No sooner had the Irish won the match against Estonia in Talinn on the iconic 11/11/11 than my son, an economic emigrant, had e-mailed me Christy Moore’s song “Joxer goes to Stuttgart”.
I was roasting some butternut squash in dukkah that evening, and made a salad the next day. It seemed only right to dedicate it to all the Joxers who were on the airwaves, bubbling with excitement, planning the trip to Poland or Ukraine in June 2012. The word ‘campervan’ was all over the place, and tonight when the draw takes place, soccer supporters all over Ireland will begin to think up their dream itinerary.
Here’s a lunchbox salad in their honour. It boasts the national colours, and is a perfect food for any sportsman (or supporter!)- full of root veggies and brassicas, protein-rich feta cheese, made exotic by the addition of dukkah, a Middle Eastern spice mix, when roasting the butternut squash.
Before last summer, I had never driven a campervan.
Last June, we hired one. Travelling to Somerset around the time of the midsummer solstice, we discovered our inner nomads, and liked what we found. Now my menfolk are considering the possibilities of travelling to the UEFA Championships in a campervan. Since there’s a Leaving Cert to be done at home, they have my blessing! When the draw happens this evening, their cards will be dealt.
Roast Butternut Squash with Dukkah
I Butternut Squash
Olive oil, 3 tablespoons
Hazelnuts, half a cupful, toasted
Coriander seeds- 1 tablespoon
Cumin seeds- ½ tablespoon
Sesame seeds- 2 tablespoons
Chili flakes- ½ teaspoon
Sea salt- ½ teaspoon
Fresh mint, 1 handful, finely chopped. (optional)
(Grow the mint yourself, or buy it in large, reasonably priced bunches in a Middle Eastern grocery. You’ll have enough to make mint tea afterwards)
Roast the hazelnuts in a tray in the oven at 180°C. Depending on your oven, these will be ready in 5-8 minutes. Keep a close eye on them towards the end as they go from perfect to burnt in a moment. I always use a timer, which fits, in my pocket. That way, if the phone rings or whatever, the alarm reminds me. Roast hazelnuts are a great store cupboard item to keep for muesli at breakfast, salads, fruit crumbles, and nibbles when you’re peckish.
Cut the butternut squash in half at its neck. There’s no need to peel it. Cut into quarters and scoop out the seeds with a metal spoon. Now cut the squash into wedges or cubes, whichever shape you prefer, and put them in a large bowl with lots of room for mixing. Pour over two tablespoons of olive oil.
To make the dukkah
Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry frying pan over a moderate to high heat. You’ll know they’re beginning to toast when you smell the spicy aroma. Turn them often and remove to a cold plate once they’re brown, and before they scorch. When they’re cool, grind them coarsely in a pestle and mortar.
Toast the sesame seeds and add them to the spice mix. Grind again. Chop mint finely and add to spices and seeds.
Add salt and chilli flakes. Mix well.
Put aside about a third or a quarter of the dukkah mix and toss the rest into the bowl with the squash and oil. Turn gently until all the squash pieces are covered with dukkah, then lift them out carefully and place on a roasting tin (or two).
Leave plenty of space between the squash pieces so that they roast rather than stew. You do want those lovely crispy edges that look and taste SO good.
Put the roasting tins on high shelves in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes. Half way through the cooking time, remove from the oven, turn the squash so that both sides get coloured, and put the tins back in the oven on different levels. All ovens vary, and you need to make your own judgment on when the squash is cooked.
When it’s ready, remove tins from the oven and allow to cool.
Serve in a pretty bowl and strew the rest of the dukkah over the squash.
If you believe in economy of scale, as I do, you’ll double the recipe above so that there’s enough squash left to make this delicious salad the next day. It’s ideal in a school lunchbox.
Equal quantities of-
Butternut squash roasted in dukkah, cubed
Broccoli florets, parboiled and cooled rapidly so they keep their crunch
Feta cheese, diced or crumbled
Dukkah to garnish
White wine vinegar
(Neither salt nor pepper as the feta cheese is salty, and the dukkah is spicy)
Place all three ingredients in a salad bowl.
Pour over a small stream of olive oil and some vinegar until the salad is well coated. You don’t need excess dressing in the salad bowl, a little goes a long way.
Listening again to Christy Moore’s song, the only consumables name-checked are ‘sandwiches’ and ‘flagon’. We’ve learned a lot during the boom and bust of the Celtic Tiger era. Our palates may have become more refined, but we never forgot how to have the craic.
While the lads are heading eastwards in a convoy, we’ll be having this at home on the days Ireland is playing.
Altogether now…. Olééééé, Olé-Olé-Olééééé…..