Finding a special occasion vegetarian dish is tough if you're not a veggie yourself but try this show-stopping recipe from Sabrina Ghayour's Persiana which won best new cookbook at this week's Observer Food Monthly awards.
Sabrina writes: "Middle Eastern people often perceive butternut squash as bland. Taking inspiration from an Asian pesto-and-squash dish made by my friend, the chef Tony Singh, I came up with my own Persian pistachio pesto, adding salty crumbled feta cheese and a handful of vibrant pomegranate seeds for a burst of flavour.
The result? It has become one of my most popular supper club dishes of all time and has proven itself to be the dish that converts those who were formerly not the greatest of squash fans."
Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side dish
1 large butternut squash, quartered lengthways and deseeded
4 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
150g (5 1/2oz) feta cheese
100g (3 1/2oz) pomegranate seeds
For the pesto
100g (3 1/2oz) shelled pistachio nuts
70g (2 1/2oz) Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese, chopped into rough chunks
1 small bunch of coriander, leaves picked
1 small bunch of parsley, leaves picked
1 small bunch of dill, leaves picked
3 tbsp chilli oil
juice of 1 lemon
In a food processor, blitz the pistachios and cheese together, adding a generous amount of olive oil to slacken the mixture. Put all the herbs into the food processor with a little more olive oil as well as the chilli oil and lemon juice and blitz again, then add a handful of crushed sea salt and give the mixture one last blitz. Taste the pesto, ensuring it has enough salt and acidity, then allow it to rest in the refrigerator until you need it.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas mark 6. Once the oven is hot, rub each wedge of butternut squash with the oil, season generously with sea salt and black pepper and place it on a baking sheet lined with non-stick baking paper. Roast the squash for about 45–50 minutes, or just until the edges have begun to char slightly. You want to blacken the edges a little – this gives them a nice chewy texture. To check the squash to see if it is properly cooked, insert a knife into the flesh – if it slides clean through, the squash is ready. If you feel resistance, return the squash to the oven for a few more minutes.
Serve each wedge of butternut squash on a plate, drizzled generously with the vibrant green pesto. Crumble the feta cheese on top and scatter over the pomegranate seeds to finish.
What to drink: With the punchy, herby pesto you should be looking at a sauvignon blanc or other crisp white wine here. But a dry Provencal rosé would also work really well.
From Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour published by Mitchell Beazley (www.octopusbooks.co.uk) Photo © Liz & Max Haarala Hamilton