I have to confess that a lot of the strange-shaped squashes in my organic vegetable box used to end up in the bin. I just didn’t know what to do with them! (Not quite in the spirit of the scheme…)
Then one day, in desperation, I decided to hack one open and have a go at cooking it and, in the process, discovered a delicious way to eat them. I have named my recipe Shepherd’s Squash because the filling owes a lot to the pie of the same name – but I’ve given mine some extra zing with Moroccan spices. This is what you do…
Preparing the Squash – 5 minutes
- 1 squash – Crown squash works best
Take a small sharp knife and VERY CAREFULLY cut the ‘cap’ off the squash by cutting diagonally into it about 3 inches from the stalk and slicing round in a circle. Scoop out the middle of the squash – the seeds and fibrous goo – and give it to your chickens, unless your dog has eaten them all 😉 You are left with a nice big cavity that will take all sorts of delicious stuffings. Here’s my favourite.
Making the Filling – 30 minutes
- 1 or 2 red onions
- 1 or 2 cloves of garlic
- olive oil
- ground cumin
- ground coriander
- ground cinnamon
- paprika/chilli powder
- 250 g lamb mince
- 150 g mixed vegetables (aubergine, leeks, carrots, beetroot, celeriac, parsnip, celery, fennel)
- tin of chopped tomatoes
- dried oregano (or thyme)
In a large sauté pan sweat a finely chopped red onion or two with a clove or 2 of crushed garlic, a pinch of salt, some olive oil and a little water. Once the onion starts to colour add a teaspoon of ground cumin, half a teaspoon of ground coriander, a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon and another quarter of paprika or mild chilli powder. Let the spices cook for a couple of minutes while you enjoy the aroma. Now add 250g of minced lamb and cook this off until brown all over. Into this mixture you can add some neatly chopped vegetables – whatever you have to hand – aubergine, leeks, carrots, beetroot, celeriac, parsnip, celery, fennel – and a tin of chopped tomatoes. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and add a generous shake of dried oregano. If you like it more spicy this is the time to add some harissa paste or some ras-el-hanout. Cook on a lively heat for 15 minutes until the mixture is reduced and smells delicious. You really can add whatever you want to this recipe: puy lentils, chickpeas, cous cous, any seasonal veg; you can choose different herbs or spices; it’s completely up to you, but you end up with a tasty, savoury mince.
Into the Oven – 90 minutes
Ladle the lamb mixture into the squash cavity and put the lid on top. Place the whole stuffed squash into a roasting dish and pour a glass of water into the bottom of the dish. Bake the whole lot at 180º for about 90 minutes. After this point check that it is done by inserting a skewer through the side of the squash. It should slide in with no resistance. If not, cook it for another 15 minutes or so.
That’s it! Take your squash to the table with its lid on: everyone will be impressed! To serve, remove the lid and cut it into wedges like a cake. All you need is some steamed broccoli and a dollop of Greek yoghurt or hummus (mixed with harissa paste if you like).