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Tray Baked Squash with Cavolo Nero, Roquefort & Pumpkin Seeds

Super simple dish that can be a main with lentils, quinoa or pearlised spelt, mixed into pastaor as a side with chicken. Containing many essential nutrients and for those with lactose sensitivity, using Roquefort, which is made from ewe’s milk, it may be better tolerated as the fats have smaller molecules for easier absorption. This ingredient combination has a umami taste of its own – sweet, salty, soft, crunchy – and packs in a wealth of nutrients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large squash, butternut is sweetest
  • 1 bunch of cavolo nero leaves, about 10 in total
  • 50g Roquefort cheese, or more if preferred
  • A good handful of shell less pumpkin seeds, according to preference
  • Olive oil to seal roasting pan and mix into squash cubes

Method:

  • Pre-heat oven to 200C.
  • Prepare squash by first laying on its side on a cutting board then slice off the top and bottom. Use a tea towel to hold the squash firmly to prevent slipping with the knife while you slice. Next, slice through the squash about halfway along. When you have two sections it becomes easier to handle.
  • The bottom half of the squash contains its seeds. Take each section and begin to slice through width ways so you have circles of squash about an inch wide. This makes it easier to slice off the hard-outer skin than attempting to use a peeler on the whole vegetable at the start – or maybe that’s just me!
  • Do the same with other section that has the seeds. The seeds will have a hard outer shell so discard and use the shell less variety from a supermarket for this recipe. When you have all skin free circles, cut into cubes of about an inch
  • Place in the roasting tray and use a little oil to coat the squash cubes, lightly season and put into the heated oven on a middle rack.
  • Meanwhile, cut the ends of the cavolo nero stalks, then slice along each side of the central spine to remove any woody thicker parts according to taste. Slice the leaves into wide ribbons and wash thoroughly and pat dry. Leave to one side.
  • Next, cut the Roquefort into cubes and put to one side.
  • After about 25 minutes the squash should be gently softened so carefully remove from the oven to check. Allow extra time to for the cubes to soften further if needed.
  • When the squash is done, add the cubes of Roquefort and scatter over the pumpkin seeds, mix all the contents together and return the tray to the oven. This allows the cheese to melt and the seeds to crisp up a little.
  • Finally, add the cavolo leaves and mix everything together and return to the oven for a final 5 minutes.

I often add some sundried tomatoes to the quinoa or lentils to serve – it adds to the umami taste!

Squash is very versatile and can be added to both sweet and savoury dishes. Its actually a fruit and not a vegetable. It packs a punch of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants. Low in calories, it contains vitamin A, C, E and B1, B3, B6, B9, magnesium, potassium, manganese and is also a good source of calcium, iron, phosphorous and copper – all this means it’s great for your immune system, eyes, regulating cell growth, bone health, red blood cell formation, protection against inflammation, reduces risk of chronic diseases and may aid mental decline. Its high in fibre to aid good bowel motility and can help with weight loss as the fibre helps with satiety.

Cavolo nero is a brassica and closely related to the kale family. First grown in 600BC. Versatile, it can be steamed, baked, stir fried, braised or boiled. It can play an important part in a healthy balanced diet; like kale it is a good source of lutein, vitamins K, A and C, and a significant source of B vitamins, fibre, calcium, manganese, copper, iron and many other elements. Again, it delivers all the health benefits as squash.

Pumpkin seeds may be small, but they’re packed with valuable nutrients and eating only a small amount will provide a substantial quantity of healthy fats, magnesium and zinc, protein, antioxidants. Notably, they are one of the best food sources of magnesium. Magnesium is needed for more than 600 chemical reactions in the body and as a nation we don’t incorporate enough of the mineral into our diet, so do consider them as a handy source to snack on if not using in a recipe.