Squash and pumpkin are always best when they aren’t laden with too much water; the flesh will be firmer, richer in flavour and less inclined to disintegrate. So, try to get one from a grower or grocer you trust, or spend a little bit more on a supermarket one.
You can use any wholegrain you like here but I particularly like the nuttiness from spelt. Toasting it before boiling in water gives it a lovely caramel note which has a delightful malty smell when it’s in the pan toasting away.
You may think it unusual to use vanilla in a savoury dish but it’s floral sweetness marries perfectly with the onions and spelt and, I think, balances beautifully with the savoury salty cheese.
- 1 small squash
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- 1 pinch chilli powder
- 1 red onion, finely sliced
- 25g butter
- ½ vanilla pod
- ¼ tsp cumin seed
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 100g pearled spelt
- 60g chard leaves, roughly sliced
- 100g goat’s cheese or curd, crumbled
- 1 tbsp harissa paste (I use Belazu rose harissa)
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 175°C.
Cut your squash in half from top to bottom. Remove the seeds using a spoon. Cut each half into 4 wedges. In a large bowl, mix together 1 tbsp of the olive oil with the ground spices. Add the squash segments to the bowl and coat well with the spiced oil.
Line a baking tray with non-stick paper and add the squash. Roast in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes until golden and caramelised.
Meanwhile, add half the remaining olive oil along with the butter to a small saucepan. Melt over a medium heat and then add the sliced onion, vanilla pod, cumin seed and a pinch of salt. Cook over a very low heat for 20 minutes or so until the onions very soft and translucent.
In a separate medium saucepan, heat the vegetable oil and add the spelt. Cook for 5-10 minutes, over a medium heat, until golden and smelling slightly malty. Keep an eye on it and stir regularly to avoid any burning.
Once toasted, cover with an inch of boiling water. Take care when you add the water as the pan will be very hot so the water may splatter. Add a generous pinch of salt to the water. Cook for 15 minutes or until the grains are al dente and a few have just started to crack open. Drain well in a colander.
Mix the spelt into the softened onions. Have a taste. If you can taste enough vanilla, remove the pod. If you’d like a little more ‘vanillariness’ then split open the pod and scrape some of the seeds into the pan.
Now add the chard and allow to wilt over a medium heat. Taste for seasoning, adding a little more salt if you think it needs it.
Now mix the harissa paste with the remaining olive oil.
Add the spelt to a plate, top with the roast squash, scatter over the goat’s cheese followed by the harissa oil and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.