Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad with Tahini-Lemon Dressing [Vegan]

I have something to tell you, and I’m not sure you’re going to like it.

I’ve decided to go vegan. *Awaits reaction*

Over Christmas, I spent two weeks in Australia with the most overtly carnivorous people on earth: my family. Suddenly, my largely vegetarian diet was bombarded with endless barbecues, daily breakfasts of bacon and three types of meat at Christmas dinner as, for them, a meal is not a meal if it doesn’t have meat in it. Of course, I dealt with this in the mature way; sneaking off to a local cafe for illicit quinoa salads and not telling them, like some kind of vegetable-craving junkie; but when, at the Boxing Day test match, the cool box was opened to reveal nothing but Tupperware boxes of pre-barbecued chicken, enough was enough. I had to come clean: I was giving up meat.

“We thought you’d got through that phase,” they said, mournfully, referring to the 12 years I was a full vegetarian.

So as if this didn’t make me enough of a weirdo to them, I decided that, as this decision was coinciding with the end of the year and the onset of Veganuary, I would, once again, attempt veganism, at least for the next month. Disappointment turned to confusion, and this was the last time they mentioned it.

Parental disapproval aside, 2018 is the best time to be a vegan. This year, a record 150,000 people signed up to participate in Veganuary, prompting a number of supermarkets, food manufacturers and restaurants to introduce vegan options into their ranges. With veganism becoming increasingly mainstream, it was far easier than when I took part two years ago and a breeze compared to when I was a vegan in 2004 when you could only really get soya milk and you had to buy food from specialist shops or Holland and Barrett.

Without meaning to get evangelical and propagate the stereotype that all vegans can talk about is veganism, this year it made me feel great. So great, in fact, that when February came around, I decided not to go back. So here we are in fairly uncharted territory: a vegan food blog. It’s not what I expected to be writing, but I’m excited about it.

Whilst I’ve made a number of new discoveries (tempeh!) I’m dying to share, this is a recipe for something I made countless times before ever even considering it was vegan; a category we call “accidentally vegan.” Speaking of which, there’s an Instagram account by the same name that you should check out. Most supermarket garlic bread is vegan… who knew?!

Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad with Tahini-Lemon Dressing

1 medium squash, peeled and deseeded and cut into one inch pieces
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ tsp ground allspice
2 tbsp olive oil
Pinch salt
400g tin chickpeas, drained
½ small red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves

For the tahini-lemon dressing
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 ½ tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp water
Pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 220°c / 425°f / gas mark 7.  In a large bowl, combine the squash, garlic, allspice, olive oil and salt and toss until the squash is well coated. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Leave to cool for five minutes before transferring to a separate bowl with the chickpeas, onion and coriander. Mix to combine.

Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking together all of the ingredients until smooth. Toss a third of the dressing through the squash mixture and serve the rest on the side.

Adapted from a recipe by Orangette