Sunday, 18 September 2011

an ottolenghi inspired amuse bouche for the hungry husband

that the occupants of thirty-two love ottolenghi is no surprise. i am the proud owner of both cookbooks; ottolenghi- the cook book and plenty (which was a birthday present from the hungry husband). i am also a faithful follower of his recipes in saturday's guardian. with autumn increasingly asserting itself in london through the shortening of the days, the change in the tones of sunlight and the changing colours of the leaves in london's parks, it is time to bring out the warmer coloured vegetables in the kitchen. butternut squash to me is a quintessential part of the autumn kitchen with it's dark yellow flesh, its deep caramel notes and it's ability to stand up to spices like cinnamon and clove. 

today was the perfect weekend to try out ottolenghi's butternut squash and tahini spread. the ingredients for the recipe are all things that i love. i sometimes eat small teaspoonfuls of the nutty and oily tahini paste that gives hummus its complexity and sharpness. i often mix a tablespoon of it into greek yoghurt thinned with some lemon juice to make a glossy dip for sweet potato falafel. i have to confess that as much as i like garlic i do not like it raw. i like it when it is subdued into a sweet smokiness by roasting a whole head in the oven and squeezing the papery thin skin to reveal a lightly caramelised softened clove. i often substitute roasted garlic for raw in recipes. 

most often, my efforts in the kitchen are dictated by the presence of ingredients and my own personal likes, so that i follow recipes in spirit rather than letter. last night i peeled, cored and chopped a large butternut squash, tossed it with three tablespoons of olive oil, one teaspoon of ground cinnamon and half a teaspoon of salt, put it into a medium sized baking tray, covered it tightly with foil and roasted it for seventy minutes at a hundred and eighty degrees. (this is all done in accordance to ottolenghi's instructions).

today, on my way back from yoga i stopped at wholefoods to pick up a bottle of date syrup. i love the dark treacle notes of this sweetener and usually use it to make homemade granola. my search for black sesame seeds was fruitless and so had to make do with white sesame seeds. 

since we are having chili con carne and brown rice with downtown abbey for dinner i decided to give the hungry husband an amuse bouche. this is the point where i deviated from ottolenghi's recipe. i mashed the steam-roasted butternut squash and added almost half a cup of tahini to it. i didn't have any roasted garlic handy so decided to dispense with it altogether. i also decided against adding the yoghurt, a decision based on the consistency of the spread. i would have loved the tartness of greek yoghurt but felt that the mixture was too loose. next time, i will drain away the pan juices before mashing the squash as i think that's what made the spread too liquid and replace it with the yoghurt instead. sadly, i didn't have any coriander which i know will taste excellent.

i served the spread to o on crackers, drizzled with the date syrup and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. i should have toasted them lightly to elevate their nuttiness but as you can imagine an afternoon of cooking chili con carne, steaming brown rice and baking up a batch of granola had left me somewhat exhausted. 

o loved it.
you can find the recipe in saturday's guardian weekend here.

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