Monday, 6 January 2014

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Barley, Nuts & Cranberries

I hope it is still possible to find acorn squash. These are my Thelma Sanders, of which I still have quite a few sitting in the laundry room, sound as nuts. I suppose this doesn't help much now, but it definitely makes sense to stock up with local squash in October or November, if you don't grow your own, as they will keep in a warmish spot quite nicely for a couple of months anyhow, and quite likely longer. 

These would make a reasonable vegetarian main dish, if you used the vegetable broth, or a very good side to roast chicken, turkey or ham.

4 to 8 servings
2 hours 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Pre-Cook the Barley & the Squash
1 cup pot barley
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large acorn squash

Put the barley with the water and salt into your rice cooker, and cook. Alternatively, it can be cooked on top of the stove; simmer until tender (al dente) and most of the water is gone.

Cut the squash in half, and scook out the seeds and string. Rub the cut sides lightly with a little oil. Bake at 350°F for 30 to 45 minutes, until soft enough to poke a fork into a piece without forcing it, but not completely done, either.

Both of these steps can be done up to a day ahead, and refrigerated. This recipe only uses some of the cooked barley, but it hard to cook less and the leftovers can be used in soups, salads or casseroles. If you don't have an immediate other use for it, it can also be frozen until wanted.

Finish the Stuffed Squash
2 cups button mushrooms
1 large leek or 3 medium shallots
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1 teaspoon rubbed savory or basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups of the cooked barley
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Have the semi-baked squash halves arranged in a lightly-oiled baking pan, out to come  up to room tempreature, while you make the stuffing. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Clean and trim the mushrooms, and chop them. Peel and chop the leek fairly finely, and rinse and drain it well, if you are using the leek. Otherwise, peel and finely chop the shallots.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook the mushrooms and leeks or shallots until quite soft, stirring regularly. Mix in the seasonings, until well coated in the oil, then mix in the barley. Continue to cook for a minute or two longer, stirring contantly, until well mixed and fairly dry. Mix in the nuts, cranberries and chicken or vegetable stock. Continue cooking for just a minute or two longer, until the stock is absorbed. 

Divide the stuffing evenly between the squash halves, pressing it to form a neat mound in each. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until the squash is tender.

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