The food photographer stereotype
There’s a stereotype that when food photographers go out to eat, they always need to snap photos of their food before actually chowing down. You know what I mean, the ones that need to update their instagram stories to let everyone know about their unicorn waffle stack?
Getting into food styling, followed by food photography, I never thought I would turn into this stereotype. Luckily for my husband, being in lockdown has meant we’ve hardly gone out to eat in the past 12 months and so he’s been able to eat his food while it was still hot!
Making this mushroom and lentil stuffed butternut squash made me realise how I have started to become the stereotype that I used to cringe at. Immediately after taking it out of the oven, I grabbed my camera, put the tray by the window and asked kindly for my husband’s patience as I took a few snaps.
In my defence, the squashes were still warm when we sat down to eat them!
It may look difficult, but it's actually very easy to make and you can experiment with different combinations of spices, herbs, vegetables or even grains. Even scooping out the squash flesh itself works. In this version I used Quorn mince and chestnut mushrooms for the filling, and it turned out gorgeously.
Other filling ideas include:
- Other or mixed mushroom varieties (shiitake, oyster etc.)
- Dried cranberries
- Pine nuts
- Feta cheese
Note: I don’t usually cook with recipes, so here are the rough amounts for these stuffed butternut squashes.
Mushroom and lentil stuffed butternut squash [recipe]
Serves 2 / vegetarian, can be made vegan either without cheese or using vegan cheese
Cooking time 1hr 30mins, may be quicker if you have a smaller-sized squash
For the squash
- 1 large butternut squash
- 2 tbsp. neutral flavoured vegetable oil
For the filling
- 1 tbsp. neutral flavoured vegetable oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- Half pack of Quorn mince, defrosted*
- About 6 large chestnut mushrooms (we used the ones we grew from merry hill mushrooms), diced
- 100g cooked brown lentils*
- Cheese of your choice, for sprinkling
- Herbs of your choice, for sprinkling
- Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F
- Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. You can keep these for roasting or discard.
- Season the flesh sides with oil, salt, pepper and whatever seasonings you like (i.e. cumin, rosemary, cinnamon or, if you’re going fancy, some smoked paprika)
- Bake the squash cut side down on a lined baking pan, for 15 minutes.
- Flip the squash to cut-side up and bake for another 20 mins. This will depend on the size of the squash, but it should be easy to prick with a fork.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Heat the oil large frying pan on medium heat (you could use a pot but it would mean the filling ingredients would be piled on top of one another)
- Add the onions and sauté them until slightly soft.
- Add the mushrooms and fry until just half cooked. They should just be starting to brown.
- Add the Quorn mince and lentils. Continue to fry until everything is nicely coated with the oil.
- Add salt, pepper and any other seasonings you like.
- Set aside.
- Once the squash is soft, remove it from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 220°C / 428°F
- Scoop the previously prepared filling onto the cut-side of the butternut squash. This recipe makes a lot of filling, so feel free to top the entire surface of the squash or save some for later.
- Sprinkle with cheese.
- Once the oven is preheated, bake the squash for another 5-10 minutes, just until the cheese is golden.
- Remove the squash from the oven and sprinkle any fresh herbs if using. In the photo, I used fresh oregano.
- Quorn mince can be also added frozen, but it obviously it will take longer to cook.
- If using dried lentils, make sure to rinse the lentils before cooking, to remove any debris. To make 100g cooked lentils, I used 50g dried lentils and about 3 times the amount of water. It takes about 30 minutes or so to cook and can be done in advance or while you prepare the filling