Butternut squash with couscous

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Last Friday, my friend Joanna came over with the bottle of Croatian wine she bought last year on our holiday. I was in charge of dinner, and F. and Elena were joining us. It had been one of those days where everything I touched went wrong, and that didn’t end in the kitchen.

I was going to make a butternut squash recipe from BBC Good Food, using paquito and butternut squash. It involved cutting the squash in half lengthwise and roasting it. Only, the paquito squash broke in half the other way while I was cutting it, thus throwing out the idea of using the squash as bowls for the rest of the recipe. Time for a new plan.

So, after roasting the squash, I scooped all of it out and cut it into chunks (at which point F. came and saved the day by taking over cutting the squash), replaced the lentils in the recipe with couscous, and subsequently forgot to add half the spices. Meanwhile, I decided that for dessert I would make Divine Rhubarb Crumble, using the rhubarb I canned a year and a half ago, and replacing the strawberries with apples and leaving out the rosemary and the lemon — Okay, it wasn’t the same crumble at all, except for the crumble topping.

It was pretty crazy in the kitchen and I’m so glad Felix was there as sous chef. Dinner was delicious, the wine and company were good, and it was a success all around. Huzzah!

Butternut squash with couscous
Serves 5
(Adapted from BBC Good Food)

  • 2 small butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • 150g couscous
  • 2 onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • a pinch cayenne pepper
  • 175g goats cheese, crumbled
  • 40g pine nuts
  • 3 tbsp chopped mint
  • 3 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 lemon, juiced

1. Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Wash the butternut squash and carefully cut it in half lengthways. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and fibrous centre and discard. Put the squash halves on a baking tray cut- side up, drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil, season and roast in a hot oven for approx 35 minutes or until the flesh is tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

2. When the squash is cool enough to handle scoop out the flesh, then roughly chop the flesh and put it in a bowl.

3. Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and garlic and cook until beginning to caramelise, about 10 minutes. Add the spices and cook for two minutes more. Add the couscous, reserved squash and 200ml of hot water and simmer for 8 minutes (until most of the water has been absorbed). Remove from the heat and stir through the goats cheese, pine nuts, herbs and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Serve with plain yoghurt and a mint leaf for garnish. Enjoy!

Tip: What to do when your dinner is essentially “mush”? Put couscous and squash mixture into a mould, such as a small bowl, and upend on a plate. Magic. Works for rice or any kind of “mushy” meal.

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