The holidays are here and the glorious smells of festive food will waft through people’s houses making every occupant salivate. Typically, the dishes that are served over the holidays are decadent and hearty, making it easy to indulge… sometimes a little too much. There are lots of alternatives to the stereotypical Christmas meals that are on the healthier side.
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The deep taste that fresh herbs and spices bring to a dish can be just as wonderful as something that’s stuffed with other flavor enhancers. Winter squash is a favourite at any occasion, and butternut squash has a sweetness that is wonderful when made in a savoury dish. Using the festive flavours of cranberries, rosemary and red wine, this stuffed squash is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. It’s easy to make ahead of time, and only requires about an hour of preparation. Not bad when there are so many other things to do before a big family dinner!
Festive Butternut Roast
1 large butternut squash
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced, or finely chopped
100g fresh cranberries
2 stalks fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
2 stalks fresh thyme, leaves stripped
150ml red wine
150ml vegetable stock
80g fresh spinach, finely chopped
50g pistachios, roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice the butternut squash in half lengthways, and scoop out and discard the seeds. Brush or spray with a little oil, and place flesh down on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the flesh is tender enough to scoop out with a spoon. Remove from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.
- Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or frying pan with a lid, heat the olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Cook over a gentle heat for five minutes until softened.
- Add the lentils, cranberries, rosemary and thyme leaves, red wine and vegetable stock, bring to the boil, then cover and lower to a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender, (but still have a little bite to them). Note: you may need to add a little more water near the end of cooking time if the lentils have soaked up all the liquid – keep an eye on them and stir regularly.
- Scoop most of the flesh of the with a spoon, leaving a little all the way around so that the squash holds its shape. Be careful not to tear the skin if possible, (though the occasional hole won’t be disastrous). Add the squash flesh to the pan of lentils, and mash it into the mixture with a fork. Taste the mixture, and add salt as necessary.
- Stir the spinach and pistachios into the lentil mixture, and mix well to combine, then spoon the mixture into both halves of the squash until it is level– there may be a little left over, but keep this aside to serve separately – don’t over-fill or you will lose the nice, neat circular shape of your roast. Place one half on top of the other, then tie with string every 3-4 cm.
- Return to the oven for 10 minutes until piping hot throughout.