If in doubt, stuff a vegetable. That’s my motto. Yeah, okay, it might not be that handy when in a life or death situation (although, I’m not dead yet. Just saying). But it works wonders when you want something that packs a punch but is pretty easy to prepare.
This week it was Feta-Topped-Herby-Lemony-Quinoa-Stuffed-Roasted-Butternut Squash. Wow, what a mouthful. Normally I abbreviate it in my bullet journal meal plan to ‘Roasted BS’ to be quick. Unfortunate, yes. But I can assure you that this recipe is far from just a load of BS.
It ticks all the boxes really. You’ve got ooey, caramelised sweetness from the butternut squash, some serious savoury satisfaction from the herby quinoa, and then a touch of crumbly feta on top turns it from fab to Fab-U-LOUS, darling.
And the great thing is, it can be modified to how you like it/how you’re feeling. Butternut squash pairs beautifully with so many other flavours. You can go a bit moroccan with a pinch of cinnamon and cumin, or amp up the garlic and sprinkle in some paprika to turn it into a Spanish-style supper. If you’re not a massive fan of quinoa or don’t have any on hand, you can swap it for any grain really – rice, couscous, bulgar wheat…the options are endless. And whilst topping it with a salty cheese, like feta or halloumi, really complements the sweetness of the squash, it’s not necessary. You could always replace it with some breadcrumbs to add some crunch.
But if you fancied a bit o’ lemon and herb, then follow me.
Serves 2-4 (depending on the size of your squash and the size of your bellies)
- 1 Butternut Squash
- Olive Oil
- 1 tsp thyme *
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1tsp sage *
- 1tsp rosemary *
- 2 bay leaves (please excuse the state of the sad little ones I had left in my cupboard) *
- 100g quinoa
- 1/2 Lemon
- 50g Good quality feta cheese
* Fresh herbs would obviously be better for flavour but use what you’ve got in your cupboard. I used all dry herbs here and it still was v tasty.
Preheat the oven to 180°C Fan/Gas Mark 6.
Start by prepping the squash, halving it from the top to tail. This can be a challenge, especially if your knives aren’t the sharpest in the drawer, so be careful. Then scoop out the seeds and pop the squash halves onto a baking tray. Drizzle it with some olive oil and sprinkle over the thyme.
Stick the tray in the oven and let the squash cook for about an hour until starting to caramelise on the outside and go soft on the inside. It could take more or less time depending on the size of your squash, your oven, your patience levels…You want it to soft enough to easily scoop out the insides, so just keep testing with a knife after an hour and go from there.
Meanwhile, start on the quinoa/grain of choice. Fry off a little garlic in some oil or butter, but only for a few moments as you don’t want it to burn. Then add in your sage, rosemary and bay leaves, fry off for a couple of minutes before adding your dry quinoa. Stir to incorporate with the garlic and herbs for a minute or so, and then add your water.
As a rule of thumb, it is 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water (so I used about 200ml water), but I do think it’s best to keep your eye on it and trust your judgement as to whether more water is needed. To stop my quinoa from turning into a mushy mess, I leave the lid off as it is cooking. Season with salt and pepper, bring the water to a boil, then switch down the heat and let it simmer for around 15 minutes or until the liquid is pretty much absorbed. It’s at this point that I turn off the heat and whack on a lid. Quinoa likes it steamy, so I leave it in peace for a bit to do it’s thing. After about 5 minutes, the quinoa should be ready and raring to go.
Next, squeeze through half a lemon and give it a stir.
Once the squash is ready, get it out of the oven but leave the heat on. When the squash is cool enough to touch, scoop out most of the centre leaving about a cm thick layer covering the skin. Pop this into the quinoa mixture. The sweetness of the flesh helps to balance out the flavours and stops the herbs from tasting bitter and overpowering. Give it a taste and season if needs be, remembering not to go too ham on the salt if you want to add feta.
Now the fun part. Start to stuff the squash skins with your quinoa mixture, patting it down as you go to get as much in as possible. I stuff until I’ve got a gentle mound going on, like my belly after three rounds at the all you can eat buffet. Depending on the size of your squash, you might have a bit of mixture leftover which is totally fine. You can either save it for lunch tomorrow if you have a lot, or just spoon a little on to the side of your plate.
Next, crumble over the feta (or balance it on top if your mound is a little hefty) and pop it pack in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is starting to turn golden brown (unfortunately my photos of the end product were so badly blurry that I’m going to save you from wanting to scratch your eyes out from looking at them. Note to self; up my photo game).
Serve with some steamed greens…et voilà! A simple but versatile centrepiece that can be enjoyed any night of the week really.
I hope you give it a go, and let me know how you get on.
Who knew?! The humble butternut squash is the equivalent of that person who gets on with everybody and is a great asset at a party to make the bridge between characters that need a bit of help blending together. Squash, the ultimate social butterfly.