a mid- morning snack (great for those who have to avoid nuts). The seeds themselves are nutritional powerhouses..
Nutritional facts about pumpkin seeds
An excellent source of dietary fibre (50grams per 1,000 calories consumed) which keeps you feeling fuller for longer.
- 100 g of pumpkin seeds provide 559 calories, 30 g of protein, 110% RDA of iron, 4987 mg of niacin (31% RDA), selenium (17% of RDA), zinc (71%) but no cholesterol.
- Being such a good source of zinc, pumpkin seeds are a natural protector against osteoporosis. In a study of almost 400 men (age from 45-92) published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found a correlation between low dietary intake of zinc, low blood levels of the trace mineral and osteoporosis at the hip and spine.
- One of the best sources of plant-based Omega 3, the healthy fats that are great at combatting inflammation in the body and especially key in keeping your heart healthy.
- ¼ cup of seeds contains nearly half the recommended daily allowance of magnesium, which is critical for so many functions in the body, including the creation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the energy molecules in your body) and the synthesis of DNA.
- Contain the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted to serotonin which in turn is converted to melatonin in the brain and can help promote a good night’s sleep.
Eat them raw or roast them. Clean the flesh away from them, rinse in water and lay on a baking tray with olive oil and seasalt, chili flakes and any other spices you want to add. Roast at 180C, 350F until they are golden – about 10 to 15 minutes .
Eat them with other nuts and seeds – see my Trail Mix Recipe!