Spaghetti squash and lentil bake

If you only shop in a main-stream supermarket, you could be forgiven for thinking there is only one type of squash – butternut. Not that I have anything against them, they are gorgeous! But there are so many others to choose from that it’s a shame not to experiment.

Every autumn, I order a squash box from Riverford. They grow a variety of different squashes and it’s great fun trying them all out. Fortunately, they come with a handy leaflet so you can identify which is which. For whilst most squashes have a solid flesh, spaghetti squash does not, and it can ruin a recipe if you accidentally choose the wrong one (she says from previous experience!).

Spaghetti squash looks from the outside like a normal type of gourd – long, oval-shaped with a pale yellow or dark ivory coloured outer skin. When you cut them in half, the flesh is a pale yellow, and looks solid. But once cooked, it’s a whole different story! The flesh fragments and comes away in long thin strips, very similar to spaghetti but a completely different texture. In fact, there are a number of recipes that use spaghetti squash as a pasta replacement. It works well, as long as the squash is not over-cooked – if that happens, it becomes rather watery and indistinct.

Being part of the squash family, spaghetti squash is still packed with betacarotene, folic acid and potassium. It has a light, sweet flavour – nowhere near as sweet as other squashes or pumpkin though. I think it pairs brilliantly with green lentils and sage; this recipe is a super-tasty comforting autumnal dish that jointly makes the spaghetti squash and lentils the centre of attention.

Spaghetti squash and lentil bake – serves 4

1 large or two small spaghetti squash
2 small leeks
2 medium carrots
1 large celery stick
2 bay leaves
4 medium mushrooms
1 clove of garlic, crushed
400g tin of cooked green lentils
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (make sure it’s vegan) or tamari
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon dried sage
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons breadcrumbs (fresh/dried/gluten free)
2 tablespoons dairy-free parmesan (click here for recipe)

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4. Chop the spaghetti squash in half and de-seed. Wrap the halves in foil and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until soft and the flesh starts to come away with a fork. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.

In the meantime, finely chop the leek, carrots and celery stick. Heat a couple of tablespoons of water or olive oil in the bottom of a medium sized saucepan and sauté the vegetables with the bay leaves until they start to soften slightly. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook for another minute. Dilute the tomato puree with a little water and pour into the pan with the Worcestershire sauce. Stir well. Drain and rinse the lentils, then add to the pan with the sage and season with salt and pepper. Stir will, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until all the vegetables are well cooked and the flavours developed. Turn off the heat and remove the bay leaves.

Make the topping by combining the breadcrumbs with the dairy-free parmesan. Put to one side.

Once the spaghetti squash has cooled slightly, scrape the flesh out with a fork and add it to the cooked lentil mix. Take care not to damage the skin. Gently combine the squash with the lentil mix. Check the flavour and add more seasoning or herbs if needed. Spoon the mix back into the squash skin shells, distributing evenly, and sprinkle the breadcrumb mix over the top. Put back in the oven to bake for another 15 minutes until the top is crispy and lightly browned.

Serve with green veg and mashed potato (if you’re really hungry!). Enjoy.

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