Brilliant butternut

2010-07-03 00:00

THE British have never been big on butternut until the last 15 years or so. Moving here from London eight years ago, I quickly realised that butternut is a mild obsession and is everywhere.

Thriving in hardy, arid conditions, impenetrable and with a tough skin (not unlike the early Dutch/Afrikaans growers) protecting a dense orange flesh, this squash can provide ultimate comfort eating at a bargain price.

But comfort does not mean a mound of ochre sloppy glop, assaulted with cinnamon and sugar, served alongside a 400 gram fillet steak.

Whether you choose a butternut, a Queensland Blue, Windsor Black or button squash, careful flavouring is a must. Butternut marries well with cheese, walnut oil, apples and oranges. Allspice, basil, chilli, sage, cloves and cumin will also lift its spirits.

Hard to beat as a side dish within the South African restaurant culture, but with a little added attention, something seemingly overrated and simple in both flavour and texture can be so … so … absolutely luxurious.

Elizabeth David’s tart, featured below, is proof that there is a little magic to be found in butternut.


• Dan Evans is currently consulting head chef at Havana Grill at Suncoast Casino. He can be reached at 072 195 7171.

500 grams of peeled,de-seeded and dicedbutternut.

60 grams sugar

150 ml fresh cream

20 prunes, soaked and stoned

60 grams butter

pinch of salt

For the pastry: 125 grams of flour, 60 grams butter, pinch of salt


Make a shortcrust pastry with the flour, butter, pinch of salt and enough iced water to make a soft dough. Roll into a ball and leave for two hours in a cool place.

Cook the butternut, dice it finely and add in the butter. When reduced almost to a puree, add the sugar and the cream, then the prunes.

Roll out the pastry to fit an 18 cm removable base pie tin. Line the buttered and floured tin with the pastry. Put in the filling and sprinkle with a little extra sugar. Bake in the centre of a fairly hot oven, 220°C for 15 minutes, then at 190°C for 20 to 25 minutes.

Optional: After removing the tart from the oven, scatter toasted flaked almonds and dust with icing sugar.

This is an interesting dish, a curiosity and unexpectedly good.

The combination of orange butternut and black prunes looks beautiful.


(Recipe from Elizabeth David’s Is There a Nutmeg in the House?)

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