Doing my cookery course and then over Christmas, I haven’t had a lot of opportunities for to indulge my passion for Korean food and trying out new recipes, so it’s nice to get to share one again now after a long absence. I had trouble settling on a name for this blog post though. This isn’t a particularly authentic recipe, rather my own invention at playing with the flavours of Korean barbecue-style cookery, or bulgogi. Roasting in an oven certainly isn’t true to classical recipe — like across much of Asia, household ovens are a rarity — and gogi means meat in Korean, so doesn’t really apply to vegetarian dishes like this. I hope “Korean bulgogi-style”, as clunky as it sounds, gets across the inspiration for and flavours of the dish, but without suggesting too much authenticity: it’s my creation, I’ve not followed a traditional recipe.
The flavours I have used are amalgamated from a couple of Korean cookbooks (this one, and this one) as well as online recipes too (chiefly here). It was originally for pork belly, sliced thinly and grilled, but I’ve also fashioned it for chicken too to good effect. I was keen to try the marinade with a vegetable and a small butternut squash, sitting in the back of the veg drawer since at least mid December seemed like a perfect test subject. The sweet squash did well to complement the spicy and salty sauce that glazed it so I was definitely keen to share the recipe here.
I’ve heard that winter squashes (so butternuts, pumpkins and the like) actually benefit from being stored for a couple of weeks after you buy them to help remove some of their water content and enhance their natural sweetness. I can’t testify whether that’s true or not, but this particular butternut didn’t seem to have suffered from a month or so of neglect in the cupboards.
Squash needs quite a long roasting however, so I decided to cook it plainly in the oven, with just some oil, and then finish it with the thick sauce as I was fearful the sauce might burn — it isn’t traditional, but it was still delicious. If you’d rather use meat, slice it thinly and marinate it before giving it a quick grilling at a high temperature.
For the sauce:
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Peel the squash and remove the seeds and fibrous core with a spoon. Cut the squash up into even, bite size chunks so that they will cook evenly — around 2-3 cm across. Toss the squash with the oil on a large baking tray and roast for about 40 minutes, or until the flesh is tender and the edges are beginning to caramelise.
While the squash roasts, combine all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and mix thoroughly. It should be thick and glossy but still pourable — if you aren’t using the mirin a little extra water might be needed to help it coat the squash later. Some recipes include ginger paste, blended Asian pear or yuzu juice, so feel free to experiment, tasting as you go.
Once the squash is cooked and caramelised, pour over the sauce and coat the squash thoroughly. Return the tray to the oven and roast for another 5-10 minutes, until the sauce has formed a sticky and slightly shiny glaze (You could roast the squash ahead of time, and simply finish it with the sauce when you’re ready to serve.). Serve with white rice and other Korean dishes or wrap it up in a lettuce leaf as a starter or canapé.