Christmas is the spiritual home of Brussels sprouts. People have very strong feelings about them one way or the other. Except in our childhood home. I don’t really ever remember eating them on the festive plate when I was wee, possibly because we don’t do turkey either (and don’t even mention bread sauce.)
The first time I really remember them appearing was a few years ago when both our mum and I spotted the same recipe for sprout gratin in the Guardian and were keen to make it. I can’t remember whose recipe it was and I’ve long since lost the cutting, but basically the sprouts are lightly boiled and then blended up with cream and parmesan and baked with more parmesan and breadcrumbs on top. Very simple and utterly amazing. I’ve seen people get territorial over the last spoonful of it.
So when I was coming up with something for £3 Christmas Challenge for the Trussell Trust, this dish was at the back of my mind but I wasn’t quite sure where to go with it. But as you all know, if I’m stuck for an idea, my mind turns to stuffing. And what better to do with the spare Crown Prince squash I’d had sitting getting its gourd on since Hallowe’en on the window sill?
As a one off, I’ve priced the meal per portion. I always find this style of budget recipe writing to be rather prescriptive and too likely to give a skewed perspective if you have a well stocked store cupboard or can shop around easily, but it’s the rules for the challenge so I’ve dusted off my rusty maths skills and given it a go.
Sprout Stuffed Squash with Braised Leeks
- 2 Crown Prince or onion squash (£1 for 2 from Brixton Farmers Market)
- 150g Brussels sprouts (50p from the Nour Cash and Carry)
- 50g cream cheese (10p from Sainsbury’s Basics)
- 50g parmesan (65p from Sainsbury’s)
- 50g pumpkin seeds (0p as from the squash you’re using)
- 1 slice bread (7p from a loaf)
- 1 large leek (50p from Nour Cash and Carry)
- 20g butter (11p Sainsbury’s own brand)
- salt and pepper (3p approximately)
- 2 g fresh nutmeg (4p approximately)
Start by halving the squash. Scoop the seeds out and wash the string innards off them and leave to dry wrapped in kitchen roll.
Peel the sprouts and remove the bases. Cut in half and boil for about 5 minutes or until just tender enough to poke a skewer into. Drain them and return to the pan. Put all the cream cheese and half the parmesan into the pan and mash the sprouts with a potato masher or hand blender. Don’t make them too smooth. You don’t want baby food. Season and spoon the sprout mix into the middles of the squash.
If your pumpkin seeds still feel a little damp, toss them in a dry pan on a low heat for a few minutes to dry them further. Watch them carefully to make sure they don’t burn. Make the breadcrumbs by tossing the slice of bread into the hand blender and blitzing. Add the pumpkin seed and pulse once or twice to break them slightly. Mix the remaining parmesan in and sprinkle it all over the sprout puree to make a gratin. Bake the squash at 200ºC for 35-40 minutes.
Wash and chop the leek in half moons. They should be quite thin, but not wafer like. Add the butter to a oven proof dish and toss the leeks in it. Season and add half the nutmeg and about a tablespoon of water. Cover with foil and braise in the oven alongside the squash.
The leeks will be soft and buttery when cooked. Serve with the rest of the nutmeg on the side of the soft baked squash and crunchy topped sprouts. This makes a lovely festive meat free meal (if you use a rennet free cheese like Sainsbury’s Basics Hard Cheese you can make it vegetarian). You’ll be a sprout convert by the end of it I promise…