Second day of my veg box challenge, and the beautifully voluptuous sweet mama squash just had to get on the menu! Like sweet potato, pumpkin and squash are high on my list of ‘important foods to eat each week’ list. Their bright orange flesh is just packed full of betacarotene which converts to vitamin A in our bodies, necessary for beautiful skin, hair and eyes (get that sparkle!) and readily available in a plant based diet.
Finding different varieties of squash and pumpkin in the supermarkets can be a challenge at times – often butternut squash is the only one on the shelf, so getting a veg box means variety in the squash department! I’ve sometimes bought a pumpkin box from Riverford which contains an amazingly eclectic mix to experiment with.
Sweet mama squash has a really hard outer skin, so needs attacking with gusto and a sharp knife! The flesh inside is dense and very orange, so you know it’s going to be good for you. Once cooked, it’s very sweet and works well with spices (spoiler alert – I’m saving half for a Saturday night curry!).
My decision on what to cook every day is influenced by what’s going on in the house, and what I’m doing work wise. This Thursday, everyone was coming home and going out at different times, and as I actually had a little extra time for cooking, I decided to do stuffed squash. Once all the prep has been done, it sits in the oven quite happily and so can be eaten as and when needed.
I tend to use brown rice for my stuffing, usually because there’s some left over in the fridge, and of course there’s so much more nutrition wise in wholegrain. But you could use quinoa, millet or even couscous if you’re not going gluten free.
You can see from the photo that there are a few interlopers in the stuffing ingredients – celery and courgette are still left over from last weeks box. Going away for a couple of days left me with more goodies to use up this week, although sometimes I do buy extras that are not in the box, just for variety. Trying to balance what we need with what we’re doing and what we’d like is tricky at times!
All these different lovely ingredients provide a whole array of fabulous nutrients that our bodies love. The squash alone has more than just the betacarotene I’ve mentioned above. For a start, it has masses of fibre formed from good starchy carbs that have a beneficial effect in the body and also help to keep the gut healthy. There’s a mix of B vitamins, and minerals, as well as a lovely dose of vitamin C, which will be retained better by being baked. Vitamin C is water soluble so is easily lost by boiling and even steaming.
My top tip for the stuffing is make sure you get the seasoning to how you want it. I used thyme as my herb of choice as I like it with squash, but mixed or Italian herbs would have worked too, along with a lengthy grinding of black pepper. Keep tasting your mix until you’ve got it right for you – the sweet and savoury flavours are seriously satisfying.
Stuffed sweet mama squash (served 3)
1/2 onion finely chopped
1 leek, diced
1 stick celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
handful mushrooms, chopped
handful chard leaves
1/2 courgette, chopped
1/2 sweet mama squash, deseeded
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon tamari (optional)
salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC and lightly grease a large piece of tin foil. Heat a dash of olive oil in a pan and sauté the onion, leek, celery and carrot until soft. Chop the stems of the chard and add them to the pan with the mushrooms and courgette. Cook for another couple of minutes until they start to soften, then add the garlic, stirring well so it doesn’t burn. Stir in the thyme, chopped chard leaves, rice, tamari, salt and pepper and cook for another couple of minutes. Sprinkle in the parsley, stir well, turn off the heat and leave to cool for a moment.
Wipe out the squash half with a damp piece of kitchen roll and season with salt and pepper and sprinkle a little extra thyme into the cavity. Pack in spoonfuls of the rice stuffing until full. Place the stuffed squash onto the tin foil, wrap it up loosely then place on a tin and into the oven for about 45 minutes. Once the squash flesh is soft and tender, it’s ready for eating. Remove from the oven and slice into 3 equal portions. Serve with accompanying vegetables of choice (we had potato wedges and peas – yum!).