How could I resist this gorgeous sunny squash sitting on the supermarket shelves? It’s so pretty it’s almost too good to eat … but not quite. And one of the nicest things to do with squash is to stuff them. I have to admit to it carrying a few environmentally unfriendly air mails since it hails from Greece, but living in Twickenham, I couldn’t help thinking it was suitably local with the Stoop just down the road from me where the Harlequins rugby team play!
This Harlequin is such a wonderful-looking autumn squash with its bold colour and, like all squash, packed full of nutritious goodness – calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, beta-carotene and vitamin C. I therefore decided on this midweek evening to pack it full of good and healthy things too: some nutty wild rice, fragrant fresh coriander and parsley, crunchy and creamy pistachio nuts for texture as well as flavour and some sweet currants. Plus a little cinnamon to spice and warm the whole thing. I cooked the rice in chicken stock but if you want to go the vegetarian route then just use vegetable stock or water.
The following mixture perfectly filled my squash. First of all, finely chop a small or 1/4 medium onion and fry gently in a little olive oil. Then add 1/2 cup of wild rice mixture (if you don’t have this, then just use any rice you have to hand – but the wild rice give a nice, nutty flavour). Stir and thoroughly coat the rice in the oil and then add 1 cup of stock or water. Give it a good stir and check seasoning. If your stock is well salted you may not need more but add salt and pepper as needed.
Now add 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Mix well, bring to the boil and then turn to a simmer and cover. Cook until the rice is tender but is still a little wet so that when you transfer to the oven it doesn’t dry out too much. Add more water or stock if needed. Meanwhile, prepare your squash.
Cut your squash in half, cutting through the stem as it looks prettier that way for serving. Scoop out all the seeds and hairy insides and season with a little salt. Place the two halves in an ovenproof dish.
Finely chop some fresh coriander and flat leaf parsley so you have about a tablespoon of each. Chop a heaped dessertspoon of pistachio nuts and measure out a heaped dessertspoon of dried currants. When the rice is done but still a little wet, tip the herbs, nuts and currants into the pan and mix well. Now stuff the hollows of the squash.
Pour a little hot water in the bottom of the dish – about 1-1.5 cm deep – and then I added a good glug of dry vermouth, but that’s optional. (I always keep a bottle of dry vermouth by the cooker as it makes an excellent alternative to white wine if you don’t have any open for cooking.) Cover with foil and put in the oven (200C/180 Fan) for about 45 minutes or until tender – when you can easily pierce with a fork. Now grate a little Parmesan over the top and drizzle a bit of olive oil over and pop back in the oven for about another 10-15 minutes to brown.
These squash are quite small so a half is a good serving for one person. I use the same stuffing in butternut squash or marrow, and often use pine nuts instead of pistachios. I have to say I didn’t like this attractive little Harlequin squash as much as butternut squash (which is one of my favourite things!); it was a little more bland – but that may have been quality and perhaps if you grow your own, they’d be better. But I do love a stuffed squash or marrow and there are usually leftovers and I think cold (but not fridge cold!) the next day, they taste even better. So, it looks like lunch is sorted for tomorrow!