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a better butternut squash with nigella seeds (sorry, ottolenghi!)

December 6, 2022

yotam ottolenghi. a man who creates brilliantly unique and fantastic flavor combinations… with the most unnecessary techniques. don’t worry – i am here to simplify and affordable-ify.

i do pick on ottolenghi, but it’s out of love. the man has *tons* of unique recipes – maybe thousands – and googling any vegetable on earth + his name will return a host of fantastic, even novel flavor combinations. he is not even in my top ten most irritating food celebrities. i would call this man “extra” – but i respect and admire him, even in the face of fusion that i might call “painful clickbait” (sicilian-sichuan fusion? please don’t put pine nuts and raisins in your mapo tofu.)

this recipe – one of his many, many, many winter squash recipes – tastes just like it looks. absolutely delicious.

as has become tradition around here, i will share his exact recipe, as well as my version, describing all the techniques i find absolutely unnecessary. i will make the recipe not only more accessible, but more affordable. come on, it’s 2022, who among us can afford to waste food?


the original: yotam ottolenghi’s roasted butternut squash recipe, courtesy of the blendergirl

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2  tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced (1½ cups/170 g)
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 1/4-inch/3-cm chunks (2 3/4 lb/1 kg)
  • 3 1/2  tablespoons  raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 1/4  teaspoon  nigella seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon  ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon  ground turmeric
  • 4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 1 green chile, halved lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon  super-fine sugar
  • 1 scant cup (200ml) vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup (150g) vegan Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon  finely chopped cilantro
  • Celtic sea salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF/220ºC.
  2. Place the butter and oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and fry for about 8 minutes, until soft. Add the squash, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it starts to color. Remove from the heat and add the pumpkin seeds, 1 teaspoon of the nigella seeds, the cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, chile, sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Mix well and transfer to a baking sheet large enough to hold the vegetables in a single but snug layer, about 10 by 12-inches/25 by 30-cm. Pour the stock over the squash and roast for 30 minutes, until the squash is tender. Set aside for about 10 minutes: the liquid in the pan will continue to be absorbed.
  3. Serve warm, with the yogurt spooned on top or on the side, along with a sprinkling of the cilantro and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon nigella seeds.

Recipe from Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi (and discovered thanks to the blendergirl‘s write-up of yotam ottolenghi’s roasted butternut squash recipe – check out her lovely photo and write-up!)


friedsig’s version of ottolenghi’s roasted butternut squash w nigella seeds

Ingredients

  • 3/4 T. butter or margarine
  • 1/2 T. olive oil or neutral oil
  • half of any onion, sliced thin
  • a medium-sized butternut squash, or any winter squash, sweet potatoes, or anything similar (about 2 lbs. – frozen is fine)
  • a tablespoon or more pumpkin seeds
  • 3/4 t. nigella seed (or substitute maybe 1/2 t. or so of garlic or onion powder)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • a pinch of turmeric, or more if you love turmeric like me
  • 1 or 2 cardamom pods, crushed, skins removed
  • 1/4 t. ground cinnamon
  • sprinkling of red pepper flakes, or half a small minced chili pepper
  • a pinch of sugar, or more if you like sweet
  • 1 scant cup (200ml) broth or stock
  • salt, to taste
  • a little plain yogurt to top it with (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF/220ºC.
  2. Place the butter and oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and fry for about 8 minutes, until soft. Add the squash, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it starts to color. Remove from the heat and add the pumpkin seeds, 1 teaspoon of the nigella seeds, the cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, chile, sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Mix well and transfer to a baking sheet lined with tinfoil large enough to hold the vegetables in a single but snug layer, about 10 by 12-inches/25 by 30-cm. Pour the stock over the squash and roast for 30 minutes, until the squash is tender. Set aside for about 10 minutes: the liquid in the pan will continue to be absorbed.
  3. Serve hot. If you want, serve with plain yogurt. Or chicken. Or whatever you like.



alterations – and why

  1. while sauteed onions are delicious – do you really want to wash a skillet AND a sheet pan? the whole point of a sheet pan dinner is you have one pan to wash. sure, you can saute the onions in a skillet and brown the squash – if you want to wash twice as many dishes! unless you have a house full of kids who will wash your dishes, it’s just… extra.
  2. half a cinnamon stick?! whole?!? on a sheet pan?!? roasting released the cinnamony aroma – my apartment smelled amazing – but just a half-hour in an oven is not sufficient to infuse the entire sheet pan with cinnamon. whole cinnamon stick is amazing in applications where something is simmering for a long period of time. of course you’ll want a whole cinnamon stick in your Glühwein – in your lu rou fan with its two-hour braise – maybe even in your moroccan chickpeas and apricots. but a whole cinnamon stick on a pan of roasted vegetables just makes zero practical sense. you could grate even a sixteenth of that cinnamon stick and get way more cinnamon flavor. i tried it his way – you have to give a world-famous chef the benefit of the doubt sometimes (unless it’s david chang). but i found it to be a total waste of the ingredient. save yourself a few bucks – grate the thing instead.
  3. ditto on the chili pepper. maybe not the most expensive ingredient – but what on earth is the point of leaving the chili whole? is it like “button, button, who’s got the button” or the baby in a king cake? like, “hey dinner party guests, the meal is mild for everyone except for one person. who will get the whole chili pepper?!” it’s a totally irrational choice, and the spice did not permeate through the sheet pan. better to sprinkle just a bit of red pepper flakes. hell, even hot sauce would be a smarter choice.
  4. the tinfoil. if you could see my sheet pan covered in burnt vegetable stock…
  5. the sugar. a tablespoon of sugar on something as sweet as butternut squash? i mean, i won’t stop you. but why? okay, yes, in the photo, the stock and sugar melted down into a glaze that looks absolutely lovely. extremely photogenic. if you’re making this recipe for social media clout, then by all means, glaze your squash. however – and i say this as a person who loves a khatta meetha (sweet and sour) meal – butternut squash is naturally sweet enough.
  6. celtic sea salt? my guy. bless your heart. i don’t own a single grain of celtic sea salt. i promise the salt you have in your cabinet is just perfect for this recipe.

It tastes like a slightly more affordable/easy/westernized version of kaddu ki subji (Indian sweet and sour squash). If you are a fennel/licorice disliker, cooking for someone picky, or on a budget, this Ottolenghi version is a fantastic (and flavorful enough) version. It really does taste good – just not the wild flavor bomb of a kaddu ki subji. I definitely recommend this recipe for anyone who likes squash, especially for someone who is a bit intimidated by the sheer quantity of spices that an authentic Indian recipe calls for. Which do I prefer? No contest; the unhinged amounts of fennel in the kaddu ki subji is my top choice. However, I might prefer to cook Ottolenghi’s for company – not only because I am on a budget, but there are so many fenugreek and fennel dislikers out there, and I think almost anyone could get down with Ottolenghi’s version.


If you love an Ottolenghi recipe with a bit of a more affordable and easy spin on it, check out my better miso butter onion (sorry, Yotam Ottolenghi!). Of course, check out the people who brought you this recipe, Yotam Ottolenghi and the Blender Girl. If you are in the market for something fun to do with winter squash, check out soup joumou (haitian pumpkin soup), vegan pumpkin (or squash) gnocchi, or a simple and hearty curried red lentil, squash, and coconut soup.

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