This is a truly hearty and robust vegetarian meal. If you fancy adding in a little meat, some top quality smoked back bacon would be a great addition to the spelt filling, but it stands alone perfectly as it is. Brought to the table and sliced as you would a joint of meat, it’s a real veggie show-stopper.
This recipe makes us of a whole crown prince squash, and can happily feed 10 people; if you’re cooking for fewer people, simply half the recipe, only stuffing and roasting half the squash, and use the remainder for another recipe the following day. The stuffed squash has everything you could need or want in terms of flavours, textures, and food groups… it’s a complete meal in and of itself! As an accompaniment, a simple salad of winter leaves, with a sharp cider vinaigrette would be perfect.
1 crown prince squash, approximately 20cm in diameter
1 ½ cups spelt
2 tablespoons of rapeseed oil, or knob of butter
1 large brown onion
2 stalks celery
18 long leaves of cavolo nero, or 6 generous handfuls of other kale
180g tunworth cheese, or other thin-rind soft cheese with a strong flavour
3 sprigs of rosemary
salt & pepper
for the topping:
3 tablespoons of bread crumbs
3 tablespoons hazelnuts
3 tablespoons grated parmesan
6 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons of olive oil
salt & pepper
½ lemon, juice only
Start by rinsing the spelt. Cover generously with water (or light vegetable stock), and simmer gently over a medium heat for 24 minutes, until plump and tender. Once cooked, drain and allow the steam to billow off.
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees, and a line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Meanwhile, wash and dry the squash (as we won’t be peeling it), and cut it in half across the middle. Soup out the seeds, but leave any stringy bit as these have great flavour!
Very finely dice the onion and the celery, and finely chop the rosemary.
Heat a little rapeseed oil, or butter, in a medium saucepan and sauté these for 8 minutes; if they catch and brown a little this is more than okay, it will add great depth of flavour.
Meanwhile, rinse the cavolo nero, or other kale, and coarsely chop, removing any thicker central stalks if needs be. Add this to the onions and celery, and stir. Season with salt and pepper.
Add a small splash of boiling water – just a few tablespoons – and put the lid on the saucepan. Steam-fry for 2 minutes, until the cavolo nero has started to wilt.
Add the cooked spelt and stir well, then turn off the heat.
Chop or tear the tunworth, including the rind, and fold this through the spelt mix.
Rub the hollowed squash with oil, both inside and out, and season generously with salt and pepper. Place on a lined roasting tray, and then divide the spelt filling between the two hollowed halves.
Now for the topping. Roughly chop the hazelnuts, and mix these with the bread crumbs, the grated parmesan, lots of fresh thyme leaves, 2 tablespoons of oil, and salt & pepper. Alternatively this can all be whizzed in a food processor, but be sure to leave a little texture. Spoon this sandy, crumbly mix on top of each squash, patting it in place to help it stay put.
Roast in the preheated oven for 1 hour, or until the squash is beautifully soft; check after 20 minutes, and if the top is browning too quickly, perhaps turn the oven down slightly, or loosely cover the top with tin foil.
A squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil are brilliant final touch before serving