For six weeks at the end of last year we were without an oven. One Wednesday morning my husband got up to make some whisky-soaked fruit scones for his colleagues and, suddenly, the oven let out an enormous bang and promptly died. Not only were the scones ruined, but so too were any thoughts of cooking with an oven before the end of the year, for all of our disposable income had been eaten up by Christmas shopping. Fortunately, we still had the hob and a slow cooker (no microwave as we got rid of it to make space for the espresso machine – priorities,) and so I set about perfecting the art of curries, stir-fries and slow cooked stews.
I had always assumed that the worst thing about not having an oven would be not being able to bake, but it turns out the worst thing was something far more specific: not being able to roast root vegetables. Have you ever tried steamed butternut squash? I’m sure there are people who choose to steam it, I mean, my preferred method of drizzling it liberally with olive oil and sprinkling it with a load of salt before roasting it in the oven is hardly healthy; but what makes it really worth it is the little charred edges and the caramelised sweetness. Also, try living without roast potatoes. Impossible.
Of all the many ways I eat pumpkin and winter squash, this is the one that really showcases it at its very best. Don’t let the word ‘salad’ put you off, for it is actually a pretty substantial meal. I found it on the Orangette blog a couple of years ago and have made it a number of times since. Whilst it is vegan, it never really occurred to me that it was until I was looking for recipes for Veganuary. Do feel free to add in other vegetables if you wish; for example once I threw in some leftover tenderstem broccoli and it was delicious; but try, if you can, not to mess with the dressing. It’s as close to perfection as a salad dressing can be.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad with Tahini-Lemon Dressing
1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 garlic clove, finely grated
¾ tsp ground allspice
Very generous pinch salt
400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp finely chopped red onion
Handful finely chopped coriander leaves
For the dressing
1 garlic clove, finely grated
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp tahini
2½ tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp water
Large pinch salt
Preheat the oven to 220°c.
Combine the butternut squash, garlic, allspice and salt in a large bowl. Drizzle over the olive oil and mix with your hands to coat the mixture. Spread out on a large baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes until the squash is tender and starting to char at the edges. Set aside to cool a little.
Meanwhile, combine the chickpeas, red onion and all but a tablespoon of the coriander leaves in a large bowl. When the squash has cooled a little, stir it into the mixture.
To make the dressing, whisk together all of the ingredients in a bowl. Stir a little through the squash mixture and garnish with the remaining coriander. Put the rest of the dressing aside to be added to individual servings.
Serves four. Adapted from a recipe by Orangette.