Stuffed squash with fennel & barley By Gill Meller
2 small onion squash (about 800g/1lb 12oz each)
2 fennel bulbs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 handful of fennel tops, if available
125g (4½oz) pearl barley
100g (3½oz) Cheddar cheese, grated 25g
1 garlic clove, peeled and grated salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Use a sharp, heavy knife to cut the base of each squash, so that they sit upright. Cut of the tops in one, clean round, about 3cm (1¼in) or so below the stalk, and set aside. Use a metal spoon to scoop out the seeds and the fibrous matter, to leave a fairly neat hollow.
Trim the fennel, and remove the tougher outer leaf if you need to. Cut the bulbs in half, then cut each half into 3 or 4 wedges.
Place the squash in a large roasting tray. Scatter the fennel wedges around them and try to squeeze in the squash tops, too. Drizzle the olive oil all over, including inside the squash. Season with salt and pepper and scatter over a few fennel tops, if you have them. Place the tray in the oven and cook for 45–60 minutes, or until both the squash and the fennel are nice and tender. If the fennel starts to take on too much colour, cover the tray with tin foil.
Meanwhile, place the barley in a medium pan and cover it with water. Place on a medium heat and simmer gently for 25–30 minutes, until the barley is soft but still retains some bite. Drain well and place in a large bowl. When the fennel and squash are cooked, remove them from the oven and add the roasted fennel to the barley, then add the cheese, butter, grated garlic and plenty of salt and pepper to taste. Tumble everything together and spoon the barley mixture equally into the two roasted squash. Return the tray to the oven for 8–10 minutes to heat through, then serve straight away with their lids, and some soured cream and a green salad.
Photography by, Andrew Montgomery