Squash and I kinda have a thing going on. I love her flavour, her texture and her voluptuous curves; she loves the fact that I chop her up, splash her with oils & spices and roast her in the oven until she’s scorched and golden.
Ok so the first part of that is true, however if all the edible characters in Seth Rogen’s upcoming film ‘Sausage Party’ are to be believed, then the good lady butternut is probably not gonna be too thrilled with the fate I have planned for her today although you definitely will be. This is a simple vegetarian dish absolutely perfect for days when you want the oven to do the bulk of the work for you and it’s ridiculously easy to pull together, subbing in and out the things you’re maybe not so keen on for the things you really really are.
Can’t get freekeh? Basmati rice or bulgar are both basic kitchen staples that would work great as an alternative. Take it to the Middle East with some chopped dried apricots & pistachios instead of goji berries & pine nuts or sprinkle the cooked squash with nuggets of blue cheese instead of feta if you want a stronger flavour profile. The beauty of this dish is that you can absolutely raid your kitchen cupboards, throwing in whatever you find, just make sure you take the times of anything that needs cooking into account.
If you do follow the recipe below, allow yourself a minute of smug contentedness at how many health benefits you’re piling onto one dish but only a minute mind you…no-one likes the interminable, yawn inducing preaching of clean eating 24/7 so bearing that in mind, here are my 60 seconds worth:
- Butternut squash is high in potassium which counteracts the negative effects of salt in your diet and helps keep your blood pressure in check; it’s also high in fibre (you’ll get around 7 grams from this serving alone), low in fat and chock full of vitamins A & C which are great for eyesight & skin.
- Goji berries have high levels of antioxidants and iron as well as protein meaning you’ll stay full for longer and they’re a complex berry so no fear of sugar crashes twenty minutes after eating.
- Pumpkin seeds are packed with fibre, protein, magnesium and all the good fats also found in nuts and avocados plus they contain L-tryptophan which is a natural mood improver – yup, these babies make you happier!
- Add to this your freekeh with twice as much fibre as brown rice, your cooked tomatoes with their increased lycopene which helps aid against heart disease and macular degeneration, your good-fat-giving pine nuts and your vitamin loaded pomegranate seeds and you are officially winning at this eating healthily lark, winning I tell you!
Butternut Squash stuffed with Freekah, Goji Berries & Feta
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 1 butternut squash
- 80 grams freekeh
- 25 grams goji berries
- 25 grams pumpkin seeds
- 25 grams pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 30 grams feta
- 25 grams pomegranate seeds
- 10 cherry tomatoes
- Rapeseed oil
- Pre-heat your oven to 200/400/gas mark 6.
- Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds and innards; leave the skins on as they are deliciously edible but if you don’t want to eat them, I personally find eating the flesh straight from the roasted skin afterward is much easier than peeling beforehand.
- Place both halves on a baking tray or shallow dish and drizzle with the rapeseed oil before sprinkling over any herbs or spices you fancy using; I used a Moroccan spice blend but paprika, cayenne or red pepper flakes would all be lovely as would leaving it plain so you can really enjoy the sweetness of the vegetable.
- Roast your squash in the oven for approximately 1 hour, checking it every 20 minutes or so and adding your cherry tomatoes at the 45 minute mark; depending on the size of the squash, you may need a few minutes more or less roasting time but you want a knife to slide easily through the flesh when it’s done.
- When your squash has been roasting for 30 minutes, make a start on the filling.
- Begin by soaking your freekeh in a saucepan full of cold water for 10 minutes then rinse.
- Add enough warm water to the same pan to submerge the grains fully, bring to the boil then reduce and simmer for 15 minutes; you want a nice nutty al dente texture to the freekeh so add a little more water if it seems to be absorbing it very quickly.
- Once your freekeh is cooked, drain and rinse with hot water then put it back in the saucepan, add the goji berries, pumpkin seeds & pine nuts and pop a lid on top to keep the steam in; the residual heat will warm all of these up nicely.
- Remove the squash from your roasting pan onto a plate or serving dish and carefully spoon away any excess water and/or oil that may have pooled in the cavities where your seeds were.
- Top your squash halves with the freekeh mixture before crumbling the feta over the top, adding the pomegranate seeds and serving immediately; if you find you have some of the filling mixture left over, simply serve it alongside the squash or pop it in the fridge to have the following day with a leafy green salad.