Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go
~ Unknown ~
Autumn is indeed one of the most beautiful times of the year. Even in Pretoria where there are not many deciduous trees to show off their colours, autumn is beautiful. We have beautiful weather – mostly the same of summer but without the heat. The days are made for sitting outside in the beautiful light and sipping crisp white wine with some slow-cooked food. One of our favourite autumn foods is home-made gourmet pizza cooked in the kettle braai. But then there is also delicious Butternut with Nutty Brown Rice Topping. This is the perfect side dish to crispy roast chicken or Chicken Pie. It could also be a delicious main vegetarian feature. And it speaks of autumn in more ways than one.
Meet Melby, the 16-year old Foodie
When I was 16 a friend and I entered a magazine cooking competition. The idea was to create a three-course menu for “An Autumn Lunch” and entrants with the best menus would then compete against each other in a cook-off. We drew up a menu with the help of our home-economics teacher and were quite surprised to be called up for the cook-offs. Unfortunately, we didn’t get past the first round, but we had great fun and I have held on to some of the recipes we used. So as you have probably guessed, my Butternut with Nutty Brown Rice Topping is one of those. This recipe is as beautiful on the table as it is delicious. It could be an autumn centrepiece for a Thanksgiving table had we lived in the USA. And all of that with some butternut, brown rice and nuts!
What makes this dish so magical? The brown rice topping has some Asian flavours to it with honey and soya sauce. It is stir-fried with chopped celery and grated carrot which enhances the nutty flavour of the brown rice. Then it is topped off with some crunchy nuts – anything from peanuts, to walnuts or even pine nuts. What’s not to like? The topping sits on top of oven-roasted butternut which balances the flavours and adds a riot of colour. Wow, I which I could do that cook-off again to give this humble recipe it’s due! This is really one of those fall-back recipes I have used for decades. And now that meat-free meals are becoming more popular, this recipe is even more worthy as the butternut and rice are filling and the addition of nuts even adds a bit of healthy protein.
Butternut with Nutty Brown Rice Topping
- 2 medium butternut squashes
- 1½ cups brown rice, cooked
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 medium carrots, grated
- 3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 2 tbsp soya sauce
- 2 tbsp honey
- ¼-½ cup nuts, chopped (or pine nuts, toasted. I used pine nuts and pumpkin seeds)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 200°C and grease a large ovenproof dish.
- Slice the butternut lengthwise and remove the seeds OR Slice the butternut in 1,5cm slices and remove the skin and seeds.
- Place the butternut into the oven dish and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 25 - 30 minutes.
- While the butternut is roasting, heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until translucent.
- Add the celery and carrot and stir-fry for another 3 minutes.
- Add the cooked brown rice, honey, soya sauce and nuts and stir-fry until everything is combined well. Be careful as the rice tends to stick to the pan.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- When the butternut is nearly tender, remove from the oven and top with the brown rice mixture. (See note)
- Put the butternut back into the oven and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes.
- Serve as a side dish to roast meat or as a main vegetarian dish with a salad.
- If you have sliced the butternut lengthwise it works well to fill the seed cavity with the rice.
- If you sliced the butternut in rounds, you can just top each round with the rice.