Autumn is my favourite time of year, and October is by far my favourite month. I know a lot of people love the promise of Spring and new life budding, but I adore the vivid colours of turning leaves, the crisp morning air, the bright clear skies; watching the gathering of the harvest with mounds of apples and baskets of winter squash and grains that create the warm and comforting foods of Fall. This Meatless Monday recipe for Butternut Squash Carrot and Apple Stew is like Autumn in a bowl.
Helen Hunt Jackson wrote the poem, October’s Bright Blue Weather. The words she penned epitomize my feelings of Autumn and of my favourite month. I cherish the sentiment of the entire poem, but here are two of my favourite stanzas:
When springs run low, and on the brooks,
In idle golden freighting,
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
Of woods, for winter waiting;
O sun and skies and flowers of June,
Count all your boasts together,
Love loveth best of all the year
October’s bright blue weather.
October is when I really start bustin’ out the soups and stews. I have said, so many times, if I could marry soup I probably would have. I just love soups and stews. The main difference between a soup and a stew is that soups are primarily liquid based and stews are solid foods that are cooked in liquid.
Since I have left the squash and carrots and apples in chunks for this dish, stew it is! You might think with the addition of apples into this stew that it would be sweet; it isn’t. There is a very subtle underlying sweet from the apple, but the predominant flavours are savory. The apple adds a very nice complement to the butternut squash.
The butternut squash and carrots are oven roasted together; the apple is also roasted separately and for a shorter period. While they are all roasting, leeks are sweated in a tiny titch of butter along with some thyme and sage. Added to that will be sherry (or you could use a dry white wine), vegetable stock (or water), and some wild rice. The stockpot is covered to allow the wild rice to cook and then the roasted squash, carrots and apple are added along with just a hint of freshly grated nutmeg. That. Is. Autumn in a bowl.
Not only is this stew delicious, it is absolutely loaded with dietary fiber, vitamins (A, C and E) and minerals. The wild rice grain adds protein to the stew, without the use of meat (I used all wild rice, but you could certainly add a blend of white and wild rice to yours). I used just a small amount of added fat for the roasting (1 1/2 tablespoons) and one tablespoon of butter to sweat the leeks.
Meatless Monday is ever so tasty and beautiful this week, and I do hope you’ll try this delicious Autumnal stew.
- 4 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash(this was one small squash)
- 2 cups peeled and diced (thickish) carrots
- 2 cups peeled, cored, diced apple (I used a tart heirloom apple-granny smith would work well)
- 1½ tablespoons neutral oil, divided (I used grape seed, but canola would work)
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- 2 cups diced leeks, washed and drained
- ¾ teaspoon dry thyme leaves
- ¾ teaspoon dry, rubbed sage
- ½ cup dry sherry (or a dry white wine)
- 6 cups vegetable stock (or water)
- ¼ cup wild rice
- pinch of grated nutmeg (freshly grated is better)
- salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400° F. You will want to have two racks in the oven, one set in the middle and one set above it.
- Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Place the butternut squash and carrots into a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of the oil.
- Toss to coat the squash and carrots in the oil and pour out in a single layer on one of the prepared baking sheets.
- Using the same bowl, add the apples and the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil, toss to coat the apples in the oil and pour out in a single layer onto the remaining baking sheet.
- Place both baking sheets into the preheated oven, with the apples on the middle rack and the squash and carrots on the upper rack.
- Set a timer for 20 minutes.
- Remove the baking sheet with the apples from the oven, and move the baking sheet with the squash and carrots to the middle rack.
- Set the timer for another 15 minutes to allow the squash and carrots to finish roasting.
- While everything is roasting, add the butter to a large stockpot, over medium heat and allow to melt.
- Add the leeks, thyme and sage, stir to combine.
- Cover and allow the leeks to sweat, about 4 minutes.
- Remove the cover and add the sherry (or dry white wine).
- Allow to simmer for about 2 minutes.
- Add the vegetable stock (or water) and the wild rice.
- Cover and allow the rice to cook fully according to the package instructions (since I used all wild rice that wasn't precooked, this took about 50 minutes).
- Once the rice is fully cooked, add the roasted butternut squash, carrots and apples, stir to combine.
- Grate in some fresh nutmeg, just a pinch (a little less than ⅛ teaspoon) and add salt and ground black pepper, to taste.
- Simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes.
- Serve hot, in bowls.