Monday, 3 October 2011

Butternut Squash and Caramelised Onion Galette with Parmesan and Thyme

Cor, what a scorcher! Who saw that sudden burst of September heat coming? Well, me actually and very smug I'm feeling about it too. But wasn't it surreal? Summer heatwave temperatures among crunchy, fallen leaves and 7 o'clock sunsets. And yet later this week it's meant to snow! I love Autumn.

In celebration of the falling leaves, high temperatures, glorious sunshine and my new orange and burgundy leaf-print clothes (no one could call my seasonal wardrobe subtle), I gave in to my butternut squash obsession once again and tried out this galette from Smitten Kitchen. With caramelised onions, buttery pastry, a hefty portion of cheese and just a scattering of thyme, this delivered pure autumn flavours and colours in a charmingly rustic, crumpled brown package. Like a fallen leaf! As I said, I'm not very good at subtle.

For ages, I've been wanting to try home made quiche, but a certain husband of mine refuses to eat eggs or anything too overtly eggy, and even I think it's a bit greedy to make a whole quiche if I'll have to eat it all myself. When I came across this galette on one of my favourite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen, I thought that here (finally!) might be the answer to my quiche-loving prayers. All the pastry and yummy fillings of a quiche, without the eggy custard - which means without the complaints from Him Indoors. 

So did it live up to expectations? Well, yes - but I'd make a few changes next time. Because I was working in someone else's kitchen, I had to guesstimate quite a few of the measurements and I think my pastry ended up a bit heavier than the ideal. I also used up our parmesan rather than her recommended fontina, but I do think that a melting cheese would have been nicer. Finally, I would up the proportion of cayenne - or even swap in some smoked paprika - for a slightly spicier result to contrast with the sweetness of roasted squash and caramelised onion.

But overall, this was a perfect way to toast our freakish Autumn weather and celebrate the glory of having a garden. I hope you've noticed that we ate this meal outside, in the sunshine? That's something you didn't get in the old Dine at Mine flat! How very accommodating of the weather gods to allow us a little Indian Summer in October. Next, hopefully they'll send us a house. All in good time!

Butternut Squash and Caramelised Onion Galette with Parmesan and Thyme
Barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen

I made this using American cup measures, so I'm afraid anyone wanting (more sensible) grams or ounces will need to do the maths themselves. But fear not! All sorts of conversions are available here

For the pastry
- 1 1/4 cups of plain flour
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 cup of butter, cut into small cubes
- 1/4 cup of sour cream (in fact I used yoghurt)
- 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup of very cold water

For the filling
- one butternut squash, peeled and cut into smallish chunks
- olive oil, salt, pepper, pinch of sugar
- a good knob of butter
- one onion, halved, then very finely sliced
- a splash of balsamic vinegar
- a couple of teaspoons of dried thyme (she suggested fresh sage, I just went with what we had)
- 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (as above, I'd recommend adding more)
- a couple of handfuls of parmesan cheese, cut into small chunks (or follow her recipe and use 3/4 cup of fontina cheese)

Preheat the oven to 200C, and first of all, we're going to make the pastry.

Now at this point, I should confess that although Smitten Kitchen suggests all sorts of clever shenanigans with putting bowls of stuff in the freezer in pursuit of the perfect pastry, I was both lazy and slapdash. I used very cold butter straight from the fridge, stuck the flour in the freezer for about ten minutes to chill before use, and hoped for the best.

However you've chosen to chill your ingredients, combine the butter, flour and salt until the mixture resembles large breadcrumbs - I didn't have a pastry blender like hers (has anyone ever seen one in the UK?) or a food processor, so I just cut it about it a bit with a knife until it looked all right. 

In a separate small bowl, mix together the lemon juice, sour cream or yoghurt and water. Add half of this liquid to the flour/butter crumbs and use your fingertips to start to combine it together. Then, being very careful to handle it as little as possible, add the other half and try to bring it together into a ball. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for an hour.

While the pastry's resting, toss the squash with a bit of oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about half an hour or until tender and starting to catch on the edges. Once it's done, take it out and let it cool slightly, but leave the oven on.

While the squash is cooking, melt the knob of butter in a saucepan over a low heat then add the onion with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Cook very gently, stirring occasionally, for about 20-25 minutes or until the onions are very soft and golden in colour. Add the vinegar, let it cook off, then turn off the heat and stir in the cayenne and thyme.

Get the pastry out of the fridge and roll it out on a well-floured surface until you've got a circle about 12 inches across, or 30 cm in new money. Line a baking sheet with parchment (you can use the one you cooked the squash on) and transfer the pastry onto the lined sheet. Don't worry if the edges are all raggedy and rough, we're going for the rustic look here.

Mix together the onion, squash and chunks of cheese then plonk it all in a pile in the middle of the pastry circle, leaving a clear rim about an inch wide. Fold this edge of pastry up and over the filling, pleating it to make it fit, leaving the centre open.

Bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes or until golden and delicious. Whatever you do, do not freak out at the pool of grease coming off the pie! Just be glad that it's not going into your arteries. Ahem. 

Serve in great golden wedges, outside, on the last warm day of the year. Ideally, accompany it with a salad of home-grown tomatoes, a burnt-orange skirt, a nice crisp glass of wine and some dappled sunlight. 

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