Inspiration for this recipe comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Three Good Things. For anyone liking a meaty salad, this is great immediately after assembly or lasts well for a few days kept in an airtight container. Hugh’s recipe uses 30-40g of Parma but I’ll confess to having a personal bugbear about recipes that use quantities of ingredients that aren’t accessible unless you go to your local butcher. I am very much of the mind that we should do everything we can to support our local businesses but if I’m honest, my local butcher is quite possibly the meanest, grumpiest individual on the planet who when asked for a certain amount or cut always responds as if I’d just asked for him to slice off one of his own legs. So, I’m afraid, most of my shopping is done in a large supermarket where I at least get a friendly smile! Supermarket packets come in 70 – 80g weights, and I find using a whole packet works just as well.
- 1 kg butternut squash , peeled, seeds removed, cut into 2-3cm cubes
- 4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled, slightly crushed
- 4 – 6 sprigs of thyme
- 2 tablespoons oil (extra virgin olive or rapeseed oil), plus extra drizzle to serve
- 100g ricotta
- 70g Parma ham, thin sliced
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 190° (Gas 5).
Put the butternut squash chunks in a roasting dish together with the garlic and about half the sprigs of (optional) thyme. Over this, drizzle the two tablespoons of oil, and sprinkle some sea salt and black pepper. Thoroughly toss to ensure the squash is well coated.
Roast until the squash is tender (roughly 40 – 50 minutes), stirring half-way through. It should be ready when it starts to caramelise.
Remove the garlic and thyme (if used) and discard. Allow to cool down completely.
Divide the cold squash among individual plates.
Drop dollops of ricotta over each plate of squash then tear up the ham and drop shreds on each.
If using thyme, strip the leaves from the remaining sprigs and sprinkle them over each plate, followed by a further scatter of sea salt, a grind of black pepper, a trickle of oil, and finally a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
You can serve this on its own, or on a bed of salad leaves. A scatter of cress also looks good.
You can substitute any thinly sliced ham for the Parma, even crisply fried cold bacon, shredded. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests trying slices of ripe, juicy cooking pears instead of the squash.
“Squash” comes from the Narragansett native Indian word ‘askutasquash’ which means “eaten uncooked”. The settlers of Virginia and New England were the first Europeans to encounter them and while they were initially unimpressed they soon began to appreciate their value as storable food for the harsh winters and developed recipes accordingly.
Archaeologists have discovered evidence of squashes used for food in communities living in Mexico 10,000 years ago.