We often associate vegetarian diets with salads, raw leaves and even pricey seeds we cannot pronounce. Who even wants to munch on a cold salad in winter? Don’t fear when butternut is near! Flaky, tender and hearty, this take on the classic Wellington by award-winning chef, Mokgadi Itsweng, is the perfect vegetarian comfort for those cold evenings.
This food activist believes the idea that healthy food is inaccessible, is what keeps us from eating well and enjoying plant-based cuisine. “Plant forward eating refers to eating more plants on your plate,” she says. “In South Africa, people are moving away from rural areas to the cities and our indigenous food culture gets destroyed as people increasingly eat cheap, fast foods. Many people in our cities now also suffer from malnutrition and diabetes.”
Itsweng has accumulated more than 15 years in the South African culinary industry as a chef, food activist, food entrepreneur and food writer.
Her passion and expertise has driven her to reintroduce indigenous foods, with a modern twist, that are good for our health and the earth.
A Wellington with a ton of benefits
While technically a fruit, butternut grows on a vine and is characterised by its long oval shape and bell-bottom, yellow-orange hard outer skin covering the inner orange rich flesh and seeds.
Butternut is an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals and its high antioxidant content may decrease disease risk and aid weight loss.
According to registered dietitian, Anne Marie de Beer, orange and yellow veggies like butternut and pumpkin, are high in many nutrients including vitamin A.
“Yellow vegetables especially contain vitamin A, that is why our grannies used to say ‘eat your carrots’ because then you’ll be able to see nicely. Carrots, pumpkin and butternut are all full of this vital vitamin.”
- 1 large butternut (1 kg and over), halved and peeled
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely grated
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh parsley, chopped
- 250g mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
- 300g morogo, washed and chopped
- ¼ cup (60ml) dried cranberries, roughly chopped
- Seasoning herb salt to taste
- ¼ cup (60 ml) breadcrumbs, divided into 2 equal portions
- 1 sheet hot water crust pastry
- ¼ cup (60ml) herb pesto
- Milk, for the glaze
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- On a chopping board, cut off the hollow part of the butternut (chop this part up and freeze for later use) and leave the two solid parts of the butternut. Place the butternut on a roasting tray, drizzle 1 tablespoon (15ml) of olive oil over the butternut halves, and roast uncovered for 20 minutes until tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- In a frying pan, heat the rest of the oil and fry the onion, garlic and herbs together for five minutes on medium heat, then add the mushrooms and cook for a further five minutes until nicely browned.
- Add the chopped morogo and dried cranberries, and cook closed for 10 minutes. Season with herbs and salt. Allow the mixture to cool slightly, then mix in one portion of the breadcrumbs.
- To assemble, roll out the pastry on a floured surface, then sprinkle half of the leftover breadcrumbs in the middle of the pastry (the area where the butternuts will go; this will ensure that the bottom pastry stays crispy).
- Spoon the cooled mushroom and morogo mix over the breadcrumbs, then place the roasted butternuts (side by side so the cut ends touch each other, creating one long butternut) over the mushroom mixture. Brush some herb pesto over the butternut and sprinkle the rest of the breadcrumbs over the top of the butternut.
- Once the filling is in place, fold the pastry flaps to cover the butternut, joining them together at the top. You can use your fingers to pinch together a pattern to enclose the butternut and keep the filling inside. Make incisions along the top of the pastry, allowing the wellington to release steam during cooking. Pinch the edges to seal the butternut and filling inside the pastry. Brush some milk over the pastry to create a glaze.
- Bake in the oven for 50 minutes until the pastry is golden and crispy.
- Serve with your favourite sides and salads.