Recipe by Clare Mcelhatton.
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Any winter squash can be used for this recipe, but cooking times and quantities will vary. In this version, warming spices are used but any flavouring can be added to the lentil mix. For a vegan Christmas main try adding sautéed onion, sage, chestnuts or walnuts etc.
1 Acorn Squash
100g red lentils
Spice mix (any mixture could be used)
1 tsp cumin seeds or cumin powder
½ teaspoon of coriander seeds or ½ teaspoon coriander powder
2-3 cardamom pods
2 tsp garam masala
½ tsp tumeric
Toast the spices in a dry pan for 1 minute. If using seeds, crush in a pestle & mortar or spice grinder. Discard the cardamom pods.
Cover the lentils in 200g of cold water. Leave for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Wash the squash really well, use a scrubbing brush if you have one.
Slice the squash in half, scoop out the seeds. Place in a baking dish, covered in tinfoil and bake for 45mins at 220°C this can be roasted whenever the oven is on hot and kept for the next day
Once roasted, the squash should be soft but not browned or caramelised.
When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and keep to one side.
When the lentils have soaked, blend them with a stick blender or food processor. Depending on the blender, more cold water may need to be added.
When the lentils are a smooth paste, strain over a sieve to get rid of any surplus water.
Add the squash flesh and either blend into the lentils or roughly stir in.
Add the spice mixture to the lentil and squash mix. Also add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and ½ tsp salt. Add black pepper to taste.
To test the mixture, a little can be fried in a pan for tasting.
Fill the Acorn squash halves with the lentil mix. Keep it level as the mixture will expand.
Add one tablespoon of vegetable oil to a roasting pan (the smallest one you have).
Put the stuffed squash into the baking dish and roast for 30 minutes at 200°C.
During the cooking time, remove the squash from the oven a few times- use a spoon to baste the top of the squash with the oil in the baking pan.
Any leftover lentil and squash mixture can spread about 1cm thick on a baking tray and baked in the oven until brown- this can be frozen or eaten as a snack with salad or chutney.
The squash is ready when the lentil mixture has browned.
Serve with a chutney (e.g. coriander, tomato or tamarind) and a simple salad. The skins are edible but will vary in softness according to the variety and cooking time.