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Stuffed butternut squash (family recipe)

I love butternut squash (or butternut pumpkin as it’s called in Australia). It’s amazingly versatile for a vegetable and has a lovely rich sweet taste. Roasted, mashed, made into a soup, added to risotto, shaped into patties or even baked in a cake, you can pretty much do anything with butternut squash.

As as puree, butternut squash is often a favourite with babies. Have it on its own or add some extra natural sweetness with some cooked unsweetened apple. Once you want to start introducing some other flavours to your baby, warm spices like cinnamon and coriander, or herbs like sage and thyme work well with butternut squash.

If you’re making my stuffed butternut squash for the whole family, buy a squash that has a long neck. Part of the neck will be roasted and pureed for a baby, and another part of the neck will be roasted and stuffed for a toddler, while the adults are left with the main body of the squash and a bit of neck.

I stuffed my squash with veal, but you can use any minced meat or a combination of meats (pork, beef, turkey, etc.). You can also quite easily make this dish vegetarian by mixing the roasted mashed squash with some fresh breadcrumbs or cooked rice or couscous, or even some other roasted vegetables like courgette; top with some toasted pinenuts or fried sage for a different texture.

STUFFED BUTTERNUT SQUASH

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 1 hr
Serves 2 adults, 1 toddler and 1 baby

1 butternut squash with a long neck (approx. 1 kg)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
200g veal mince
1/2 onion, finely diced
about 2 tbsp of olive oil
salt and pepper
1 1/2 tbsp breadcrumbs
a handful of grated cheese (for example, cheddar or parmesan)

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line a baking tray or roasting pan with some foil or baking paper to minimise cleaning.

Wash the outside of the butternut squash and pat dry. Halve it lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Cut off two pieces from the neck. Place the squash on the roasting tray, cut side up, and drizzle each piece with a little olive oil. Sprinkle over the cinnamon. Season the main body pieces for the adults with some salt and pepper.

Roast for 35-45 mins until the flesh is soft (the two smaller pieces will take less time to cook). Remove from the oven to cool but leave the oven switched on.

While the butternut squash is cooking, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan over a med heat. Cook the onion until soft (about 3-4 mins). Turn up the heat a little, add the veal and fry until just cooked through (about 5 mins). Season and remove from the heat.

For baby:
Remove the peel from baby’s piece of roasted squash and mash or puree the flesh to the desired consistency. Add an extra pinch of cinnamon or ground coriander if you wish.

For toddler and adults:
Scoop out most of the flesh from the remaining pieces of roasted squash, leaving a thin border of flesh around the edge. Mash the flesh and stir in the veal mixture. Spoon back into the pumpkin pieces and place back on the roasting tray. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and cheese. Cook for another 5-10 mins in the oven until the top is golden brown.

Tip: rinse off the discarded seeds, pat dry and then roast in a dry frying pan. Sprinkle over the butternut squash to serve or eat them as a snack another day.

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