Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fried butternut with mint (OMF)

I went a little nuts at Woolies the other day. They had a promotion on: a giant bag of butternut for R30, but you could buy three for R60. So of course I had to buy three — about 25 butternuts!

When I got home and stumbled through the front door with my booty, the Guinea Pig just looked at me and said, ‘Uh-oh.’

And he was right to be wary. The bags sat under the kitchen counter for a few days, untouched, and it began to dawn on me that I probably don’t have enough synapses to deal with 25 butternuts.

Butternut soup... Er, roasted butternut... Er.

Oh sure, I have plenty of cookbooks and recipes that include butternut/pumpkin, but they’re a bit too fiddly and, more importantly, only require a small amount of the stuff.

Enter inspiration, stage left.

I am lucky enough to work for a magazine whose food editor uses a test kitchen just down the corridor from our office. So quite often I’ll have finished stuffing my face with leftover pizza in the cafeteria at lunch time, only to have platters of gourmet concoctions plonked down in front of me, going begging. (Which is when my second stomach comes in handy.)

Yesterday was such a day, and one of the plates happened to contain an incredibly tasty, incredibly delicious butternut dish. Little blocks of fried orange yumminess. Sprinkled with mint.

You heard me: MINT.

I simply had to know how to make it, but a cross examination of the assistant food editor yielded only that the butternut was boiled and then fried in butter.

‘But there was more to it,’ I wailed to GP later that evening in the kitchen, poking the air with my sloshing wine glass. 'It was so tasty — I couldn’t have just been fried in butter with a bit of salt. It was sweet as well...'

And that's when I figured it out. And here it is — more or less approximating what I tasted in the kitchen that day. I’m not going to bother with amounts because, well, I’m too lazy, and it’s not really all that important.

If you’re a veggie lover, this is a little plate of heaven.

Fried butternut with mint

Butternut (duh)
Olive oil
Fresh lemon juice
Mint, chopped

Boil up some cubed butternut until tender but still firm. Drain. Then melt a large (and I mean heart-attack LARGE) nob of butter in a frying pan with a similar amount of olive oil — you basically want enough to coat the butternut and make it nice and glossy. Turn the heat up really high, then add the butternut in a single layer (you may have to work in batches).

Okay, now you want to sprinkle a generous amount of sugar and salt (yes) over the butternut. Start with a tablespoon of each, then taste the butternut halfway through cooking and decide if it needs some more.

Fry the butternut until it's golden and the sugar is beginning to caramelise. Transfer to paper towel and drizzle with fresh lemon juice (to taste) and sprinkle with chopped mint.


  1. If you're still despairing at the rest of the butternut, I've got a great pumpkin recipe that would adapt beautifully:
    1 pumpkin = 2 small butternut
    750g cooking bacon (chunky and cheaper)
    handful of walnuts
    baby spinach
    goat's cheese - or as a compromise, smooth cream cheese

    Chop large chunks of butternut (1 inch plus), skin on, dotted with goose fat (shaken with olive oil is an alternative). Roast at 210 for about 30 minutes. Chop the bacon into chunky pieces, take the roasting tray out, and sprinkle the bacon over the butternut. Put it back in for the last 10 mins. (If you're using a thin bacon, keep a beady eye on it.) Dish it onto plates of fresh baby spinach, sprinkle generously with crushed walnuts, and dot the cheese about lavishly.

    Very rich and MASSIVELY nom. Enjoy!

  2. OMG - YUM. Thanks so much Megan - that's going to be my dinner :-)

  3. I love butternut and this ounds yummy (and I like Megan's recipe as well!)