What to do with a misappropriated butternut squash
We had the usual tombola at the end of the half term trip with the Cardiff family. This is a major highlight of the annual gathering of the clans – it’s a riotous affair which invariably means we check out late. It’s extraordinary to see just how passionate Missy B and her cousins can get over half a head of garlic, some elderly cheese and a bottle of beer they are not allowed anywhere near. Something went wrong with their numbering system this year, so there were quite a few lots with no prizes attached – but this only added the the atmosphere of feverish excitement. The Battenburgs did fairly well, coming home with the remnants of a couple of packets of biscuits, five cherry tomatoes and a small bottle of sunflower oil. We also got our own porridge back and now have enough tea to keep us going well into next year. We lost out on the bread flour (we couldn’t make any bread while we were away unfortunately, as the yeast didn’t survive the journey) and, in time-honoured fashion, Grandma (teetotal to her very core) got the bottle of cassis.
We also got the butternut squash!!! This wasn’t even in the tombola and was definitely brought on holiday by the other lot, so it had no business coming home with us. I can only assume Mr B took a fancy to it. But if you have come by a butternut squash, by whatever means, who do you turn to? Ottolenghi, in my case. I found a few recipes in his books, but chose this one – Missy B tried a bit, but she prefers her orange food in carrot form. Mr B and I on the other hand managed to finish the rest off, with a couple of sausages on the side (actually not necessary as it happens, the dish is a meal in itself, especially for a former vegetarian). I will definitely make this again before the squash season is out. For the za’atar, I had to pop to the fabulous Phoenica Mediterranean Food Hall in Kentish Town, where a lovely man explained all the different types you can buy. There are many. It’s a spice mix of herbs and sesame. I chose the Palestinian variety, mostly on the basis that it was in a small jar rather than a large bag. There’s more tahini sauce than strictly necessary, but it’s very nice to dip bits of carrot in when you are mulling over what to eat the next evening…
Roast butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za’atar
1 large butternut squash (around 1.1kg), cut into 2cm x 6cm wedges
2 red onions, cut into 3cm wedges
50ml olive oil
Maldon sea salt and black pepper
3½ tbsp tahini paste
1½ tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp water
1 small garlic clove, crushed
30g pine nuts
1 tbsp za’atar
1 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
Heat the oven to to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Put the squash and onions in a large bowl, add three tablespoons of oil, a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper, and toss well. Spread, skin down, on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes until the vegetables have taken on some colour and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions: they may cook faster than the squash, so may need to be removed earlier. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Put the tahini in a small bowl with the lemon juice, water, garlic and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Whisk to the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini as necessary.
Pour the remaining oil into a small frying pan on a medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and half a teaspoon of salt, cook for two minutes, stirring, until the nuts are golden brown, then tip the nuts and oil into a small bowl.
To serve, spread the vegetables on a platter and drizzle over the sauce. Scatter the pine nuts and oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.