13 March 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash with Sweet Spices & Green Chilli

I demand a great deal from my food.  I want style and substance - I want it to be tasty and to likewise look pretty.  I want it to be unique, interesting, and intriguing.  I want it to be simple and complex at the same time.  I want my healthy food to taste like something decadent.  I have high standards.

Kind of like how I'd like to find that rare combination handsome-kind-intelligent-fun-dreamy-clever-hunk-man (a mythical creature, perhaps?), a guy who rings all my bells... this pulls out all the stops in the food department.  Yea, I just compared an appetizer to a man.  It happens.

I've mentioned before how I believe Yotam Ottolenghi to be a hero.  Also, possibly, the offspring of Zeus and Grace Kelly.  He makes amazing food and then turns around and tells you how to do it (for free in the Guardian and he also has cookbooks).  I have such a food crush on him.

This squash is warm and earthy and perfect.  I can't find any more adjectives.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Sweet Spices & Green Chilli
Original recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi
The original recipe calls for sliced limes, marinated in salt and olive oil, and you'll see them in the pictures but not in the recipe.  Why?  They're reminiscent of tequila shots (how could I think salted limes couldn't be?) and tasted seriously horrible, at least to me - I recoiled and was transported instantly back to undergrad upon first taste of them.  If that sounds good to you, by all means, go for it, but holy smokes, I'd leave them out if I were you.

3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, about 900g (2lb)
2 tbsp cardamom pods
1 tsp ground allspice*
100g (3½oz) Greek yogurt
30g (1oz) tahini paste
1 tbsp lime juice
1 green chilli, thinly sliced
10g (½oz) picked coriander leaves

Preheat the oven to 220°C/ 425°F/gas mark 7.

Cut the butternut in half lengthways, scoop out the seeds and discard. Cut each half, top to bottom, into 1cm (½in) thick slices. Slice off the peel, if you wish, and lay the slices on a large baking-sheet lined with greaseproof paper.

Place the cardamom pods in a mortar and work with a pestle to get the seeds out of the pods. Discard the pods and work the seeds to a rough powder. Transfer to a small bowl, add the allspice and olive oil, stir well and brush this mixture over the butternut slices. Sprinkle over a little salt and place in the oven for 15 minutes or until tender when tested with the point of a knife. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, whisk together the yogurt, tahini, lime juice, 2 tbsp water and a pinch of salt. The sauce should be thick but runny enough to pour; add more water if necessary.

To serve, arrange the cooled butternut slices on a serving platter and drizzle with the yogurt sauce. Scatter the chilli slices over the top. Garnish with the coriander and serve.

Serves 4-6 as a starter.

* I didn't have allspice when I made this, so I substituted with ground black pepper and a touch of cinnamon.  It tasted lovely.

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