Monday, 8 October 2012

Roasted & Stuffed Butternut Squash

by Ceri x

Autumn is officially my favourite season.  Summer is lovely, but always infinately hectic and, erm well... hot!

With the arrival of Autumn comes the crisp clear mornings and the inevitable back to school feeling, that I still very much get due to how busy the summer is.  I love seeing your breath as you step out into a cold sunny morning with frost still on the ground, kicking and crunching the leaves underfoot in the park, digging out the knitwear and cosying up by the fire.  Then to top it all off: there is the food!  Autumn brings us the harvest so is the very best time for picking, foraging, pickling, boiling up big vats of chutney and generally getting the best that the country and season has to offer.  Stews, pies, casseroles, steaming puddings, soups, crispy skinned jacket potatoes and all the other foods that are just too heavy for the hot summer months.

This year, I have been loving the fig.  That delightfully juicy fruit with an amazing texture,  flavour and which I recently cooked up a fig tart recipe courtesy of our Jules (currently on location in Berlin) which she posted previously and is well worth a look.  However, my other dearly beloved part of  the autumnal menu is the return of the most traditionally fabulous of British food institutions, the Roast!

I love a Sunday roast.  Sundays and Autumn seem to go together hand in hand.  Lazy Sundays reading the papers, giggling about the activities of Friday and/ or Saturday night, doing the crossword, drinking good coffee/ Bloody Marys and having a stroll in the park whilst donning aforementioned knitwear before coming home/ going to a decent pub and settling in for a damn fine roast eating session for me are irresistible.

This Sunday, Rachie cooked up a Pork Belly with delicious home made Apple sauce and the crunchiest crackling I ever did chomp.  However, for  this post I am going to go for a vegetarian option and roast up another shining star of Autumn, the Butternut Squash.  This works very well as the vegetarian option on a Sunday, or you can do as I did and serve it with salad for your Monday Roast (why limit yourself to just once a week).

(Apologies for the slightly fuzzy picture, my camera is playing up!)

Roasted & Stuffed Butternut Squash
Serves 2

1 medium sized butternut squash
4 garlic cloves
1 small onion
100g chopped walnuts
60g blue cheese (I used roquefort)
a few sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary (dried will be fine if that's all you have)
5 mushrooms
150g spinach
200g watercress or other leaves for salad
drizzle of olive oil + more for dressing if used
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Tip- You can more or less make up the stuffing as you wish.  Goats cheese, peppers, celery, tomatoes, feta, cabbage, pine nuts, toasted almonds, olives etc etc would all work well and it's fun trying out different flavour combinations.  I have done a few though and this is my favourite.

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Cut the butternut squash lengthways.  Scoop out the seeds but do not throw away. Cut out the flesh approx 2 cm down leaving a 2 cm ledge around the edge of the squash.  If the flesh is too hard for this at this stage, you can always do it once it has cooked a little.  Place both halves skin side down into a baking tray.
  • Score crosses in the flesh, drizzle some olive oil over both sides, add a garlic bulb inside each + one in the bottom of the tray.  Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and the thyme then bake in the oven for 45 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, add the walnuts to a heated, dry frying pan with the squash seeds and a little salt, moving the pan often for approx 5- 10 minutes until they start to toast- set aside in a bowl.
  • Then chop the garlic and onion, add to the frying pan with a bit more olive oil and gently fry.  Once the onion has softened, add the chopped mushrooms . Fry for another 5 minutes, then add watercress and spinach until it wilts.  
  • Check that the squash has cooked through  the flesh will be soft and the edges will have begun to brown slightly.  Cube the blue cheese and sprinkle throughout the stuffing mixture along with the toasted walnuts and place inside the squash.  I like to give the whole thing a short drizzle with balsamic vinegar or worcester sauce at this point.
  • Turn the oven down to 100 degrees and return the squash for 5-10 minutes until the filling has heated back through and the cheese has begun to melt.
  • Serve with a salad and enjoy!  Happy Monday Roast :)