When you think of squashes, what comes to mind first – main course or dessert? We’d bet that for the majority of our readers, squash brings to mind something that’s served with the main course – to accompany meat or chicken, for example. Many might even say that squash has nothing to do with desserts. It’s only when they are reminded that traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts often feature pumpkin pie for dessert, and that pumpkin is merely one of many kinds of squash, that they might concede that squash and sugar go together.
Some squashes are quite sweet in and of themselves, of course, but combining members of the squash family with sugar, honey or coconut milk is an old culinary tradition in Brazil, and for many Brazilians, abóbora (Portuguese for squash or pumpkin) is something seen more often on the dessert table or buffet than it is as a vegetable side dish.
Throughout Brazil, one of the oldest, most traditional (and easiest) ways to turn squash or pumpkin into a dessert is to cook it down to a thick puree, spice it with cinnamon and clove, then sweeten it with sugar and a splash of coconut milk. This recipe is so basic that Brazilians simple call it Doce de Abóbora, which means Squash Dessert or Squash Sweet. It’s served at weekday family meals, and it’s served on fancy dessert tables. It’s popular with all economic classes in Brazil, as squashes are generally very cheap in Brazil, and it doesn’t require expensive ingredients.
This recipe can be made with any type of winter squash – Hubbard, Butternut, Acorn, etc. It can also be made with pumpkin. Summer squashes (e.g. zucchini, pattypan) are not suitable as they contain too much water. It can be served warm or cold (though cold is more typically Brazilian). If you wish to make it a bit richer, pour a couple of tablespoons of coconut milk over the squash once you’ve put it into individual serving dishes.
RECIPE – Homestyle Squash Compote (Doce de Abóbora Caseiro)
2 lbs (1 kg) winter squash, any type, peeled and cored, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup coconut milk
3 cups granulated white sugar (more or less, to taste)
2 small sticks cinnamon
Put the squash into a large heavy saucepan,. Add a very small quantity of water (less than half a cup). Add the sugar and stir to mix. Heat the mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. When the sugar has dissolved, add the cinnamon and cloves, and continue to cook, mixing and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Continue to cook until the cubes of squash have become very tender.
When the squash is tender, using the same wooden spoon, begin to mash the cubes against the sides of the pan while continuing to cook over low heat. When all the squash is mashed and the mixture begins to pull away from the bottom and the sides of the pan, add the coconut milk and mix it in.
Cook for an additional two or three minutes only, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool. Can be served slightly warm, at room temperature, or chilled. Divide the mixture between six dessert dishes, and pour additional coconut milk over the puree if desired.