The intrinsic flavour of butternut needs little enticing to bring it to the fore. Roasting it, therefore, accentuates its natural flavours intensely, and adding two distinct aromatics to it – the punch of garlic and the spicy peak of star anise – makes for a deeply satisfying side dish to a meaty main event. If you’d prefer it as the main event on the plate, skip the purée step and serve each half as the centrepiece.
Use two star anise per butternut half, and two garlic cloves per half.
(Serves 2 to 4)
1 medium butternut
4 star anise
4 plump garlic cloves, chopped (add more if smaller)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 240℃. Halve the butternuts but do not peel them. Scoop out the pips. Season with salt and pepper. Chop the garlic and scatter it all over. Place a star anise in each cavity and another at the centre of the fleshy part. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle a little more salt and pepper over, place on a baking tray and roast for about 30 minutes on the high heat until tender. Check for tenderness with a skewer, which should glide in and out easily.
Remove the star anise but don’t scrape off the garlic, which will have become a little blackened, which will become a part of the flavour profile of the puréed butternut.
Scoop the butternut and garlic into a suitable bowl and purée with a stick blender or other blender you may have. Add a little more olive oil. You can stir in a little butter (while still hot so that it melts) or a little cream if you like, but I like it au naturel, as additions will obviate the flavour a little. I served it with plancha-grilled picanha steaks topped with Café de Paris butter. But they can be a meal in their own right too, perhaps served with couscous. DM/TGIFood
Tony Jackman is the author of foodSTUFF (Human & Rousseau), a memoir illustrated by recipes. Inquiries: [email protected].
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