“This is the easiest method for cooking squash. All the flavour is added at the last minute when you smash it in. Don’t panic if you’re tight for hob or oven space and the squash isn’t piping hot by the time you serve – it’s just as good warm. ”
On Christmas Eve, preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas 4. Wash the whole squash and dry them off. Pop them on a baking tray, pierce once or twice with the tip of a sharp knife, then bake in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes, or until golden and very soft. Set aside until Christmas Day.
On Christmas Day, pop the squash back in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes to heat through. Scatter the pine nuts on a baking tray and toast them in the oven at the same time – they will only need a couple of minutes to turn golden, so make sure you keep an eye on them to prevent them burning.
Meanwhile, pick the sage leaves. Add a lug of oil to a frying pan and fry the sage leaves until crisp. Remove to piece of kitchen paper to drain, reserving the oil.
Once the squash are hot through, lay them on a board, remove the stalks and, using a knife and tongs, carefully slice the squash lengthways, down the middle. Scoop out and discard the seeds.
Finely chop the chilli and crumble the chestnuts, then sprinkle over the squash halves with the cinnamon and a good pinch of black pepper. Really mash and chop all the lovely toppings into squash with your knife, so all the flavours go right through.
Serve the squash halves topped with the crisp sage, the toasted pine nuts, a drizzle of the reserved sage oil and a little balsamic vinegar, if you like.