Baby gems are cross between a small pumpkin and a zucchini. They are a size of a cannonball, hence the nickname: cannonball squash. I feel these little guys hold almost an intensified sweetness compared to squashes that grow much larger and the natural sugars are a lovely mellow combination to the earthy flavours of the pearl barley. Serve this with any meat dish, or as a perfect starter for a vegetarian.
- 3 Baby Gems, sliced in half with the top and the bottom sitting on the plates ice. Seeds removed.
- 3/4 cup of pearl barley
- 1 cup of very finely diced leek
- 3/4 punnet of button mushrooms chopped into small quarter
- 2 tsp of finely chopped garlic
- 1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
- 1/2 bunch dill finely chopped
- 3/4 cup of feta finely chopped
- 5 Tbs olive oil
- Salt and Black pepper for seasoning
- 1/2 tsp Pink and Green peppercorns finely crushed
- 1/2 tsp Spanish paprika
- 3/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan.
- 3 cups of water for boiling
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
Remove all the seeds from the halved baby gems, retaining at least 1 inch of the yellow flesh inside.
Rub with 1 tsp of the garlic , 2 Tbs of the olive oil and season with salt and black pepper.
Place into the hot oven and bake for at least 35 minutes or until a knife slides easily through the flesh. Keep an eye on these and some cook faster than others and you don’t want to dry them out.
Prepare the Filling
Set the water to boil and add the pearl barley. Let this cook for at least 20 minutes until it is just soft. If it is al dents, it still needs a further. 5-7 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a frying pan, add the remaining 3 Tbs of oil and warm until hot but not smoking. Gemtly fry the remaining garlic until soft being carefuL not to brown.
Now add the finely diced leek. Fry for a further 2 mins.
To this add the mushrooms, seasoning with salt and cracked black pepper. Fry gently until soft.
Now tumble in the rest of the ingredients. the parsley, dill, feta, pink and green crushed peppercorns, the Spanish Paprika and the drained pearl barley. Fry this all gently for a further 5 minutes, combining all the ingredients very well. Set aside.
Five minutes before serving, fill the hollowed and softened baby gems with the stuffing.
Grate over a generous amount of Parmesan ( at least 3/4 cup) and place under a hot grill for 2-3 mins. Serve piping hot from the oven.