Admittedly this is soooo North London, and the very fact that I am able to waltz into my local supermarket and pick up a pomegranate year round is a serious luxury, and one which I don't take lightly.
That said, the original recipe has said that you can happily replace this one ingredient with another sharp, sweet fruit, like a handful of juicy black cherries is what. I also think slices of orange could work.
It is a fantastic mixture of flavours - deep earthy spices roasted, then tempered with creamy feta and sharp, sweet pomegranate, rounded off with the refreshing mint, with the texture of the squash delivering a lovely big bite. It works well with some nice crusty bread, and I think couscous would be equally nice. It's also a nice counter to the more traditional tomato-cucumber-rocket-leaf. It also looks divine, and when we brought it to a picnic last weekend, it was one of the first things to get finished! Yum, yum, yum.
Butternut squash, pomegranate, feta and mint salad with pine nuts (serves four people)
- 1/2 to 3/4 of a large butternut squash
- 2 tbsp crushed chilli flakes (less if you like it with a milder kick)
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 tbsp pine nuts (dry toasted)
- 150g feta cheese
- 1 pomegranate
- Bunch of fresh mint
For the dressing:
- 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- A good pinch of caster sugar
- Leftover pomegranate juice (1-2tbsp, taste as you go)
- A small pinch of cinnamon
- 2 tbsp olive oil
As always, pre-heat your oven. Something in the region of 200C is good. Next, peel your butternut squash, and chop into semi-circle slices (carefully, squash is very slippery and can be tough to chop!) about 1/2 a cm thick.
Grind your spices in a pestle and mortar with a decent pinch of rock salt and ground black pepper. The mix doesn't have to be perfectly ground into the same texture, mostly just try to crush the coriander seeds. I sadly don't own a pestle and mortar, so I put whatever I'm crushing into a small plastic bowl, and use a rolling pin. It largely works but the spices tend to fly out everywhere.
Spread the butternut squash across two roasting trays - you don't want to crowd them too much, so do use two trays, and drizzle with about 1 tbsp oil for each tray. Then divide over your spice mix, and use your hands to make sure it gets a nice coating. Then put it in the oven for about 25 minutes, and check in every now and then, agitating the tray so it doesn't stick and maybe flipping the squash over so they brown on both sides.
Meanwhile, you can dry toast your pine nuts. Keep an eye on as they don't sizzle, so you forget about them more easily than you think! You can also start picking your seeds out the pomegranate. The best way to do this, I find, is to slice the fruit cleanly in half, then over a bowl, use your hands to break each half apart, and use your fingers to root out the pockets of seeds. Try to save as much juice as possible for the dressing (and don't wear anything white while you're doing it.)
When the squash is done, remove from the oven. It should look somewhat like the below, and not too dried out.
|Butternut squash, ready to come out of the oven|
To make a dressing, the original recipe invites you to use that most North-London of all ingredients, pomegranate molasses. I had no such thing, so into a jar I put the juice of the pomegranate that was reserved in the bowl (crushing seeds with a teaspoon if I needed more juice, around 1 or 2 tbsp), 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp lemon juice, and a small pinch of cinnamon. To add some sweetness, a pinch or two of caster sugar did the job, then top up with 2 or so tbsps of olive oil, and shake or whisk well.
Next, take your squash, scatter over a large plate, then crumble over the feta, leaving decent sized chunks. Add the pine nuts, and top with the mint and pomegranate. Drizzle dressing over just before service, and enjoy outside in the lovely sunshine (if possible!)
|Pomegranate seeds, so pretty|
Credit where credit is due: Modified from recipe by Gizzi Erskine in the Sunday Times