Sunday, 3 October 2010

Squash pots stuffed with gruyere and chestnuts in white wine and cream

I'm sure there aren't too many bowls that are edible, especially ones which are this pretty.

These are a jewel of autumn and devoured in abundance in my house, and there are so many things you can fill them with there's no reason to get bored. I'll be putting some of my favourite fillings on over the coming weeks but in advance of that, perhaps these might whet your appetites:
 - Moroccan mussel with cumin, chillies and preserved lemon
 - Blue cheese, walnut and smoked pancetta
 - Thai coconut with ginger and spring onion

And its not just the fillings that account for their variety, there are many kinds of these little squashes to choose from which all taste subtly different and delicious - though when picking them don't just pick the nicest looking ones, you need to put them on a flat surface and make sure they sit still and upright, otherwise using them as a soup bowl will be messy and impossible.

The roasting of the empty squashes prior to filling ensures the flesh is tender enough to be scooped out and enjoyed along with their filling, not to mention the lightly charred and chewy edges taste great.

I think these would be ideal food for a bonfire night party; they're seasonal, hearty and warming when it's cold outside, and easy to eat as they're the container and the dish at the same time, perfect for enjoying at the side of a roaring bonfire whilst watching fireworks, all wrapped up from the cold.

For two:
A squash each, we get ours from the grocers but they're also available in the big supermarkets
80g grated gruyere
One glass of wine
8 roasted and peeled chestnuts, cut in half
One red onion, very finely chopped
One clove of garlic, finely chopped
250mls single cream
Ground nutmeg
A handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Unsalted butter
Extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil for cooking
Sea salt and black pepper

 - Preheat your oven to 190 degrees
- Carefully chop the tops off the squashes and with a spoon, hollow out their insides
- Melt a knob of butter in a pan and remove from the heat, brush the insides and cut top edge of the squash with the melted butter (don't forget the inside of the lids too).
- Now sprinkle the ground nutmeg into the squashes, lightly covering everywhere the butter was brushed, and also add a pinch of salt to the middle of each one too
- Pour a little frying oil into your hands and pick up each of the squashes and their lids in turn, covering their skin in the oil, then place them on a baking sheet and pop them into the oven for 45 minutes (oiling their skin prevents them burning and help them begin to brown better)
- About 15 minutes before the squashes come out of the oven its time to start their filling
- In a frying pan add a knob of butter and glug of olive oil and fry the onions until soft and translucent on a low-medium heat
- When the onions are done, add the garlic and stir through for a couple of minutes, then before the garlic catches, add the wine and cream, stir until the mixture is very gently simmering and the alcohol cooked off
- Now add the chestnuts and gruyere, continue to to stir until all the cheese has melted
- Remove the squashes from the oven and carefully spoon the mixture into them, put the lids back on them and put them back in the oven for a further 15 minutes
- Remove the squashes from the oven, take off their lids and add a couple of pinches of parsley and a little glug of oil to the filling, stir and serve