Truth be told I find it hard not to get excited when creating and testing a new recipe because I know I'll be sneaking a delightful bite here and there, plundering my little herb garden on the terrace, having fun taking pictures and just smile and enjoy myself as I potter about the kitchen.
But on this particular occasion even more so because I had been waiting for a chilly autumn day to make a festive stuffed pumpkin that begs to be carved and devoured by food lovers on Halloween, Thanksgiving or any other special occasion where you want to woo or wow your loved ones. And without having to spend hours and hours in the kitchen, which definitely has its charm too, but sometimes the idea of wrangling a cold Turkey just isn't as appealing as spending the evening in more warming company, right? ;)
And speaking of which, I'd love to dedicate this post to my dear friend Mark whose warmth and gentlemanly spirit make this world a happier place. One of our favourite films is the wonderful classic Stairway to Heaven, and I think that this recipe would make the perfect film night-comfort food companion for it!
It is not enough that they're delicious and come in magnificent shapes, colours and sizes, from a nutritional point of view pumpkins are royalty too: they provide an incredible source of nutrients and are among the most alkalising and inflammation-fighting foods on the planet. Vitamin A, vitamin C, dietary fiber, niacin, folic acid, and iron, you name it, they've got it. Hello gorgeous skin, sparkling eyes, happy tummy and healthy body!
And speaking of gorgeous… Ding Dong…!
I used a small Hokkaido squash which serves two, but it works just as well with any other edible pumpkin, just make sure you adjust your baking time and filling quantity accordingly.
1 Hokkaido squash
2-3 cups mushrooms (I used fresh crimini mushrooms and 1/2 cup of dried porcini for added depth of flavour)
1 1/2 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cup filtered water
Zest of one organic lemon
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
3 small leaves of fresh sage, finely cut (and a few more to garnish)
4 sprigs fresh thyme
High quality sea or rock salt
1. Pre-heat your oven at 375°F/190°C and rinse and soak your quinoa (ideally, soak it overnight). If you use dried mushrooms, soak them in a cup or two of hot water.
2. Wash the squash and cut out a lid from the top. Scoop out the seeds and discard them. Rub the inside of the squash with coconut oil and season with salt (don't be shy, it can handle some salt). Fill the squash with the rosemary sprigs and slightly crush or squeeze them to bring out their fragrance even more. Put the lid on the top and bake your squash whole in the oven until the flesh is soft and the skin browned and bubbled, which takes about 40 minutes or more, depending on its size. Make sure the skin doesn't burn though and place a little piece of aluminium foil over the steel on the top to keep it from burning.
3. To make the filling, transfer your rinsed and drained quinoa to a saucepan on a medium heat. Slightly brown the quinoa in some coconut oil to bring out its lovely nutty flavour, while stirring continuously. After a few minutes, add the water (tip: if you used dried mushrooms, pour in that soaking liquid as well!). Add salt to taste and let it cook on a low heat until most of the liquid has been soaked up, about 7-8 minutes. Meanwhile go to the next step to prepare your mushrooms. When still slightly all dente, remove the saucepan from the heat, fluff up the quinoa with a fork, add the lemon zest and fresh sage and cover with a lid.
4. Slice 'n dice your mushrooms and sauté in coconut oil with some salt. Add the fresh thyme. When soft and ready, mix the mushrooms with your quinoa and set aside.
5. Take your squash out of the oven when ready, remove and discard the rosemary sprigs and fill it up with your lemon and sage quinoa mushroom stuffing. Garnish with a few extra sage leaves and serve while hot.
So be happy and well, everyone! As always I love to hear your thoughts and hope you'll enjoy this recipe as much as I have!
Have a lovely day,
P.s.: For my dear fellow Belgians who'd be interested in finding a CSA near to you, there are plenty of organic farms offering weekly boxes of local, seasonal, affordable produce. On this website you can find the closest one to you. I highly recommend it and it's a surefire way of getting variety in your diet as well as challenging yourself to get to know and cook with some new fruits and veggies!