6 February 2015

Onion Squash Stuffed with Spicy Black Rice

When I was thinking about going Vegetarian for February (read about that decision here), I was imagining cold Moroccan salads, fruit in every meal, pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. And almost as soon as we decided to follow through with going veggie, it snowed, and I've been rehashing the food we bought at the weekend into warmer non-salad substitutes.  

And I for one are happy this onion squash was around to save the day! Stuffed with black rice flavoured with tomatoes, harissa and paprika, and dressed with parsley merges my dreams of a Moroccan salad with a warm roasted platform of onion squash to shine on. 

Onion squash has a unique and rich flavour, making it a very delicious platform. Nutty with soft plump flesh you could roast it and just serve it with a knob of butter, black pepper and a generous shaving or two of Parmesan. However, that would signify a very quick end to Veggie February, as Parmesan can only be made with rennet (the enzyme used in cheese production) that is derived from calves stomachs. The good news though for any vegetarians is that 90% of the cheese made in the UK is made with vegetarian rennet, and there are calve-friendly Parmesan alternatives available. Hoorah!

In just a week, something that has really caught me is how many products you might assume would be suitable for vegetarians, such as some traditional cheeses, which have animal-derived products hidden within the ingredients label. Like most other lifestyle/food bloggers, I've always been a sucker for pretty packaging. And what I've found is that some companies might brand their products in a way to make them appeal to your inspirations of being healthy, green and eco-concious but actually these products aren't what they appear to the eye. 

Looking at the nutritional information is not just something vegetarians need to do. We all should look at what the sugar/salt/fat content is for the entire product and not just the 100ml/g it shows on the label. An example of hidden ingredients is the sugar content in yoghurt, some tubs of yoghurt, particularly 0% or low fat ones, can have the equivalent of more than six teaspoons of sugar in. Granted we won't all binge on a whole tub a day, but it's worth noting that a product being marketed as a healthy low fat option may actually contain more than what a woman's entire daily sugar intake should be. And a serving of low fat, high sugar yoghurt which some brands suggest plus other processed products will push you over the daily limit.

Maybe I should stick to the wise words of everyone who ever spoke about nutrition:

Everything in moderation...
Unless it's Onion Squash Stuffed with Spicy Black Rice. Then you should consider eating a whole one to yourself, depending on how cold it is.

Squash Stuffed with Spicy Black Rice
(serves 2)

1 small onion squash
150g black rice
150g cherry tomatoes
1 small red onion
2 large cloves of garlic
1 small glass of white wine
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tbsps harissa
Small bunch of parsley roughly chopped
Salt to season
Olive oil

Step 1. Start prepping by preheating the oven to 180°C and putting a pan of salted water on to boil. Cut the onion squash in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds (you can put the seeds aside and roast them later with a drizzle of oil and season with salt and pepper to make a tasty salad topper). Place the squash on a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. Roast the squash in the oven for 30 minutes.

Step 2. Once the water has come to the boil, add the rice to the pan. After 5 minutes, turn the heat down and let the pan simmer for 20 minutes. While the rice is cooking, finely dice the garlic, chop the red onion (I like to keep the onion slightly chunky in this dish to give the stuffing more texture) and cut the tomatoes in half. 

Step 3. In a hot pan, sweat the onions in a tbsp olive oil till translucent then add the garlic and fry for a minute till fragrant before adding the tomatoes and white wine. Leave to simmer till the wine has cooked off. Once the rice is done, drain it and add it to the pan then stir in the harissa, paprika, chopped parsley and remaining cayenne pepper, and season to taste. 

Step 4. Remove the Squash from the oven and stuff with the spicy rice, then return the squash to the oven for another 15-20 minutes. 

Step 5. Squash done, serve it with a green salad maybe topped with some toasted pumpkin seeds and a spoonful of greek yoghurt (not low fat of course). 

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