Butternut Pumpkin features often in our Kitchen in Winter – roasted, in soups and mashed on its own or together with white beans or polenta, in risotto and salads, or in dals and curries. It was a joy to see that Ottolenghi uses it too, of course he does, so another recipe was completed for our project of cooking his books.
This is not a difficult dish, but it does take about 90 mins to bring it together. The pumpkin is baked, polenta is make, tempura batter is made and rested for 45 mins, the lemons are cooked, and then it all comes together. The lemon of the tempura is divine! It is exactly what the dish needs – without the warm, lemony flavours of the flesh and rind the dish falls flat. It reinforces the fact that Ottolenghi’s dishes are meant for all the ingredients to be eaten together. If, for example, there is polenta left over, add lemon juice or other tart ingredients to balance it out. Likewise the garlic that is cooked with the pumpkin – the smoky earthy flavours of the garlic are absolutely essential to the final dish.
This dish is from Plenty More – we are cooking our way through this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area.
It is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.
Browse all of our Pumpkin dishes and all of our Polenta recipes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Late Autumn recipes.
Butternut with Buckwheat Polenta and Tempura Lemon
1 large butternut squash
3 Tblspn olive oil
25 g unsalted butter, diced
1.25 cups vegetable stock
3 oregano sprigs
15 black peppercorns
8 allspice berries
6 cardamom pods, crushed
6 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs
Rind of 1 large orange shaved in long, narrow strips
8 cloves garlic, lightly cracked with the skin on
30 g roasted buckwheat (kasha) or buckwheat groats
150 mL whole milk
900 mL vegetable stock
10 g oregano leaves, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 Tblspn thyme leaves
Shaved rind of 0.5 lemon
120 g polenta
60 g unsalted butter
sea salt and white pepper
4.5 Tblspn (35 g) flour
3 Tblspn plus 1 tsp (25 g) cornstarch
75 mL cold soda water (or use water with eno)
Sunflower oil, for frying
1 lemon, cut crosswise into 6 slices 3-mm thick
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
for the butternut
Trim the top and bottom off the butternut and halve lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds and cut each half into 3 long wedges, skin on. Place the wedges in a large roasting pan with all the remaining squash ingredients and 0.75 teaspoon salt, coating the butternut well with the aromatics. Bake for 50 minutes, turning the butternut pieces every 10 minutes or so and spooning the juices over them, until the squash is cooked, golden brown, and starting to crisp on top. Add a little stock during cooking if the pan is drying out.
make the polenta
Meanwhile, put the kasha in a small baking pan and toast in the oven at the same time as the squash for 5 minutes, or 10 minutes for plain groats. Remove and crush lightly with a pestle and mortar.
In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the milk, stock, herbs, lemon rind strips, 0.75 tspn salt, and a pinch of white pepper. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat to low and whisk in the polenta and buckwheat. Using a wooden spoon, stir every few minutes for 35 to 40 minutes, until the polenta is thick and cooked. If it is getting too thick, add a little water.
At the end of the cooking, stir in the butter. The polenta should be thick but runny enough to fall off the spoon easily. Cover the top of the polenta with plastic wrap to stop a skin from forming and leave somewhere warm.
make the tempura
Mix together the flour and cornstarch, then whisk in the soda water until the mixture is smooth and runny. Sit the bowl over ice for 45 minutes.
Pour oil to a depth of 1¼-inches/3-cm into a saucepan and heat to about 320°F/160°C. Dip the lemon slices into the batter and fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and sprinkle immediately with salt.
Place a spoonful of warm polenta on each plate and lay a squash wedge across it, adding a mix of the baked aromatics on top. Finish with a tempura lemon slice and serve at once.