This dish started life many months ago when I got hold of the cookery book ‘Persiana’, by Sabrina Ghayour (voted best new cookbook 2014). Thumbing through the pages there were lots of delicious looking recipes but one took my eye, Butternut Squash with Pistachio, Pesto, Feta and Pomegranate! It was apparently a firm favourite amongst the supper club attendees, so must be not too bad at all!
I have been trying to get this dish on the table but numerous times failed due to things like “I don’t fancy that” (not me but someone else!), “have you got time” (again not me!), “in hospital” (that WAS me)!
At last the stars must have been aligned, or Saturn congruent with a passing comet for a nano second and it finally happened, and what a spectacular event it was too! You need to read the WHOLE post as there are several processes needed to complete the dish, each with their own list of ingredients.
My version does differ from Sabrinas, not that I did not think it wasn’t an excellent recipe (who am I to judge anyway), but I craved some protein, meat in fact, Lamb, I (we) both love Lamb.
So off to research some ideas and I decided to make a Bahārāt from scratch. Bahārāt is Arabic for ‘Spices’, and can be a heady mixture to take any dish to mars and beyond, and for this recipe (for 2 people), you will need the following;
- 1/2 Tsp Allspice
- 2 Tsp Black Peppercorns
- 1/2 Teaspoon Cardamon Seeds (after outer green pods removed)
- 4″ Cassia Bark (like Cinnamon but less sweet)
- 1 1/2 Tsp Whole Cloves
- 2 Tsp Coriander Seeds
- 1 1/2 Tsp Cumin Seeds
- 1 Tsp Nutmeg (Fresh Grated if possible)
- 3 Tsp Aleppo Chilli
- 1 Tsp Rose Petals (The cooking variety!)
- 1/2 Tsp Ground Iranian Lime
Most of the spices are cupboard items (I always recommend Steenbergs wherever possible as the quality is SO good, and nothing like shop bought brands, which often are more expensive and have less flavour and character), the Iranian Lime and Rose Petals came from Ottolenghi’s, Aleppo Chilli from The Spicery.
All the whole spices need dry roasting until they fill the kitchen with heady aromas. Be careful not to use too much heat and burn the spices as they will become very bitter and unpleasant. Then add the dried spices and whizz up in a blender to a powder, but don’t go as far as dust, we want some texture and character. You can see my result in the picture above.
The Bahārāt is used to marinade 500 grms lamb shoulder, I left mine for about 2 hours using 5 heaped Tsp of the Bahārāt mixture which will leave you some left for another day.
After marinating, the Lamb is browned in a frying pan in some olive oil, and put into a dish with 250 mls of HOT Vegetable Stock mixed with 2 tsp of tomato puree then into a 130 deg (centigrade) fan oven for 2 1/2 – 3 hours! I covered mine with tinfoil for the first couple of hours, and removed the foil allowing the stock to reduce for the last hour or so. You will need to keep and eye on it and stir from time to time to make sure things don’t dry out.
A quick interlude whilst the Lamb is doing its stuff. I was rushed into hospital a few weeks back, diagnosed with Type I Diabetes and now doing what many thousands of people have to do, inject Insulin daily and sample my blood 4 times a day!
I had a 1 day course booked at Bertinet’s Cookery School in Bath some time ago, with Ghalid Assyb (he partnered with Yotam Ottolenghi to open the 1st of the Ottolengi eateries in London), bl@@dy Macaroon’s as well, so two weeks after release from those lovely people dressed in white and green with a limited/no sugar diet, I was whisking, mixing and piping all sorts of sweet delights full of sugar.The 1 day session was awesome, we all learnt loads and despite my fears of piping and making a complete fool of myself, the end results were really very good (according to wife and family who can consume more sugar in a day than I can in a month)! Some of the end product are pictured above, I managed a couple all day!
I would recommend any of the Bertinet courses, I am taking my nine year old on a children’s one in July, and I am booked on a 1 day Bread in April and have a day with Mark Hix, the well known restaurateur in October! I am not a share holder and don’t get freebies, they are just good so I am happy to say so.
So we are back with the next process and a Pesto, no Pine Nuts in sight, or Basil! This one is made with Coriander, Parsley and Mints leaves, this is a variation from Sabrinas which uses Dill instead of Mint ( I am not a Dill fan and thought the Mint and Lamb would match nicely).
For 2 people I used 50 grms Pistachio nuts, about 30 grms of Gran Padano cheese which are whizzed up with some Olive Oil to slacken, then add the ‘leaves’ of a bunch of Parsley and Coriander (I left the stalks behind). The Mint was added in stages, so as to not overpower the Pesto, you just want a hint as its very strong. You will need to add some more Olive Oil to get the consistency loose enough.
I am not sure how the Lime managed to get into the picture earlier, you need to add Lemon Juice to taste, a good squeeze or two and for salt, I used some Hebridean ‘Smoked’ Sea Salt, it is a really good product and brings another dimension to the Pesto, test the flavour and adjust as necessary to your liking. You can see what mine looked like above.
We are nearly done prep wise, You need a nice Butternut Squash, to be honest I suspect any will do but the nice ‘hole’ where the seeds normally reside was to be my ‘bowl’ for the spiced Lamb. Cut to about 1c.m. thick, brush both sides with Olive Oil and season with Salt (unsmoked!) and Pepper, and into a 165 centigrade (fan) oven for about 45-50 mins, turning over halfway through the cooking. You need to time this process in line with the Lamb cooking so they both complete at the same time (roughly).
Here we go, another variation on a fantastic recipe, sorry Sabrina. So I wanted another textural component and a flavour “whack”, sorry seems better than a hit under the circumstances, cook this and you will see why.
We are going to coat some more Pistachios with Ras Al Hanut, and Salt using Olive Oil. Warm the pan, add some Olive Oil, you want heat but not enough to burn so if you are not confident, just try a couple of nuts until you get it right. Add the Nuts, warm a bit add the Salt (Maldon Sea Salt rubbed between fingers), then the Ras Al Hanut, shake the pan, leave for 15 seconds and add some more Ras Al Hanut. We are talking a couple of decent pinches, no spoons involved, that’s it. This is a finishing touch and adds a great texture and flavour element to the final dish.
I said you would need to read the whole post to get the complete recipe, forgot the Feta and Pomegranate, its an integral and important part of the finished delight.
The picture above should give you enough detail, if not, leave me a message and I will answer any questions as soon as I can.
Take a warm plate, lay the squash, fill the hole in the Squash with the Spiced Lamb. Dot ‘blobs’ of the Pesto with a teaspoon around the plate and on the Squash, lay pieces of broken Feta into the Pesto. Scatter the plate with Pomegranate seeds, then the spiced Pistachios and a ‘few’ Rose Leaves, which will warm and give a floral hint.
This dish is delicious (the boss said so), I think so too, its amazing. The original is probably also amazing but I have not tried that version yet, I had the craving for some protein and ’embelished’ the dish a little bit changing Dill to Mint, adding the spiced nuts and the home made Bahārāt with exotic spices.
I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Until next time…………………………….L8ers…………………………