Summer in New Zealand is a fragile thing, easily shattered by grey clouds overhead and sudden thunderstorms. For the past few days the skies have been threatening to rain down upon us and apparently today was finally the day. Sundays are perfect rain weather, it’s a day built for lazing around home and being domestic. So that’s exactly what I did.

My day was filled with steaming hot chocolate with a touch of vanilla and smoked sea salt, getting ahead of the game by pre-cooking tomorrow night’s venison and pancetta slow cooked stew and reluctantly leaving the house to do the grocery shopping – although I will gladly take any excuse to dress up in my winter clothes; oh cream woollen cape how I have missed you. Regardless, my reluctance soon turned to excitement when I found the most adorable butternut squashes, just the right size to be split in half and stuffed for dinner.

After slicing in half and scooping out the seeds, I sprinkled the obnoxiously orange flesh with a little pepper and truffle salt, topping each with sprigs of rosemary and sage to impart a gentle hum of flavour. I’m always a bit suspicious of this method of infusing flavour (But it’s just sitting on top of it! How could that possibly work?) but it really does work. Easy as that, they were ready for the oven.

Once they’d roasted until the flesh was soft, I pulled them out of the oven and prepared the stuffing.  First you need to scoop out the cooked pumpkin, leaving about a half centimetre of flesh so you can stuff it back in later. At this point you can go in almost any direction you want – if you were vegan then maybe a mixture of garlic, onions, rosemary and cannellini beans mashed with the pumpkin, if you’re craving Italian flavours then black olives and parmesan. It’s really up to you. Me? I was feeling vaguely Spanish.

I pulled the meat out of three unsmoked chorizo and fried it off, mixing that with the pumpkin, Persian feta, garlic, paprika, and pine nuts. I said vaguelySpanish, alright? Spooning it back into the oven, I topped it all off with a little more truffle salt, pine nuts and Persian feta and then put it back in the oven to finish.

After twenty minutes or so, the tops are crisp, browned and ready to be splashed with a little vino cotto to finish. The end product had an almost custardy texture that was both sweet and savoury, with a pronounced kick of paprika and feta. We all agreed that it would definitely be repeated the next day we had bleak weather – so much more interesting than the perennially boring backed potato but just as comforting and delicious.

Chorizo and Persian Feta Stuffed Butternut Squash

2 butternut squash
4 small sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sage leaves
4 small unsmoked chorizo, or 2 larger ones
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ – ½ cup Persian feta
2 tsp pureed garlic
1 tsp paprika
Truffle salt
Pepper

Preheat an oven to bake at 180 degrees c. Slice the squash in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds with a small spoon. Rub a small amount of olive oil across the face of the flesh and season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange a sprig of rosemary and a sage leaf on top of each squash half and roast in the oven for a half hour or until the flesh is easily pierced with a fork.

Letting the squashes cool for a little while, remove the casing off of the chorizo, pull apart and fry off until browned. Next, scoop the cooked flesh out of the squash, leaving ½ – 1 centimetre of the flesh behind. Don’t scoop out so much that the squash collapses in on itself; the halves should still keep their shape.

In a bowl, mash the pumpkin together with the chorizo, pine nuts, feta, garlic, and paprika, seasoning to taste. With a spoon, push the mixture back into the squashes and top with extra pine nuts and feta. Put back into the oven for another twenty minutes or until the mixture has browned.

Serve immediately.

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