Festive Acorn Squash With Baked Chestnut Rice, Cranberry Jam And Parsley Caper Crunch
GF, VG, Ve
Recipe serves 4
2 acorn squash, washed well
Chestnut and Thyme Baked Rice
1 1/2 cups Arborio risotto rice
180g cooked chestnuts
2 vegetable stock cubes plus 800 ml of water
I small onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large pinches dried thyme or leaves from one sprig of fresh thyme
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Cranberry and Orange Jam Sauce
180g dried cranberries
1 juniper berry
1 star anise
The juice of an orange
1 large pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of ground nutmeg
½ cup of water
Optional: a tsp of maple syrup of needed
Pumpkin Seed Caper Crunch
90g pumpkin seeds
2 tbs of capers
50g fresh flat leaf parsley
1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F
2. Boil the kettle with a litre of water and make up the stock using stock cubes
3. Dry the acorn squash, slice off the top and bottom to create a flat base (save the tops for decoration). Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and place the 4 halves in an ovenproof dish with room around them. Oil the inside and outside of the squash with oil, butter or ghee and season with salt and pepper.
4. Into an oven proof cooking pot with a tight fitting lid, add all the ingredients for the baked rice. Stir well, top with a lid and place in the oven along with the dish of acorn squash for 35 mins.
5. Meanwhile make the cranberry sauce; crush the juniper berry as fine as possible using the back of a spoon or knife on a chopping board. Add all of the ingredients into a small saucepan and simmer on a medium heat for 15 mins, lid on.
6. Remove the star anise and then give the cranberries a rough blitz with a stick blender to keep some texture, adding a splash of boiling water to start it off if looking a bit dry. Taste and adjust seasoning and leave to one side.
7. To make the crunch topping; toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan until they begin to pop and smell toasted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. On a wooden chopping board chop the parsley leaves (save the stalks for soup) somewhere between rough chopped and fine and add to a bowl. Roughly chop the capers and then the cooled pumpkin seeds and mix with the chopped parsley leaves adding a touch of salt and pepper.
8. After 35 minutes check on the acorn squash, at this point I like to turn them over to make sure they are nicely caramelised on the top and return the dish to the oven for up to another 10 minutes, along with the acorn squash tops which are quickly greased to allow them to colour (don’t worry people probably won’t eat these but they look so lovely so might as well present them!).
9. Remove the rice from the oven, give it a good mix and check that it’s cooked - you could at this point add more butter and a splash of hot water and stir it vigorously until it loosens if you’d like to make a creamy risotto but I prefer it fluffy with bite for this recipe.
10. To plate up; place each acorn squash half on a plate and overfill with the rice. Make space for a blob of cranberry jam, plus extra on the side and sprinkle generously with the pumpkin parley crunch allowing it to fall about the plate. Top two of the squash halves with hats for a bit of drama and then serve - along with lots of other trimmings if you wish.
*Acorn squash comes in all colours, shapes and sizes! This means you may need to adjust cooking times slightly but do bear in mind when purchasing that you need each one to be either big enough as a single serving or will feed two when cut in 2. If you’re going for a bigger squash or butternut it could easily feed 3-4!
*The cranberry jam recipe makes plenty so store in the fridge and use for toasted sandwiches, cheese boards or dilute and drizzle with soup. Remember there is no sugar in this recipe to preserve it so use a clean spoon and eat within a week or so!
*Check that your nutmeg is still fragrant! If you only pull it out at Christmas then it's worth investing in whole nutmeg plus nutmeg grater and storing it in a cool and air tight container so it’s still good for next year.