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I am in love with paneer cheese – it’s my go-to when we have Indian food (yes, apparently even when I’m having a curry I still gravitate towards cheese…). I’m usually very unimaginative, and I have saag paneer (paneer with spinach) every single time we get a take away curry. I like to tell myself it’s a good way to compare the quality of different restaurants, but in truth I just absolutely love the stuff.
However, since this time I was cooking at home, I decided to use my paneer for something a bit different – sticking with the autumnal theme, I made paneer stuffed butternut squash!
If you’ve never had paneer, it’s a very mild-tasting cheese, which is why it goes so well with bold Indian spices. You can cut the cheese into cubes, but this time I crumbled it up to give a stuffing mixture that was easy to scoop into the butternut squash halves. I flavoured the mixture with cumin, ground coriander and turmeric, and also added some spring onions, garlic, and some tomatoes to keep things nice and juicy.
Although the paneer stuffing is the star of this recipe, the roasted butternut squash itself can’t be forgotten! The top side becomes slightly sweet as it caramelises in the heat of the oven (look at those crispy bits!), and the flesh becomes as soft as butter (and I don’t mean butter that’s been in the fridge…). Scooping a fork or spoon through the tender squash and then into the spiced paneer is just heaven!
My butternut squash was fairly big, so half a squash each was plenty for a main course – make sure you don’t choose a squash that’s too enormous, especially if you’re planning on serving it with some side dishes! You could even make this dish into an appetiser if you choose a couple of very small squashes, splitting the paneer filling into four portions instead of two.
By the way, don’t forget to drizzle the spiced yogurt on top! It adds a wonderful creaminess to the dish and keeps it moist – and a good handful of fresh coriander on top is pretty great too.
What do you reckon – a good vegetarian option for a slightly alternative Thanksgiving?
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 1 tbsp oil
- Black pepper
- 1 tbsp oil
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 225 g paneer cheese
- 3 spring onions sliced
- ~12 cherry tomatoes quartered or roughly chopped
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 3 tbsp fresh coriander chopped
- 2 tbsp Greek yogurt
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tbsp fresh coriander chopped
Wash the skin of the butternut squash thoroughly, and cut it in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and pulp with a spoon. Rub both sides of the two halves with a little oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F), skin side down, for around an hour, or until the flesh is fairly soft.
While the squash is roasting, heat 1tbsp of oil in a frying pan, and add the garlic, paneer, spring onions, tomatoes and spices. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down and the mixture is fragrant. Add a few tbsp of fresh coriander, and set aside.
When the squash is ready, scoop out a small amount of the flesh from the area around where the seeds were, and add it to the paneer mixture. Mix well, and spoon the stuffing back into the squash halves. Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes.
Add the 1/4 tsp of cumin and 1/4 tsp of ground coriander to the yogurt, and mix well.
When the stuffed squash is ready, serve it topped with the spiced yogurt and more fresh coriander. The skin is perfectly edible, but you might want to just scoop out the flesh if it feels a bit tough.