After a few weeks of trial cooking, last weekend I finally managed to tick that one important Christmas preparation box: deciding which dishes are going to make it to our Christmas dinner table this year. I know Christmas is supposed to be about surrounding yourself with your loved ones, who don’t need much more than pizza to bring the evening to life, but I love going big on Christmas day. Nothing hightens the spirit more than a table filled with goodies equally attractive to children and adults and meeting everyone’s taste and dietary wishes. And I think I succeeded. Yay!
As much as I love to indulge, I still like feeling good after dinner as well, so this year Christmas dinner will consist of my baby beetroot tatins combined with a few light, herb and vegetable-packed dishes which make you feel completely satisfied and well-nourished, while still leaving room for dessert. Which is where this festive stuffed squash comes in.
The stuffing is a fresh grain salad, based on a mixture of wild rice, quinoa and pearl spelt. It’s zesty and herby, with orange zest, lemon zest, a dressing of lemon juice and a generous dose of some of my favourite herbs, tarragon, chervil, dill and flat-leaf parsley. Dark caramelized onion and chopped pecans add depth of flavour. The whole thing’s contained in a yummy and sweet maple-roasted edible bowl and topped with pomegranate seeds for the ultimate festive touch.
I serve it at room temperature. This makes it an easy prepare-ahead dish for evenings in which I’d like to keep last minute cooking activities minimized, but it also gives the flavours of the salad time to develop, bringing out the best in the delicate herbs.
Judging the reaction of my husband and children, this stuffed squash will make it to our table more than once this winter. I hope you’ll love it as much as we do. And regardless of what you’ll be cooking, and whether or not you’ll be celebrating Christmas, I wish you cosy evenings and joyful days with your loved ones these last weeks of the year.
Stuffed squash with herby wild rice salad and pomegranate – serves 4 as a single main and 8 as a side
for the squash
- 2 medium-sized pumpkins or round squashes, each about 1 kg. I used 1 acorn squash and 1 kabocha squash, liking the result with the latter best.
- 2 tsp. maple syrup
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- salt, pepper
for the stuffing
- 150 g wild rice
- 100 g pearl spelt (regular spelt or pearl barley make good alternatives)
- 100 g quinoa
- 75 ml olive oil
- 2 white onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
- zest of 1 orange
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- salt and pepper
- 15 g tarragon, roughly chopped
- 15 g chervil, leaves picked
- 15 g dill, roughly chopped
- 20 g flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked
- 120 g pecan nuts, toasted and roughly chopped
- seeds of 1 pomegranate
Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.
Cut the tops off the squashes and scoop out the seeds. Put the squashes on a lined baking sheet. Rub them with the olive oil inside and out. Brush the inside of each squash with a teaspoon of the maple syrup and season well. Roast them for 45 minutes until tender.
Meanwhile, cook the wild rice, the spelt and the quinoa following pack instructions. Drain, rinse with cold water and leave to dry.
In a frying pan, heat a tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the onion rings and fry them for about 10 minutes, until tender and caramelised.
Take out the squashes and leave to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the grains. Stir in the remaining olive oil, the orange and lemon zest, the lemon juice, the onion rings, the herbs and the pecan nuts. Season well, then divide over the squashes. Serve, topped with the pomegranate seeds.