Halloween is just a few days away, and it’s the season of pumpkins, squash and other things orange. This sweet potato and squash mince bake is a modified Chinese recipe – the original uses processed fish balls instead of mince, and uses only squash or pumpkin, but I prefer cooking with fresh meat, and mixing in the sweet potato gives you a more balanced mix of your veg intake. It will make a nice main dish to go with all the beautiful Halloween cakes and snacks on the BBC website, for example (love their Good Food section!)
This recipe takes a bit longer than the others we’ve listed so far, and a lot of it is prep time. There’s a lot of chopping involved. If you want to save a bit of time, then M&S do a bag of mixed butternut squash and sweet potato cubes (350g). I used an onion squash for this recipe, not only because it’s the right size and I don’t like leaving half-cut veg in my fridge, but also because the flavour isn’t as sweet, so works well with sweet potatoes.
There are also two other easily swappable elements in the recipe, and they are the mince and the salted egg. You can use any type of mince you like apart from lamb – lamb tastes too strong and doesn’t balance well with the rest of the flavours. I’ve used pork and beef before, and this time I’ve used veal as it was on offer.
The salted eggs are from the original Chinese recipe, but not to worry – if you can’t get hold of them, then normal eggs will do just as well. You’ll need to add a bit more salt along the way, but the whole point of the recipe is that everything will half-disintegrate and mesh together, so normal eggs are just as good.
This recipe takes around 1 hour to make, and will serve 3-4 people.
1 onion squash (roughly 500g)
1 sweet potato (roughly 300-400g)
2 salted eggs
5 tablespoons Chinese shaoxing cooking wine (optional)
100g Greek cheese
You’ll also need olive oil and salt to taste.
We’ll be starting in a frying pan, and will then move the mix into the oven, so you’ll need to prepare a baking tray (lined with foil if you want to save some scrubbing later).
Step 1: wash the squash and sweet potato and set them on the chopping board. You’ll be here a while with the squash, so in the meantime…
Step 2: but the eggs in a pot of water and wait for it to boil. They will need to boil for at least 15 minutes. Don’t worry if you go a bit over, as we’re aiming for hard boiled.
Step 3: peel the sweet potatoes and cut into cubes that are roughly 1cm or less across. Cut the squash open, throw away the seeds inside and remove the skin. It’s easiest to cut off the skin once you’ve cut the squash into strips. Again, cut these into cubes of the same size as the sweet potatoes. Don’t worry about the shape – they’ll be mashed anyway.
Step 4: heat a little olive oil in the frying pan on high heat and add in the peppercorns. Once sizzling, add in the squash and sweet potato cubes. Sprinkle some salt on top and stir for 5 minutes.
Step 5: (your eggs might be boiled by now, so remove from the hob and cover with cold water.) Add water to the frying pan so that the cubes are covered. Turn onto medium heat and simmer for 15 minutes – don’t cover the pan with a lid, as you want the water to evaporate.
Step 6: in the meantime, peel the eggs and slice them vertically into 8ths, then cut them horizontally across so that each egg is in 16 pieces.
Step 7: mash the cubes in the pan with a potato masher, and once mashed, add in the mince and the rice wine, then add more salt (roughly 1 level tbsp).
Step 8: wait until the mince turns brown before adding the eggs. Leave to simmer for 5-10 minutes, and in the meantime, preheat the oven to 200 degrees and cube the Greek cheese.
Step 9: check that you’re happy with the salt before removing the frying pan from the hob. You can add more now and stir it in if you need to. Once you’re happy, spoon the content of the pan into a baking tray and press flat. Intersperse the cheese cubes into the mix.
Step 10: place the baking tray into the oven for 10 minutes, then remove and stir/spread the cheese cubes – they will have melted by now. Put the tray back into the oven for another 10 minutes, until the surface starts to brown. Remove and it’s ready to eat!
It’s a colourful addition to your dinner table. Just serve with some salad and tomatoes. You don’t even need potatoes or rice, as the squash and sweet potato makes this a filling yet healthy all-in-one dish. Let me know how you get on if you try it, and what type of mince you’ve decided to use. Oh, and happy Halloween!Follow @blenderbasil