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.


Pistachio and Cardamom Shortbread Biscuits

It’s always good to have a go-to biscuit that is straightforward and not too time consuming to make, but also has an added complexity in taste that makes it stand out from the crowd. This shortbread biscuit ticks all those boxes with flying colours. The flavours of cardamom and pistachio sing to me and the partnership is one to be jubilant about. I find it’s great to make a batch and freeze (before cooking) some of the dough, wrapped in cling film, that you are not needing, until you want to make another batch at a later date. At this stage simply remove from the freezer and let it defrost before making incisions into the dough to make your biscuits.

With the festive season almost upon us, I also find that they are a great offering to give to friends that you are visiting either wrapped in brown baking parchment, tied with some vintage twine or red ribbon, or placed in a sealed jar. Either way, the effort and initiative will definitely bring a smile upon the receiver.

Pistachio and Cardamom Shortbread Biscuits

sourced from Ottolenghi The Cookbook

Makes around 30

8 cardamom pods

200g unsalted butter

25g ground rice

240g plain flour

1/2 tsp of salt

35g icing sugar

60g shelled pistachio nuts

1 free-range egg, lightly beaten

2 tbsp vanilla sugar

1. Crush the cardamom pods, using a pestle and mortar and once the seeds have been released remove the skins and then crush the seeds into a fine powder. The smell is sensational.

2. Place the butter, ground rice, flour, salt , ground cardamom and icing sugar in an electric mixer and whisk until the ingredients have bound together to create a ball shape and immediately transfer the dough onto a cold surface sprinkled with a little flour. (see photo below)

3. Using your hands roll the dough into a log shape. If you want really large round biscuits then keep the the log short in length, however, if you would prefer small or medium sized biscuits then elongate the dough further. There is no hard and fast rule on how large the biscuits need to be. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for over an hour.

4. Meanwhile, place the pistachio nuts into the electric mixer and give them a quick wizz so that they are broken up slightly. If you do it for too long they will become too fine!

5. Place the crushed pistachio nuts on a flat surface and take the cling film off  the dough (and place the cling film to one side) and brush the log with the beaten egg. Now roll the dough over the top of the pistachio nuts; you may need to give a helping hand and place a few pistachio nuts into the side of the dough. Put the same cling film back on the dough log and place back into the fridge for a further 30 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees. Remove the cling film and using a sharp knife cut the dough log into even slices and place them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment, placing them 2cm apart. Dust the biscuits with vanilla sugar and place in the oven for around 20 minutes so that they are golden, but not bronzed. Keep a close eye on them.

7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely as they will harden as they cool. If you pick them up before they are cool they may well crumble. Once they have cooled store in a sealed jar or container for up to a week.

Rolled out the dough log on a cold surface sprinkled with flour

Roll out the cold dough log over the pistachio nuts

Place the biscuits slightly further apart (2cm) than I have done above or they will begin to join together.

I was pretty lucky but it got close ;0)

Baked and ready to eat