The Canny Cook: Butternut squash and lentil stew

The Canny Cook, lower your food bills and still eat well with food editor Eleanor Maidment: Butternut squash and lentil stew

  • This stew is an effortless way to get two of your five a day in one meal
  • READ MORE:  Easy apple tarts


A winter-warming meal that is ready in 30 minutes and tastes equally delicious if you swap up sweet potato for the squash

The advice that we should eat a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables a day has been firmly drummed into us, but sometimes I think it could do with a little more clarification.

One portion is equal to 80g of a single fruit or vegetable (or 30g of dried fruit). So you will need at least 6-7 cherry tomatoes to count it as one of your five a day, and eating two apples is not the equivalent of two portions. Variety is key.

The good news is that fruit and veg needn’t be fresh. Frozen or canned are just as nutritious if you avoid cans with added salt and sugar. 

RECIPE FEEDS THREE: 1 medium butternut squash (£1.50), 400ml can coconut milk (85p), 400g can lentils (67p) and 1 x 70g pot of korma paste (£1.85). TOTAL: £1.62 per person 

White potatoes don’t count as they’re considered a starch, but beans, pulses and legumes do and I think they’re a brilliant, low-cost way of boosting numbers, plus they’re a good source of plant-based protein.

Slipping a can of lentils into a meal is a quick and easy win. They can be added to any recipe that calls for minced meat – think bolognese, shepherd’s pie, even meatballs and burgers – and they’ll bulk it out at a fraction of the cost of extra meat. 

Canned lentils are also a great filler in soups, curries and stews, as this week’s recipe demonstrates.

It was sent in by reader Jade Hegarty and is an effortless way to get two of your five a day in one meal. You could even stir a bag of spinach leaves through it for the last few minutes of cooking for an extra boost of veg.


Peel, deseed and cut the butternut squash into 2cm-3cm cubes.

Cook the butternut squash by tossing in oil and roasting in a 220C/200C fan/gas 8 oven for 20 minutes. Alternatively place in a microwave-proof dish, cover with pierced clingfilm and cook on high in the microwave for 5-10 minutes, until soft (check them after 5 minutes).

Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp cooking oil in a large saucepan. Add 1 diced onion and cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft and turning golden.

Stir in the korma paste and cook for a minute, then stir in the cooked squash. Drain and rinse the lentils and stir into the pan. Add the coconut milk and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread or rice. 

  • Do you have a great recipe for eating well and cutting food bills? Email [email protected]. If we print it here, we’ll send you a bottle of champagne.

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