I was inspired to cook stuffed butternut squash after having the most delicious stuffed butternut squash at Carluccio’s (With roasted vegetables and pine nuts). Until recently, I hadn’t liked butternut squash (and I called myself a foodie?) and so I had been nervous ordering, wondering whether this was pushing my new found love to the limit. I also questioned whether I would be left still hungry – whilst I primarily eat plant based meals anyway, essentially eating half a giant vegetable filled with smaller parts of vegetables and some nuts for dinner didn’t seem that satisfying, in theory at least.
The risk paid off! I was stuffed, and the fact that there was so much squash was never boring due to the fact the squash was excellently seasoned. Big pat on the back to Carluccio’s. If requested without goats cheese, the dish is vegan (as is mine below), and I feel has made leaps and bounds in improving the vegan option on menus (so commonly restricted to chips and steamed veg).
So impressed was I, I made it my mission to make my own version. It took a lot longer to cook than I expected (running on £1 left on the gas meter this was a stressful wait indeed), but I was very impressed with how tender and flavourful the squash ended up being – and I also felt that this was the proof that restaurant dishes can be recreated easily and painlessly at home. Just a note, harissa paste can pack a punch depending on what brand you buy (unless you make your own, you crazy domestic goddesses) – I’m pretty weak with spice at the moment (and my brand is HOT) and so loaded mine with greek yoghurt to cool it down. If you’re even worse with spice than me, I’d recommend substituting the harissa for a makeshift simplified-harissa-minus-the-spice – an extra tablespoon of tomato paste, a few crushed garlic cloves, a teaspoon of paprika and cumin – and then add dried chilli as per your own taste.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
- 1 butternut squash
- 250g cooked brown rice (I used Tilda Brown Basmati and Quinoa)
- 1 tbsp harissa paste (more/less depending on spice)
- 2 bell peppers
- 120g jarred artichoke hearts, chopped
- 50g black olives
- 60g goats cheese, chopped (omit if vegan)
- 2tbsp turmeric
- 2tbsp tomato paste
- Salt and vinegar to taste
- Preheat the oven to 200C (180C for fan-assisted ovens)
- Slice the butternut squash in half, lengthways, and scoop out all the seeds. This cutting requires a sharp knife and patience! Start by slicing the whole way through the middle with the knife pointing more down than horizontal, rather than risking the knife sliding around on the skin. Some people like to microwave the squash first to aid with this. Then score the butternut squash flesh, season with salt and pepper, place on a baking tray, and loosely wrap the top in tin foil. Bake for 40-60 minutes, or until the insides of the squash are tender and easily penetrable with a fork, and the sides have just started to brown.
- Meanwhile, slice the peppers in half and deseed. Drizzle a little oil onto a foil lined baking tray, and place down the peppers, face down. Bake in the oven for around 25 minutes, until the peppers are lightly charred and the skin is wrinkled. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then chop into whatever size suits you!
- Prepare the rice just before the squash is about to come out the oven. If you are using packeted rice like me, just combine it with the harissa paste, artichoke hearts, peppers, olives, turmeric, and tomato paste in a frying pan with some oil, and stir fry for 3-4 minutes, combining all the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Take off the heat, and stir through the chopped goats cheese. If you are using normal rice you have cooked, simply stir fry the ingredients without the rice, and then mix with the rice thoroughly after.
- Take out the squash, and fill both halves with the rice mixture.
- I would recommend serving with greek yoghurt and hot sauce drizzled over, depending on how spicy you want it!