Aaron Bertelsen’s stuffed squash with spiced mince

This stuffed squash dish is redolent of my childhood winters in New Zealand, when my father would cook it in our coal-range oven. Sweet flavours like these need a little spice to bring them to life. I like to intensify the flavours by heating the spices in the oil before adding any other ingredients, a technique I learned in India. The coconut oil is my addition to my father’s recipe – it brings another element of flavour and really seems to complement the spices.

stuffed squash
Andrew Montgomery

SERVES 4

PREP TIME 20 minutes

COOK TIME 50 minutes

2 butternut squash (about 850g each)
olive oil, for brushing
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
50g chopped leek
450g lean minced beef
400g can chopped tomatoes, drained
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
125g grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out and discard the seeds. Open up the cavity along the length of the squash a little more, leaving a wall of at least 2.5cm. Brush the cut sides with olive oil then place them, cut-sides up, in a roasting tin. Bake for 40 minutes, or until tender. 

2. Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the spices and when they start to sizzle add the leek, followed by the beef. Cook, stirring, until the beef is no longer pink. Drain and discard any excess fat. Season with . teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper, then add the tomatoes and parsley and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring, until the mixture is hot and bubbly. 

3. Remove the baked butternut squash from the oven. Scoop the beef mixture into the cavities of the baked squash shells and sprinkle with the cheese. Return the stuffed squash to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until the cheese has just melted and is lightly browned. 

Growing butternut squash

I recently grew my first butternut squash in a pot and it was both fun and a huge success. It is great that seed companies are starting to offer varieties specifically suited to pots; lack of space no longer needs to be a barrier to growing what you want. I grew two varieties –butterbush and barbara. Both performed well, but butterbush was the most productive and the one I am likely to grow again.

Buy Aaron’s fabulous new book with a 20 per cent discount

Grow Fruit and Vegetables in Pots: Planting Advice and Recipes from Great Dixter will be published by Phaidon Press Ltd on 7 February, price £24.95. To order a copy for £19.95 with free p&p until 2 March call 01603 648155 or go to mailshop.co.uk.