Sunday, 10 October 2010

In the bag: stuffed roasted squash, tomato sauce

Here's my contribution to this month's In the Bag food blogging challenge, hosted by Julia over at A Slice of Cherry Pie. The idea is to cook something using the ingredients "in the bag" - and any others you care to add. This month's ingredients are:

  • mushrooms
  • herbs
  • nuts
My first thought was to make a nut roast with a layer of mushrooms running through the middle, served with a creamy mushroom sauce. But then I thought I should strive for something more original: how about a marrow stuffed with mushrooms and nuts, served with a vibrant tomato sauce? The only problem was, I didn't have a marrow to hand, but I did have plenty of squash. So here we have it: roasted squash stuffed with mushrooms, cashews, and fresh herbs, served with a quick tomato sauce.

To prepare the squash, peel and cut horizontally into generous 2.5cm slices; scoop out the seeds and any stringy bits with a spoon. If you're using a small round squash, you might just want to cut it in half horizontally and trim the ends (for stability). The idea is to put the stuffing in the space you make by scooping out the innards.

The squash takes longer to cook than the stuffing, so it is roasted for 20 minutes or so to part cook it before the stuffing is added.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle over some salt and pepper, and roast in a 190℃ oven, turning over half way through cooking. You can get on with the stuffing while the squash roasts.

For the stuffing

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • olive oil
  • 100g chestnut mushrooms, diced
  • 150g cashew nuts, roughly chopped
  • 30g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste
Gently cook the onion in the olive oil without colouring. After 3-4 minutes, add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Put the onions to one side, wipe out the pan, and add some fresh oil. Bring to a high heat, add the mushrooms, and sautée until nicely coloured. Allow to cool slightly before mixing together with the other ingredients. Add enough egg just to bind the lot together, and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. You might want to fry off a spoonful of the mixture to check the seasoning.

Remove the squash from the oven, spoon the stuffing into the cavity, then return to the oven to finish cooking (another 15 minutes or so).

For the tomato sauce

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
  • olive oil
  • 450g fresh tomatoes, peeled
  • OR 1 400g tin plum tomatoes
  • 280ml vegetable stock or water
  • pinch dried thyme
  • bay leaf
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
This sauce is made in a pressure cooker, and takes only 5 minutes to cook once it comes up to pressure. It can be made in an ordinary saucepan on the hob, but you'll have to add an hour or so to the cooking time.

Warm the oil in the base of the pressure cooker, and cook the onion gently, without colouring. After 3-4 minutes, add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, put on the lid, and bring quickly to high pressure. Cook for 5 minutes at high pressure, then remove from the heat and let the pressure drop slowly at room temperature. Carefully remove the lid, take out the bay leaf, then blitz the sauce with a hand blender until smooth. Pass through a sieve into a clean pan. Check the seasoning, and reheat to serving temperature.

To finish the dish, spoon a ladle of tomato sauce into the centre of a warm plate, and carefully place the cooked, stuffed squash on top. If you like, garnish with some sliced sautéed mushrooms and crispy sage leaves. The quantities given here will make about 4 portions.

The verdict

The mushrooms, cashews, and sage are a great combination, and would stand on their own as a nut roast. They went well with the tomato sauce, as did the roasted squash, but there was something jarring about all three on the plate. I think the sweetness of the sqaush was just too much: the blander-tasting marrow would have worked much better, perhaps with some thyme or tarragon in place of the sage.

The tomato sauce is a handy recipe to have up your sleeve: it can be served with other vegetables, with pasta, or used as a pizza topping - and the pressure cooker makes it a really quick.

Thank you, Julia, for the inspiration; I had a lot of fun cooking for this challenge.

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