Whenever I cook meat free dishes they always seem to be missing two things – fat and that savoury/umami flavour that is so in vogue at the moment. Often the simple answer, and more often than not the correct one, is to add parmesan. In this case though, that wouldn’t work so instead I used the often divisive Marmite to give the dish that much-needed savouriness. And cream because, well, very few things aren’t improved with the addition of some cream. Of course Marmite haters can opt for a splash of dark soy sauce instead – though the Marmite flavour isn’t really that strong – and vegans are welcome to omit the cream.
You could use any type of squash you like; butternuts are popular and a fine choice, but coquina would work, as would pumpkin. Make sure you buy the correct green lentils which are dark green and sometimes referred to as French lentils. Avoid the pale green lentils that break down once cooked and are more suited to dahls.
Cooking Time: 50 minutes
800g Butternut squash or similar
1 small onion
1 stick of celery
1 clove garlic
2 bay leaves
80g puy or green lentils
450g vegetable stock
1 tsp Marmite
1tbsp Dijon mustard
80g double cream
Heat the oven to 200c/gas 6/ fan 180c
Begin by peeling the butternut squash, cutting in half and scooping out the seeds and fibrous pulp. Cut into rough 1cm cubes and place in a roasting tray. Add some oil and salt, and put in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until golden and soft.
While the squash is cooking, finely dice the onion, carrot, and celery and grate/crush the garlic clove. Add a tablespoon of oil to a medium saucepan placed over a low heat. Add the diced vegetables, garlic and the bay leaves and some salt. Cover and cook for 10 minutes until soft.
After 10 minutes add the lentils, followed by the stock and the Marmite, stir and bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are cooked and you are only left with a small amount of liquid. Stir in the mustard and spinach and once the spinach has wilted pour in the cream, followed by the roasted butternut squash.
Printable version: Squash, spinach, cream lentils