Butternut Squash Caponata by Giovanna Eusebi of Eusebi Deli in Glasgow

Autumn in Italy is a mouth-watering harvest of food. Olives, truffles and grapes are just a few of its rich pickings. From north to south, the only word on everyone’s lips is the vendemia. The whispering chattering of ‘is it time?’ ripples through every community. The grape harvest is here. Timing is everything and knowing when to pick the grapes is crucial.

When the time was right, my grandfather would gather neighbours and family to la Selva, a little strip of land near their home. The vines here have produced an indigenous variety since 1825, grown only on the Laziale and Campania Penisola. The fragola grape has a perfume of sweet strawberries, hence its name.

Grape picking requires comfortable shoes and clothes you don’t care too much about. From dawn, we would circumnavigate rows upon rows, bent over. By mid-afternoon my grandfather’s tractor would be loaded with baskets.

Everything would be taken back to their home and the grapes would be pressed in a wooden barrel operated by turning a handle. The juice and must would be left to ferment for several days before being transferred to demijohns.

By the following spring, this simple wine, free of sulphates and yeast was ready to be enjoyed.

There is no greater satisfaction than picking grapes from vines that have produced the same fruit for centuries. To this day, my mother still has her father’s vine growing in her garden in Glasgow. Year on year, she still holds out hope of it bearing fruit, and maybe next year, it will. It is a plant that ties her to her land and a gentle reminder of her father’s love for her.

Butternut squash caponata

This caponata recipe is a seasonal take on the classic Sicilian version made with aubergine. A great weekday supper dish that can be made in advance and reheated quickly, it is perfect with a white wine we currently have in the restaurant from the Di Ciacca family.

An indigenous variety, maturano, is grown in the hamlet of Picinisco in Lazio. It is a wine that truly speaks of their land and family history; named ‘nostalgia’ as this wine is created in the manner that wines were traditionally made – a soft first pressing of grapes handpicked and vinified naturally with no added yeasts or sugars.

Ingredients:

  • 2 small acorn squash
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon of pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon of golden raisins
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon of capers
  • 1 tablespoon of rosemary, finely chopped
  • 25ml red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of caster sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to season

Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 180C.

2. Cut 1 inch from the top of the squash to make a lid. Scoop out the flesh and reserve.

3. Place the hollowed-out squash on a baking tray. Sprinkle the cavity with a pinch of chopped rosemary, a drizzle of oil and seasoning, and cook in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.

4. While the squash cooks, prepare the caponata filling. Sauté the squash, shallots and the remainder of the rosemary, then add the garlic and cook until tender.

5. Deglaze with red wine vinegar, then add the sugar, raisins, capers and pine nuts. Finish with a few leaves of thyme and mint, then set aside.

6. Remove the squash from the oven and fill with the caponata filing. Serve on its own, or with baby roasted carrots and celeriac mash or polenta.