It’s taken me five years of living in the Middle East to experiment with tahini. I have no idea why, perhaps I just didn’t know where to start. I certainly wish I’d started earlier- it’s so easy to use and takes all the flavours up a notch. Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds and is used throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. It is one of the main ingredients in hummus.
I was given Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem for Christmas. Filled with ingredients which I’d heard of, but never used, it sat on my bedside table, to be looked through and admired, but not dirtied in the kitchen. I finally bought a jar of tahini a few months ago. But this too sat on a shelf unused. When I realised that I had all the ingredients for this recipe in my cupboards already, I knew I had no excuse.
My husband has been pescetarian for 9 months, and one of my best friends is vegetarian. When she comes for dinner I always struggle with what to make. This will be perfect for our next dinner party. No more failed sweetcorn fritters and boring lentil dishes for my guests!
You can make this in advance, but it’s important not to put the tahini sauce on the vegetables until the last-minute. For those readers that don’t live in the middle east, tahini and za’atar area becoming more and more common in the UK and the States with the popularisation of Lebanese food. If you can’t find the ingredients in your local supermarket, there should be a specialist shop not too far away where you can buy these two mainstays of Middle Eastern food.
One of the things I loved most about this is that I hadn’t realised you can eat the skin of butternut squash. Certainly saves a lot of time peeling it!
Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Onion and Tahini Sauce
(Adapted from ‘Jerusalem’ by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi)
Serves 2 as a main course
1/2 butternut squash, cut into 2cm x 6cm pieces
1 x red onion, cut into wedges
1tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tahini paste
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 small garlic clove
15g pine nuts
1/2 tbsp za’atar (optional)
Preheat the oven to 220 deg centigrade / Gas Mark 9
Spread the squash and onion on a baking sheet, pour over 2 tsp oil, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Spread out over the sheet with the skin down no the sheet. Roast for 30 minutes, until the vegetables have taken some colour. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Make the sauce. Place the tahini in a bowl with the lemon juice, 2 tbsp water, garlic and a pinch of salt. The tahini will thicken to the consistency of double cream.
Fry the pine nuts with a teaspoon oil until lightly browned.
Spread the warm vegetables on a platter, top with the sauce, sprinkle with pine nuts and top with za’atar.