Jewelled butternut squash with spiced lentils and feta
This is probably one of my favourite meals of all time. And that really says a lot, as someone who spends 90% of her time thinking about food (and the other 10% eating it), I really don’t make these statements lightly. It’s just the absolute PERFECT combination of flavours! Mellow roasted squash, tangy feta, sharp pomegranate seeds, warm spiced lentils.. I just can’t.. there are no words.
This dish comes from a recipe I learnt years ago for a stuffed butternut squash, which I have used several times as a delicious christmas veggie option. Since then I’ve adapted it and turned it into a more balanced dish, to be served with a wholegrain base, which also makes it go a lot further. It’s lovely with nutty brown rice, quinoa or freekeh if you want to continue the moroccan theme.
Aside from tasting amazing, this meal is also super nutritious. Butternut squash is fill of vitamin A for glowing skin and pomegranate seeds are bursting with antioxidants. The lentils are a great source of protein and make it a very fibre-rich meal, especially if served with brown rice. Surprisingly the fresh herbs also contain huge nutritional benefit. Did you know that fresh parsley is one of the most potent forms of vitamin C available to us? And mint is wonderfully calming for our digestive systems.
The lentils can be cooked from scratch or bought pre cooked if you are short on time. Similarly the pomegranate seeds can also be bought ready in a pot from most supermarkets. If you do choose to do it properly and de-seed a whole pomegranate yourself (you’ll get so much more for your money), make sure you protect your clothing/surfaces/walls – the first few times I did it my kitchen looked like a crime scene! Simply quarter the pomegranate and use your hands to scoop away the seeds. The easiest way to separate the pith is to place the seeds into a bowl of water as you extract them, where they will sink and the pith will float.
Ingredients – Serves 4
- 1 butternut squash
- olive oil
- 1 onion
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 large garlic clove
- 150g puy lentils/ 250g packet pre-cooked puy lentils
- 200g feta
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 pomegranate
- a few handfuls of pine nuts
- fresh flat leaf parsley
- fresh mint
- Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
- Cut the butternut squash into small cubes (carefully, this is a perilous business for you and the squash!)
- Place on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 35-40 minutes until soft.
- Meanwhile make the lentil mixture. Start by heating 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pan and frying the onion and garlic for 10 minutes.
- Add the spices and fry for a further 2 minutes.
- Add the lentils and 100ml hot water.
- Simmer on a low heat for about 5-10 minutes if using pre-cooked, or for 30 minutes if cooking the lentils from scratch. Remember to stir regularly.
- When the squash is ready add it to the pan along with the lemon juice and some seasoning, stir together and heat for a further five minutes.
- Serve into individual bowls on a whole grain base.
- Top each bowl with crumbled feta, pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and the chopped fresh herbs.