It’s getting colder, which means it’s time to warm up with a bowl of comfort food. This squash stew is so good, it’ll even please die-hard meat eaters.
It’s something of a cliche to enjoy Autumn (aka Fall for our American cousins). When September begins, so do the cries of ‘it’s knitwear season!’ and ‘pumpkin spice is back!’. I genuinely enjoy all four seasons – they’ve each got their charms – but by the end of summer, I’m ready to bundle up with jumpers, blankets and coats.
September means that it’s time to say goodbye to the refreshing salads of summer and say hello to roasted root veg, thick soups and slow-cooked stews. I was practically raised on a diet of suet dumplings, so when the temperature drops, they are what I crave.
Because, who doesn’t love a dumpling? Japanese gyoza, Polish peirogi and even Italian gnocci, which you might think of as pasta, are all varieties of dumplings. Everyone has their own version. My favourites are the classic British, made with suet (traditionally animal fat but you can now get vegetable), flour, water, salt and dried herbs. When steamed or baked, they hit the spot.
I discovered this recipe a few years ago, and even though I’m no longer a full time vegetarian, it’s one that I come back to again and again. My meat loving brother also enjoys it, so if you want to convince someone of the charms of going meat-free, this is what you should give them!
For the stew
1 medium butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons plain flour
125ml dry white wine
1 vegetable stock cube
1 tablespoon tomato puree
800ml boiling water
200g white beans
Salt and pepper
For the dumplings
50g vegetable suet
100g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs
5 tablespoons water
- Pre-heat your oven to 200°C. Peel and deseed the butternut squash before cutting into cubes. Remove the skin from the shallots and cut in half, but keep the roots on to hold the pieces together.
- Place the squash and shallots on a roasting tin, drizzle with oil and season with salt, pepper and paprika. Bake for 30 minutes until golden.
- Take the vegetables out of the oven (but keep the oven on at 180°C) and melt the butter with a splash of oil in a casserole dish to stop it burning. Transfer the squash and shallots into the pan and add in the garlic and flour. Fry for a minute.
- Add the wine and cook for another minute. You want the alcohol to burn away and some of the liquid to remain.
- Once the wine has cooked away, add in the stock cube, tomato puree and top with boiling water. Add in the beans, stir to combine and bring to the boil for 5 minutes.
- If you have a lid for the casserole dish, place it on top and transfer the stew to the oven. Bake for 30-45 minutes until the stew has reduced and become smooth and thick.
- While the stew bakes, make the dumplings. Combine the flour, suet, salt and herbs in a mixing bowl. Add enough of the water in to make a smooth but firm dough.
- Take the dough and cut into 8 even pieces. Roll the pieces into golf ball shaped dumplings.
- Take the stew out of the oven and take off the lid. Place the dumplings on top of the stew and return it to the oven for 15-20 minutes until the dumplings are cooked and golden.
- When it’s ready, serve with a side of green vegetables. I went for simple buttered peas!
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