Medieval Spiced Squash

“This evening they had supped on oxtail soup, summer greens tossed with pecans, grapes, red fennel, and crmbled cheese, hot crab pie, spiced squash, and quails drowned in butter. Each dish had come with its own wine. Lord Janos allowed that he had never eaten half so well.” (A Clash of Kings)

Modern Spiced Squash

Our Thoughts

Fantastically seasonal, this menu item was a must make for October. The medieval recipe yielded tender pumpkin cubes that tasted remarkably similar to butternut squash. The stock in which the squash was cooked imbued it with an interesting savoriness that we didn’t expect. This recipe will surely make us think twice the next time we pass over the sugar pumpkin as a singularly sweet component.

Our modern acorn squash is New England Autumn in a dish. The appearance of the squash itself screams Fall, and the flavorful sauce completes the package. Tender, sweet, and spicy, this recipe is one for the Thanksgiving table.

Roman Spiced Squash

[73]  SQUASH  CUCURBITAS

To have the harder ones palatable, do this: [1] [Cut the fruit into pieces, boil and] Squeeze the water out of the boiled fruit and arrange in a baking dish. Put in the mortar pepper, cumin and silphium, that is a very little of the laser root and a little rue, season this with stock, measure a little vinegar and mix in a little condensed wine, so that it can be strained [2] Pur this liquid over the fruit in the baking dish; let it boil three times, retire from the fire and sprinkle with very little ground pepper.  -Apicius, 4th C.

Cooks notes: Although the pumpkin is a New World squash, it is mentioned in the world of Westeros. It’s a member of the Curcurbita genus, which this recipe is written for, and we happened to have some on hand! This will also work well with acorn, hubbard, and butternut squash varieties. Silphium, often used in Roman cooking, is unfortunately an extinct herb, so we’ve left it out of our redaction.

Ingredients:

  • 1 sugar pumpkin
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon rue
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon port
Cut the pumpkin into uniform pieces, removing the seeds. Place in a saucepan, cover with water, and boil till tender. Strain the pumpkin when tender, and lay on paper towel. Gently dry the fruit with another piece of paper towel, and arrange in a baking dish. In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Pour the liquid over the pumpkin. Cook in a 375F oven for 20 minutes, or until pumpkin has started to caramelize. Lightly dust with additional pepper and serve.

Modern Spiced Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1 large acorn squash
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
In a small saucepan, heat the maple syrup over medium heat, stirring in the spices. Stir constantly over heat for 3 minutes, do not boil. Remove syrup from heat. Cut the acorn squash into slices about 1 inch thick, removing the seeds. Arrange in one layer in a baking dish. Spoon the syrup mixture over the squash, and cook in a 375 F oven till tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, drizzle more heated syrup over the top, and serve.
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14 Responses to Spiced Squash

  1. I love fictional AND seasonal food! Looks delicious…Theresa

  2. Renee says:

    The substitute for Silphium is asafoetida. This is explained a bit in the book Cooking Apicius by Sally Grainger. The Romans themselves used it as a substitute for Silphium bc the qualities were similar. Some theorize the plants might have been in the same family. That’s not known. Asafoetida is from the Iran region whereas Silphium came from North Africa. (Cyrene I believe.) You can get Asafoetida from any Indian market. I have been doing a lot of Apicius research hehe.

    Love this blog btw. I have linked to it from mine. ; )

    • ChoppedGinger says:

      Wow! That’s awesome! Thank you for sharing! Next time we make the dish, we’ll search out some asafoetida.

      • Renee says:

        You’re welcome! I have a jar of the asafoetida in my cabinet to try out sometime on some apicius dishes, however I haven’t gotten a Round Tuit yet.

        Can’t tell you yet much about using it, but it’s supposed to be fairly potent stuff and changes smell (thank goodness) once cooked. I will warn you it does smell kind of …. interesting.

        It’s very common though in Indian cooking so apparently safe enough.

  3. MarinaOL says:

    Really good recipe! Delicious! I used the roman spiced squash recipe (more or less :) ) with a butternut pumpkin and it was fantastic!

  4. Tracy says:

    Hi, your recipe says 1 sugar pumpkin. What size is a sugar pumpkin? In Australia we have Blue, Jap, Golden Nugget, Butternut and a couple of others, all of which vary conserbly in size, so I’m just trying to work out quantities. Thanks

    • Tracy says:

      Oh, I’ve just looked it up, it looks like it might be similar to a large Golden Nugget.

      • Needs Mead says:

        Our sugar pumpkins usually weigh in at about 5-8 lb. I’m looking forward to making some pumpkin everything soon! :)

        • Tracy says:

          The Roman version was delicious, … but then we are all fans of roasted pumpkin at our house anyway. I have never used pumpkin as a sweet dish, only savoury, so sweet will be my next challenge.

  5. Alexis says:

    I’ve just bought a pumpkin, and I’m going to try this recipe tonight. I think I might use pumpkin for the acorn squash in the modern recipe.

  6. Alys K says:

    I made the modern squash for Thanksgiving and everyone loved it! And my extended family is very picky… I used two small/medium acorn squashes and there was plenty of syrup. However I cut it into wedges so since they were thicker, the baking time was around 40 minutes. This was the first recipe from you guys that I have tried and I can’t wait to try another.

  7. Christoph says:

    Asafoetida should be kept around by anyone interested in ancient Roman cooking (also, Indian food lovers will find it essential). Roman sources mention it as Persian silphium, inferior in quality to the real thing – since the laser plant has been wiped out, it’ll have to do.
    Try to find some – it totally changes the character of the dish it’s used in!

  8. Faolan says:

    Here’s one for Butternut Squash:

    1 medium butternut squash, peeled and quartered and sliced (triangles 1/4″-1/2″ think)
    1/2 tsp nutmeg
    1/2 cup maple syrup
    1/2 cup rum. I used Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum

    boil until squash is soft and transfer to serving dish. boil down the rum and syrup until it thickens to glaze the squash.

  9. Vinz says:

    I just tried the Roman spiced squash and halved the liquid mix since my squash was small, but it’s definitively too much liquid in the dish, is it right ? Does liquid remain in the dish in your recipe ?
    It smels good though, I’m sure it will taste good, only I’m not sure it can caramelize with all this juice.. :/

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