In recent years, I have been fusing Persian ingredients with ingredients from other parts of the world, creating my own style of modern Persian cookery. I make rice salads packed with fresh herbs like dill (well, it’s not only for fish you know) and tart little barberries and I also love making pistachio pesto, which can be kept for up to 6 months in sterilised jars. One of my favourite recipes using pistachio pesto is to simply drizzle it over some roasted butternut squash and top with crumbled feta and pomegranate seeds. Here is the recipe;
Butternut Squash with Persian Pesto and Feta Cheese
1 whole butternut squash, quartered lengthways, peeled and de-seeded.
200g feta cheese
100g of pomegranate kernels
Ingredients for the Pesto
250g of shelled pistachio nuts
150g Parmesan cheese or Grana Padano cheese, finely grated
1 small bunch of fresh coriander
1 small bunch of fresh parsley
1 small bunch of fresh dill
1 small bunch of fresh basil
Juice of half a lemon
Maldon sea salt
A light olive oil (extra virgin is not necessary)
Silicon lined paper or baking parchment
Using a food processor, blitz your pistachios, adding a generous slug of olive oil to slacken the mixture. Then add all the herbs into the blender, add a little more olive oil and blitz again before adding your Parmesan cheese and a handful of Maldon sea salt, crumbled and thrown in to the processor. You will need to ensure that there is always plenty of oil to keep the pesto moving around the blender, so don’t be afraid to be liberal with your use of it. There is no exact measuring, so just add enough to keep the mixture nice and loose.
Add the lemon juice before giving it one final blitz in the processor ensuring that all the ingredients are evenly blended and decant into a sterilised jar or Tupperware container of your choice. Do remember that in order to effectively store the pesto for several months, a sterilised jar is your best bet as otherwise it will last only a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius and once hot, rub each wedge of butternut squash with oil and season generously with Maldon sea salt and place on a baking tray lined with silicon lined paper or baking parchment. Roast the squash for about 45 minutes, just until the edges have begun to brown slightly. Check to see if the squash is properly cooked using a knife; if it slides clean through then the squash is cooked.
Serve your butternut squash on a nice platter and drizzle generously with your vibrant green pesto and crumble your feta cheese over the top and scatter some pomegranate seeds over it to finish. A healthy, delicious dish or side-dish that is colourful and busting with Persian flavours!