This was one of the most delicious and guilt free dinners I remember having in a long time. With only a handful of fresh, natural ingredients, when cooked right this will make you wonder why you ever looked twice at a baked potato, or even sweet potato. The trick to getting the flesh of the squash beautifully sweet and tender and cooked through is to steam it beforehand; it cuts the oven time in half, ensures an even cook and means you can put everything in the oven at once and it’ll be ready together, as opposed to finding your squash raw in the middle, or your tomatoes burnt into little black inedible biscuits, or if you’re really unlucky, both.
The flesh of the squash has a slightly sweet tinge to its taste, which goes well with strong flavours such as tomato, thyme, lemon and garlic, or warm spices for an eastern twist. If you wanted to change this dish up I would steer clear of more subtle, creamier flavours as the dish wouldn’t be savoury enough, with nothing to cut through the mild sweetness.
Ingredients – serves 2
One whole, large butternut squash, halved and deseeded
1 medium sized leek, sliced (sub: bunch of spring onions /scallions)
1 punnet (about 300g) cherry tomatoes of choice – good quality ones please
2 tsp dried oregano or thyme
1/8 tsp dried garlic powder
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper
Optional – shaved parmesan or hard cheese to top
1. Steam the squash. You can do this in a steamer on the hob, or in the microwave like we did. I put it in a large bowl, covered in cling film which I pierced a couple of times. About 10 minutes later the whole thing should be soft and squishy on the outside, with possibly a little bit of uncooked flesh in the very centre if your two halves were touching. This is alright. Any more than 1/4 uncooked and you’ll need to steam for longer.
2. Arrange the two halves in an ovenproof dish, open as shown. Sprinkle around the leeks, then tomatoes, then drizzle on the olive oil and herbs/ garlic. Season with salt & pepper then bake in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius for about half an hour.
3. Your dish is ready when everything is cooked, soft, golden looking and the tomatoes have burst and look delicious. Remove from the oven, top with cheese and serve immediately.