Megan Cronin

The temperature has dropped and even with the heating on, I am cold. Cold, tired and moody – I am dreading the darker months of winter, really dreading them. So, like any normal winter-hater, I am skulking around in about 600 layers of clothing, topped with the 3 generations old, bright red, woollen knitted jumper (attractive) and muttering curses while lighting candles for extra warmth – any extra warmth they may give, no matter how little. Oh – and of course finding ways to make meals more warm, zesty and happiness inducing. This means getting creative with the odd ingredients we have (or had) in the house – a tin of coconut milk, butternut squash and a basil plant that is rapidly being plundered to a few skinny stalks.

I used to hate butternut squash, but this recipe fills it with flavour, making it a pleasure to eat.


• A small to medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped chunkily

• A teaspoon of mustard seeds

• A teaspoon of powdered coriander

• 4 cloves of garlic

• A small handful of basil leaves

• A small handful of cherry tomatoes chopped in half or a couple of big ones chopped into chunks

• A lemon

•  A tin of coconut milk (400ml)

• A pint of vegetable or chicken stock

• A couple of tablespoons of fish sauce

•  A drizzle of olive oil

•  12floz of rice


1. Steam the butternut squash until very soft. While it is cooking, use the mortar and pestle to crush the garlic and basil leaves up together into a rough sort of paste. Then mix the coriander powder into this.

2. Boil up the water for the rice, (the water should be double the amount of rice) add the rice and cook with a lid on.

3. When the squash is done, squeeze the juice of half a lemon over it and heat up a large deep-sided pan. Add the mustard seeds to the pan, when they start to pop, add the drizzle of olive oil, the garlic and basil paste and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add the stock and coconut milk and bring to the boil.

4. Next add the butternut squash, tomatoes, fish sauce and the rest of the lemon juice and cook for a little longer.

5. Serve with the rice, topped with plenty of chilli and enjoy.

pic: Megan Cronin