A couple of months ago, I decided I needed to take better care of myself. Eating healthily is a chore, most of the time, and there’s a stigma around student diets for a reason. If I find something that’s easy, works, and is good for you, I should share it, right? Right.
I tried River Cottage’s recipe for cheese and walnut stuffed butternut squash, and when it said it was supposed to serve four people they really weren’t kidding. So, using a smaller squash and smaller measurements, and I’ve adapted the recipe to be student friendly – and I’ve priced everything up for you, too! It’s vegetarian, but I’ll include some tips for anyone who wants a meaty or vegan variation.
Now, looking at the grand total the first time you buy this stuff it’s just over a tenner. But, because most of it is stuff you might already have in, or things you’re going to keep using, it’ll work out cheaper. For context, I made this last night, and all I had to buy this time was the squash and cheese — So, two meals for £2.24. That’s a bit of a bargain.
Note: I got all but one of my ingredients from Lidl, and the closest alternative to campus is Aldi, whose prices are comparable, if not cheaper (usually!).
You’re gonna need:
- A small/medium sized butternut squash (75p)
- 50g walnuts (£1.89 for a 150g bag)
- 100g goat’s cheese (£1.49 for 200g) or 100g blue cheese (99p for Danish Blue)
- 25g unsalted butter (79p for 200g)
- A garlic clove (99p for a tub of ‘Easy’ Garlic or 89p for four bulbs)
- Olive oil or rapeseed oil (£1.99 for a big bottle)
- 1 tbsp of thyme (£1 quidish, Asda)
- Sea salt and ground black pepper (89p each)
- 1 tbsp honey (£1.25 for a small bottle)
What you’re gonna do:
- Pre-heat your oven to 190°C, and wash the outside of your squash. I know, I like to ignore this bit too, but you’re going to be eating that skin so you need to make sure it’s clean.
- Cut the squash in half length-wise, then scoop away the seeds and stringy flesh. Once it’s hollowed out, pop it in an oven dish or, if you’re a kitchen noob like me, on a baking tray.
- Put half the butter and chopped garlic clove into each cavity. If you’re vegan, you can get avocado spread for 70p in Tesco. I personally prefer it, but use whatever’s best for you.
- Brush a little oil over the flesh, and season with salt and pepper. You can get one of those little food brushes in Wilko’s for 50p. I’ve actually used mine a lot since I bought it, and it always makes me a feel a bit Gordon Ramsay-esque, so, worth it.
- Put that sucker in the oven for 3/4-1 hour, or until the flesh is pretty tender if you poke it with a sharp knife. You’ve got time to watch an episode of Stranger Things before you need to do anything else.
- Toast those walnuts, chop them up, and crumble that cheese. I toasted them by frightening them with a hot (oil-less) pan for a couple of minutes until they looked a bit burnt. Don’t chop the walnuts finely – you want decent chunks among the soft, cheesy mush of the squash.
- When the squash is done, scoop everything out into a bowl. You want to leave like a centimeter/half-centimeter of squash still around the edge, so it holds its shape. If you do accidentally pierce the skin, don’t worry: once you pack the stuffing in, it should be ok, if not a little messy.
- Mash up the squash, then add salt, pepper, thyme, and stir in the walnuts and cheese. Keep some of the walnuts and cheese behind so you can sprinkle them on top of your squash halves when they’re full. If you’re Vegan: You can use vegan cheese here. Crumbly would be better, if you can get it, but any finely grated, hard cheese would be fine too. If you want it Meaty: You can add two rashers of chopped bacon, and use a finely grated hard cheese instead of blue/goats cheese. Don’t add extra salt if you’re using bacon though!
- Scoop the mix back into the squash halves, sprinkle on the extra cheese and walnuts, then drizzle some honey on them. You don’t need a lot of honey. Obviously, if you’re vegan, don’t add the honey at all. It’s a sweet meal anyway; the honey just adds a yummy extra.
- Throw that mother back in the oven for 15 minutes or ‘until the cheese is bubbling.’
And that’s it! Eat it! Eat the whole darn thing. You’ll get two big servings out of this, or four small ones, depending on the size of your squash. It’s nice with a little salad, but it’s filling, good for you, and when you’ve done it once it’s cheap to do again. You know the best bit? Each stuffed squash half is only 427 calories. A Big Mac is 563.
Plus, you get to impress all your housemates. That’s pretty cool too.