Spectacular Stuffed Squash and Roasted Beetroot: a CardioKit recipe

A protective, economical and delicious meal

(Photo by Tara Fisher)

This dish is truly spectacular — even if we say so ourselves. Perfect to spend a little time over at the weekend, although once the stuffing is made it’s a hassle-free dinner. Amazingly vivid Autumnal colours, ingredients and flavours. Anything that looks this good must be really healthy, and it is! The combination of sweet, soft ‘candied’ coquina squash flesh with chewy edges, the concentrated sweetness of roasted beetroot, and the beautifully warming subtly spiced stuffing (chilli and cinnamon), compliment each other spectacularly.

If you eat these types of meal it is physiologically impossible to put on excess weight and the ingredients are protective against long-term chronic illnesses. So why it this meal healthy — it tastes deliciously ‘sweet’ and ‘buttery’ — ‘sweet’ is bad isn’t it? Let’s consider the ingredients:

  • Squashes like butternut and coquina are an excellent alternative to other high glycaemic profile or refined carbohydrates (which promote weight gain, high blood pressure and bad ‘fats’ in your blood) elements in meals. Naturally sweet but with a high ratio of soluble fibres to energy content they provide perfect slow release energy. With those vivid colours it’s also obvious they are packed full of other healthy micronutrients.
  • Although both butternut and coquina are delicious we prefer the coquina variety (both look the same) — has an extra melon sweet flavour and texture to the flesh. As with all squashes (and pumpkins) they have a high water content and so benefit from roasting to concentrate the flavours. This will turn the flesh a golden orange with ‘candied’ sweetness and chewy roasted edges.
  • We don’t favour the term ‘superfoods’ because of the pseudoscientific associations but from a nutritional profile beetroot are super. We are particularly interested in the nitrate content which lowers blood pressure and relaxes or expands arteries (also good for endurance or performance sport).
  • The stuffing has an ‘illusion’ of meatiness which flavours the complimentary ingredients. Despite the rich, slow cooked meat umami flavours the stuffing is over 50% vegetables or legumes with the addition of green lentils and chickpeas. These legumes are very high in fibre which further adds to the cardiovascular protective qualities of the meal but creates an additional slow digest or energy release package — no sudden peaks in blood sugar and fat storage here. Incidentally green lentils are higher in fibre than yellow and red varieties.

Overall the recipe is rich in vegetables and high in fibre — perfect for cardiovascular protection, blood pressure control, blood sugar ‘balance’ and an improved lipid (‘cholesterol’) profile.

Don’t be put off by the long process outlined below. This is actually quite straight forward with minimal preparation time. The main time ‘investment’ is in making the base sauce and stuffing. We make a big pot at the weekend which can be used in lots of different dishes by adding meal specific bits later — Bolognese-style pasta sauce, chilli etc. Freeze in individual portions and this can be cooked straight from frozen for quick, healthy weekday dishes. It’s also very economical. Obviously one advantage of a Cardiologist’s Kitchen recipe is that you can rely and trust us to reverse-engineer a protective meal but with an emphasis on taste.

 

For a large pot of the base ‘stuffing’ sauce

 

This translates to 8–10 meals but worth investing in as this is the most time consuming part in terms of cooking time

  • 500g of minced/ground beef — we bought chuck steak from the butcher which was minced
  • large white onion
  • 3–4 large cloves of garlic
  • 2 large carrots
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 2 large red chillies (more with seeds if you like it hot)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato concentrate/paste
  • 2 tins of tomatoes
  • 3 bay leaves

Specific bits for this particular stuffing:

 

  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 100g green lentils
  • 1 tin of chickpeas

For 4 servings of squash and beetroot

 

  • large coquina squash
  • 12 small beetroot — 3 per person
  • olive oil, salt and ground black pepper

For the base sauce

 

  1. Use a large heavy cast iron casserole dish that can be placed in the oven. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
  2. Over a moderate high heat brown the minced beef in a little splash of olive oil until the edges are crispy and golden brown. While the beef is cooking chop the mirepoix vegetables (onions, celery, carrot) along with the garlic and chilli — this is quickest and easiest in a food processor if you have one.
  3. Remove the browned beef with a slotted spoon and now add the chopped vegetable to the pan to soften in the existing oil. When the veg looks softened and the onions are translucent add back the beef.
  4. Season the mix now with salt and black pepper. Add the tomato concentrate/paste and cook out together for another 2 minutes
  5. Now add the tinned tomatoes and equal amount of water (by rinsing out and filling the tomato tins). Drop in the bay leaves and allow to come back to a simmer.
  6. When the mix is simmering transfer to the oven to slowly cook for 3 hours — this develops a beautiful melting texture and deep umami flavours. This is now your base sauce/stuffing that can be frozen and used as a base for lots of different dishes.
  7. For this dish we add a teaspoon of cinnamon, green lentils and chickpeas for the final 30 mins of cooking.
  8. Rinse the lentils in cold water. Place in a pan and cover with cold water — bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and add to the stuffing mix.
  9. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas — crush with the back of a fork, in a mortar and pestle or pulse in a food processor to produce a crushed texture and add to the mix.

Now to the Squash and Beetroot

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
  2. Wash and trim the beetroot but leave the skin on. Individually wrap in foil and place them on a baking tray. This creates a mini-oven jacket to super concentrate the flavours. Place in the oven for 1 hour until a knife passes through the flesh easily.
  3. Wash the skin of the squash and cut in half along the length (careful with the knife as it can be tough but no need to peel). Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Place on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season (salt and pepper). Place in the middle of the oven. Roast for around an hour (sometimes a little longer) until the flesh has turned deep orange and the edges have dark chewy bit. The tip of a knife should slide easily into the thickest part
  4. Peel the beetroot when cool enough to handle — the skin should slide off easily but your hands will turn bright purple (as well as your urine when eaten). You can dress the beetroot with a splash of good balsamic vinegar if you want an element of sweet acidity.
  5. When the squash is cooked through, scoop out the soft flesh leaving 1–2 cm margin to create squash ‘boats’. This ensures an even filling of stuffing. Mix the scooped out squash flesh with the meat stuffing from above and spoon back evenly into the squash — pile it high.
  6. You can serve immediately or blast under a hot grill for a further 10 mins to achieve extra ‘crispiness’ on top.

Serve half a large squash per person with the beetroot — a beautiful mouthful of flavours and textures. If you only try one of our recipes — this is the one!

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