Roasted squash with Leek & Barley Pilaf
Squash and leeks share a similar vegetable sweetness that makes them very good bedfellows. The comforting feather mattress here is the earthy nuttiness of barley, but you could also cook spelt grains (farro) in the same way. All it needs is a green salad in a mustardy soured cream dressing, with a few toasted walnuts tossed through.
200 g pearl barley
1 bay leaf
1 large Butternut or 2 Red Onion squashes (or a large wedge of a similar winter squash)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon small thyme sprigs
1–2 pinches dried chilli flakes
30 g butter
2–3 celery sticks, sliced
4 leeks, thickly sliced
250 g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, coarsely shredded
150–200 ml vegetable stock
a handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons lightly toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
200–250 g Taleggio or Fontina cheese, thinly sliced
Rinse the barley well, then put it in a large saucepan with the bay leaf. Cover generously with water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, part-covered, for about 30–40 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside until needed.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC (400ºF) Gas 6. Cut the squash into 4–8 wedges. Do not peel it but scoop out the seeds. Rub with half the oil and put on a baking tray, season with salt and pepper and scatter over half the thyme and the chilli flakes. Roast, uncovered, in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes until tender and browned.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil and half the butter in a large frying pan and cook the celery gently for 5 minutes. Add the leeks and most of the remaining thyme and cook for another 4–5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the mushrooms and cook over medium heat until they begin to brown, then toss in the carrots and cook for 1–2 minutes only. Add the barley and stir through, then add sufficient stock to make the grains moist and reheat thoroughly. Check the seasoning, then stir in the parsley, pumpkin seeds (if using) and remaining butter.
To serve, top the squash with the sliced cheese and remaining few thyme sprigs, grind over some pepper and either let it melt in the oven or under a hot grill until it bubbles. Serve immediately with the pilaf.
Images and recipes courtesy of Ryland Peters & Small, from COOKING WITH PUMPKINS AND SQUASH by Brian Glover with photography by Peter Cassidy (£9.99 in UK)