Butternut bake - a vegetarian dinner
Butternut squash and cheese bake
This is a lovely meat-free dinner that I make quite frequently, featuring tasty butternut squash and cheese.
It's a very simple recipe to make and couldn't be nicer when served with a simple green salad. The preparation time is under ten minutes.
Like many of the meatless dinners I make, this started life as a 'what on earth do I do with this' meal. I'd never cooked butternut squash before but then I was faced with one - and very little else was in stock. Don't you find that some of your tastiest recipes start that way?
Nowadays, I make this regularly but the first time I made it I found that I had the squash, some ricotta, some Parmesan and some bread. It made a great dinner even though the ingredients were so simple.The squash is baked with a little olive oil and topped with the cheeses and breadcrumbs. You could experiment with different cheeses and if you're following a vegan diet, or don't eat cheese with animal by products, simply use a vegan Parmesan.
Bake the butternut squash
PREPARE THE BUTTERNUT
One medium sized squash serves two people. Pre-heat the oven to 375°. Coat the bottom of an over dish with olive oil. I used about a tablespoon. Slice the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds at the 'lumpy end'. I wash the squash carefully and wipe it clean rather than peel it - the skin gives the dish and extra crunch.
SLICE THE SQUASH
Cut the squash into slices and arrange in the oven dish in overlapping layers as you see in the photograph above. Out the dish in the oven - the squash take about 25 minutes to bake beautifully but keep checking as your oven might be different. I leave a slice of squash on top of the rest as my tester piece.
Half a cup of Parmesan cheese
Half a cup of ricotta
One slice of bread from a crusty loaf. The bread I used was our favorite from a local bakery - olive bread - but any good bread will be fine.
Amounts aren't critical - a little cheese more or less won't affect the dish.
Add the ricotta on top of the butternut
Simply spoon the ricotta on top of the baked squash and return the dish to the oven while you prepare the crunchy topping.
The crunchy topping
If you have a blender or food processor, make breadcrumbs from the slice of bread. If not, it takes less than a minute to grate the bread into crumbs. Add the Parmesan and mix the two together. Add this to the top of the dish and return it to the oven until the topping is golden and crunchy. You can give it a helping hand under the broiler if you wish.
Make a quick salad to accompany the dish. I used kale and sliced red pepper. I don't add oil because I've used it already in the butternut squash dish, but a slice of lemon is good. I serve the salad separately on it's own plate.
I'm old enough to remember the days when vegetarian cooking meant mainly nut loaves, lentil stews and nut cutlets - meatless meals weren't very inventive in those days. As time passed though, and everyone began to realize the benefits of eating less meat, some wonderful chefs and vegetarian cooks developed great recipes that we can all have at our fingertips.
You might also like these meat-free recipes
- Mushroom Wellington - quick and easy vegetarian recipe
Make a quick and easy meat-free mushroom dish that is elegant enough for dinner parties but easy to make for a weekday family meal. This is implicity itself to prepare and totally delicious.
- Meat-free Recipes for One Month
Here's a wonderful collection of thirty meat free recipes - yes, one for every day of the month. All are easy to make and quick- they'll be on the dining table in no time.
- Stuffed Cabbage Rolls: Meat-free and Delicious
This is a wonderful recipe for meat-free stuffed cabbage. Unlike many similar recipes, it's quick to make, incredibly low in fats and calories, inexpensive and totally delicious. Try it soon.
All photographs taken in my kitchen during the preparation of this dish.