If you are stuck on what to make for vegetarians at Christmas, this could be the dish, but it would also be great as a vegetable addition to a wider spread. The Apricot Harissa adds a gentle warmth, that is in harmony with sweet flavour of squash and fragrant cinnamon and it does not jar with other traditional yuletide flavours. The recipe for Tahini gravy is vegetarian but the principle of how it made also works with regular gravy too
For the Butternut Squash:
100g Siyez, or medium whole grain bulgur wheat
1 red onion, peeled and chopped
1 leek, outer layer removed, thoroughly washed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 sprigs each of fresh rosemary and thyme, finely chopped. Dried is also fine to use.
Salt and pepper
½ tsp cinnamon
fresh nutmeg, grated
1 1/2 tbsp Apricot Harissa
1 apple, core removed and roughly diced.
5 tbsp barberries or dried cranberries
50g toasted and chopped hazelnut
For the Tahini Gravy:
500 ml vegetarian gravy, made using granules
65ml white wine
1 good sprig of rosemary, thyme or sage, finely chopped
4 tbsp Tahini
Boil a kettle. Place the Siyez in a bowl or dish and cover with hot water, about 1cm above the line of the grains, then soak for 10 minutes.
Place a large frying pan on a medium to high heat and when hot, add the olive oil then the red onion, leek, garlic and rosemary and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 -12 minutes, stirring frequently and turning the heat down to medium to stop the onions and garlic taking on too much colour.
Heat an oven to 180C fan / 200C non-fan. Whilst the above is cooking, cut the squash in half length-ways and scrape out the guts. Use a strong spoon to scrape out some of the flesh from the ‘neck’ of the squash so that there is space to for the stuffing. Roughly chop the pulp and add to the onion mix once that has softened and continue to cook till the squash is soft and sweet. Add the cinnamon, Apricot Harissa and a grating of fresh nutmeg and cook for another few minutes.
Tip the onion mix into a large bowl then add the remaining ingredients to make the stuffing. Stir to combine then taste and season with salt and pepper. If you would like a bit more heat add another spoon of apricot harissa. Season the insides of the squash with salt then fill each half of with stuffing, sandwich them together and wrap tightly with tin foil. Place on a roasting tray and roast for 1.5 hours.
Remove from the oven and pierce the squash with a small sharp knife to test that the squash is cooked and that the stuffing is hot in the centre. When ready to serve, unwrap and cut into thick slices.
Vegetarian Tahini Gravy
Pour the wine in a small pan and reduce by half. Add 500ml water and the fresh herbs of your choice and bring to the boil.
Follow the gravy granule instructions for making 500ml of gravy, but reduce the amount of granules a little, as the Tahini will also help thicken it. Place the granules in a jug or small bowl and slowly pour the hot water over them, whisking constantly so that there are no lumps.
Pour the Tahini into the saucepan and slowly add the gravy, whisking constantly. Don’t add too much at one time as the Tahini can split. Taste and adjust seasoning, as necessary. If you want to heat the gravy, place on a low heat and whisk frequently -don’t allow to boil as it will turn grainy.