Butternut Squash Mash with Cranberries, Pears and Pecans

Serves 6-8

Butternut squash can be dressed up in so many ways and makes a wonderful winter casserole that is as delicious to eat as it is to look at. It makes the perfect side to most main-dish offerings like turkey, beef or fish.

4 dried apricots or nectarines
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 large butternut squash
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
Salt, to taste
1 ripe pear, peeled and diced
2/3 cup light cream or half-and-half
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

1. Place the dried fruit in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Allow to stand for 30 minutes. Drain off water. Dice the fruit and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Place the squash in a casserole dish, cut sides down. Add ¾ cup water to the pan. Cover and bake for 35–40 minutes or until tender. Cool, scoop the flesh from the skin, and place in a large bowl (you need 4 cups cooked squash). Mash the squash until it’s smooth (or use an immersion blender).

3. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar and salt to the squash, and mix well. Spoon in the pears, dried fruit and cream, and mix well. Transfer the mix to a buttered casserole dish.

4. Bake for 35–40 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Sprinkle the nuts evenly over the top and bake 5 minutes longer. Serve directly from the dish.