Roasted Butternut Squash and Beetroot with Pistachio Pesto, Feta and Pomegranate Seeds from Persiana

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It was love at first sight. The vibrant butternut squash (the beetroot is my own addition) with dollops of pistachio pesto infused with fresh dill, coriander and parsley, crumbled feta and bejewelled pomegranate seeds. Simple and yet so very right. I did not even need to try it to know that I would love it and include it in my culinary repertoire from that day forth.

 

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It was served to me by the very likeable Sabrina Ghayour earlier this year at her hugely popular supper club that takes place in her west London residence. Twelve or so hungry diners feasted on a number of mouth watering Persian dishes that were lovingly prepared by Sabrina herself.  Her recipes and ingredients sing to me and I can honestly say that I actually want to cook and eat a large number of them. Dried lime, lamb and split pea stew or saffron chicken, fennel and barberry stew or bamia – bring it on.

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The recipes will really come into their own in the autumn and winter time as there is even a section dedicated  to ‘soups, stews and tanginess’, perfect to serve up and nourish the soul on cold, blistery autumnal days. That said, there are also sections on ‘salads and vegetables’,  ‘roasts and grills’, ‘mezze and sharing plates’, ‘breads and grains’ and finally ‘desserts and sweet treats’ so something for everyone no matter what hemisphere you are living in. The recipes are easy to follow and beautifully photographed. I also particularly love the cover which is not only eye catching with it’s title that rolls off the tongue, but it also has a very tactile cover.  As you pass your hand over it gives the impression that spices and rose petals have really been imbedded into it’s very cover.  Such a clever and original idea.

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This recipe you can eat as is, or accompany it with another in her book. I thought the ‘tray-baked rose lamb chops with chilli and herbs’ (above) would be a particularly delicious combination. If you want to learn more about Persian food and feel comfortable cooking it for yourself then I cannot recommend the book more highly. Sabrina’s chatty, informative and unpretentious style will connect with it’s readers and guide them through the very exciting world of food from Persia.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Beetroot with Pistachio Pesto, Feta and Pomegranate Seeds

adapted slightly from Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour

Serves 4 

1 butternut squash, halved and then chopped into about 6 large pieces (skin left on)

4 beetroot, gently cleaned (be careful not to damage the skin) kept whole and stems left intact

4 tbsp olive oil

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

150g feta cheese

100g pomegranate seeds

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for the pesto

100g shelled pistachio nuts

70g parmesan chopped into rough chunks

olive oil

1 handful of fresh coriander

1 handful of fresh dill

1 handful of fresh parsley

2 tbsp chilli oil

juice of 1 lemon

sea salt

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees if using fan oven or 200 degrees if not/gas mark 6.  Place the chopped butternut squash and intact beetroot on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and cover the vegetables in olive oil, pepper and salt. Place in the oven for 50 minutes so the edges of the butternut squash begin to char.

2. Meanwhile to prepare the pesto, place the pistachio, parmesan chunks and a glug of olive oil into a food processor and mix together. If it remains quite thick in texture add some more olive oil to soften it.

3. Add all the herbs, chilli oil and lemon juice and blitz together with a sprinkling of sea salt. Taste to make sure the flavour is well balanced. Leave in the refrigerator until ready to use.

4. To serve, place the roasted butternut squash and beetroot (now cut in two) on a serving platter. Place dollops of the pesto on each vegetable portion, crumble the feta on each portion and around the  platter. Finish by scattering the pomegranate on top.

Voila you have the most pleasing of meals to dive into.


Homemade Gnocchi with Basil Pesto and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

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Have you ever made homemade gnocchi? I am sure the cynics out there will say it’s way too time consuming and just buy a packet instead. Killjoys would be my response. Not only is it ridiculously straight forward and freezes really well but it is also great fun, especially if you get your children involved. Mine are on half term, so it was a perfect activity to do on a rainy morning. If you have ever made your own play dough then you will find making gnocchi super easy.

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After gently boiling 1kg of potatoes in their skins until they are soft – under an hour, you peel them and then put them through the mouli  when they are still hot and the skins now removed.

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Mix the potato, pasta flour, egg and seasoning on a clean surface using your hands – now this is the fun bit!

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It won’t take long before you will have created a large warm dough ball.

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Split the dough into small balls and then roll out into long stripes. You want then to cut them up into bite sized morsels – see photos above and below.

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Place the bite sized cubes onto a tray with greaseproof paper which is already scattered with semolina or flour. You can either freeze them like this on the tray and when they are frozen transfer into freezer bags. Equally if you are going to eat them immediately, prepare a pan of boiling water and then drop them into the water. When they rise to the top they are ready and you simply need to remove them with a slotted spoon.

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There are so many combinations that are so tasty to eat with gnocchi. If you fancy a sausage and fennel ragu then see my recipe here. Today we decided to make some homemade basil pesto and then roast some cherry tomatoes in the oven for a short while.

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A simple and most satisfying meal that is loved and cherished by the whole family. What sauces do you like to have with your gnocchi? Leave a comment below to let us all know.

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Basil Pesto

serves 4-6

40g fresh basil leaves

50g pine nuts

4 garlic cloves

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

30g pecorino cheese

salt to taste

1. In a blender add all the ingredients and whizz for 30 seconds. Season to taste.

That easy !

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Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

250g cherry tomatoes

1 tbsp olive oil

rock salt

1. Place the cherry tomatoes in a baking tray and pour the olive oil on top with a sprinkling of rock salt.

2. Place in an oven at 180 degrees for 20 minutes.

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Homemade Gnocchi

serves 4-6

1 kg floury potatoes (King Edwards, Maris Piper etc)

300g ’00’ pasta flour (you can get this in any supermarket)

1 egg

1 tsp salt

few twists of black pepper

1. In a pan of boiling water add the potatoes, with the skins on – this will make them less watery – until they are soft. Depending on the size this will take under an hour.

2. Drain the water from the pan and using a fork and knife peel the skin from the hot potatoes and place them in the mouli one at a time. Turn the mouli handle around so that the potato goes through the mechanism.

3. Turn the potato out onto a clean surface and add the flour, egg, salt and pepper. Using your hands fold the ingredients into one another so that you form a compact dough ball.

4. Split the dough into smaller parts and roll into a long sausage using your hands, so that the dough is roughly 2cm thick.

5. Using a knife cut the dough sausage into bite sized cubes and place on a tray with baking paper scattered with either a little flour or semolina.

6. If you are freezing then place then in the freezer like this until they are frozen, then transfer to a freezer bag.

7. If using immediately then boil a large pan of water. Add a little salt and gently place the gnocchi in the water. When they rise to the top you can remove them from the water using a slotted spoon.

8. When they are still hot mix thoroughly with the basil pesto and place on a serving platter, sprinkled with the roasted tomatoes.

Serve immediately when hot.