Butternut squash and chickpea stew

This hearty vegan stew will warm your cockles on a cold, dark day. The unusual mixture of spices and healthy pulses and grains will surprise and satisfy those taste buds.

Butternut squash is without a doubt one of my favourite vegetables: its orange colouring is wonderfully vibrant, it’s very versatile, tastes deliciously sweet with a satisfying soft texture and goes well with a range of herbs and spices. The only downside is that preparing one can be rather labour intensive, so don’t go hacking into a squash when you’re after a speedy meal.

This dish is based on one of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes from his brilliant vegetarian cookbook, River Cottage Veg. The spices and the variety of textures are really what make this a great concoction. The squash, chickpeas and orzo work well together and the mixture of coriander, cinnamon and turmeric inject strong, spicy flavours.

 Butternut squash and chickpea stew

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 0.5 tsp dried coriander
  • 0.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 0.5 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 150g butternut squash or pumpkin, cut into large cubes
  • 250g chickpeas
  • 50g split red lentils
  • 600g vegetable stock
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp crushed black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 50g orzo

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time 45 minutes
Serves 3

Method

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok (I often opt for a wok) on a medium heat. Add the onion and fry until soft, stirring frequently.

2. Reduce the heat slightly and add in the celery, garlic and all of the spices, along with the black pepper, and stir in with the onions until well mixed.

3. Turn the heat back up to medium. Add the chopped tomatoes, chickpeas and lentils, and stir all of the ingredients in together. Cover and allow to cook for five minutes, so the liquids are infused with the spices.

4. Next, add in the squash, pour in the stock and stir in thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients.

5. Cover and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes.

6. After 25 minutes, stir in the orzo. Continue with the simmering until the orzo is soft and the lentils have fully absorbed the juices.

7. Season well and serve in large bowls.

Creamy pumpkin and lentil soup

The tricks of Halloween may have been and gone for another year, but pumpkin-based foods are still very much a treat to enjoy through this season.

I was intrigued to cook pumpkin as I’d never even carved one, let alone cooked it. As a fellow squash plant, it’s very similar to preparing a butternut squash, but thankfully, slightly less labour intensive.

Soup is definitely back in vogue on these increasingly chilly, autumnal days. This pumpkin soup dish is a slightly richer variation of a BBC Good Food recipe, using cream instead of creme fraiche. It’s sweet and herby and the toasted pumpkin seeds make for an innovative garnish adding a crunchy texture and salty flavour.

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Ingredients

    • 1.5 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 small red onions, chopped
    • two thirds of a small to medium sized pumpkin, approx. 800g, chopped into cubes
    • a handful of pumpkin seeds (from the pumpkin you’ve just prepared)
    • 100g split red lentils
    • 2 tsp dried thyme
    • 1 l vegetable stock
    • 75ml double cream
    • A pinch of salt
    • A pinch of sugar

Preparation time: 20 minutes (unless you are an advanced pumpkin peeler!)
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves 4

Method

  1. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan.
  2. Add the onions and cook for five minutes or so, until soft. Stir in the garlic, chopped pumpkin and lentils and sprinkle the thyme over the ingredients.
  3. Pour in the hot stock and stir, making sure all of the ingredients are well covered.
  4. Season, cover and simmer for 20-25 mins until the lentils have expanded and the pumpkin has softened.
  5. Meanwhile, wash the pumpkin seeds. Remove any flesh still clinging to them, then dry them with kitchen roll.
  6. Heat the remaining half tbsp of oil in a small frying pan and toast the seeds for five to ten minutes, or until they start to turn a warm golden colour. Take them off the heat and place them on a couple of sheets of kitchen roll. Sprinkle over the salt and sugar.
  7. When the pumpking mixture is ready, take the pan off the heat and pour into a large bowl.
  8. Whizz the cooked mixture with a hand blender until quite smooth (though I like to leave a few lumps of pumpkin in the mix). Pour in the cream and stir with a large spoon. Season to taste.
  9. Serve in large, shallow bowls, with the golden seeds as a garnish in the middle and drizzle over a little bit of cream if you have some left over.

This warming pumpkin soup is perfect as a light evening meal served with crusty bread, or it can be prepared in advance and used for lunches.