Back in the UK I was never a massive fan of Chinese food – not growing up in the most cosmopolitan of towns (sorry, Redcar), the vegetarian menu was usually limited to vegetable chow mein, which isn’t particularly special. Here in Hong Kong, however, there’s an absolute wealth of vegetarian restaurants with an amazing array of dishes. Local restaurants are quite keen on imitation meat – nothing like Quorn, but unnervingly realistic versions of meat, similar in texture as well as taste to the real deal. A lot of the other western vegetarians here aren’t so keen on it, but after 16 years without meat I find it quite intriguing and enjoyable. There are other options too, primarily tofu and beancurd dishes, alongside some really spectacular vegetable concoctions. I’ve had some real treats and have come to truly love Chinese cuisine.
However, I still have a soft spot for good old British grub and I love nothing more than a classic, hearty, homecooked meal. The last week has been quite good in that respect – I’ve had shepherd’s pie, Somserset stew, Lancashire cheese and onion pie, and two classic British puds – rhubarb crumble and sticky toffee pudding. Here’s a British casserole that I can’t get enough of. It’s another autumnal dish, not least for the gorgeous colours of the veg, but as the weather here is cooling down it seems fairly appropriate.
Butternut Squash Casserole from BBC Good Food
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds
225g sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped into chunks
1 butternut squash (or pumpkin), peeled and chopped
400g can chopped tomatoes
200ml red wine
300ml vegetable stock
75g bulghar wheat
1. In a large pan heat the olive oil, then cook the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the cumin seeds and paprika and cook for a further 2 minutes.
2. Stir in the butternut squash, sweet potato and red pepper, toss well together and cook for a further 2 minutes. Take a moment to enjoy the colours and aroma of paprika!
3. Pour in the tomatoes, stock, and red wine. Season well, then simmer gently for 15 minutes.
4. Add the bulghar wheat – I’m always convinced that there isn’t enough and chuck a bit more in, but it really isn’t necessary. Stir it in well, cover the pan with a lid and simmer for another 15 minutes or so. It’s ready when the vegetables are tender, the wheat is cooked and soft, and the liquid has been absorbed.
5. The serving suggestion from the BBC works a treat: dish it up into bowls, and top each portion with a dollop of Greek yoghurt and some grated cheddar.