Roasted butternut squash & herby wild rice salad with green tahini dressing

After getting stuck in a rut with my meals since working from home, I wanted to create a hearty but fairly healthy warm salad situation that would be just as satisfying for dinner as it would be the next day for a nice working from home lunch, so I came up with this.

This is a totally vegan dish and I think it works really well just as it is, but you could add a crumbling of feta cheese for an extra salty ping, if you’re not vegan. The sweet, roasted butternut squash marries well with the herby, nutty warm rice salad and silky, salty green tahini dressing.

It also makes a great accompanying dish as part of a wider Middle-Eastern inspired feast – I once served it alongside some harissa-spiced lamb kofte and it was a great combo.

A final note: When I made this recipe to test, Sainsbury’s had run out of wild rice so I had to buy pre-cooked pouches. I never think these are as good – they might be fast but they have an odd taste and are much more expensive), so get uncooked rice and cook It yourself if you can!

Roasted butternut squash & herby wild rice salad with green tahini dressing

Serves 3-4 as a main (more as a side, obvz. And very easily doubled!)

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 40 mins

Vegan

300g basmati and wild rice mix (or 2 x 250g pouches of cooked basmti/wild rice)
½ butternut squash, cut down the middle lengthways
1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
½ tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp cumin seeds
olive oil
½ small bunch each of parsley, coriander and mint – about 60g in total (you can use just one or two of those or a mix of any soft herbs – dill would work in the mix too)
1 lemon, halved
50g pistachio kernels
4 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp apple cider or white wine vinegar

  1. If you didn’t buy pre-cooked rice (good choice), start by cooking your wild/basmati rice in a pan of boiling water, following pack instructions. Rinse and drain when ready.

  2. Preheat oven to 220c/200c fan. Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh from your half butternut squash, then cut it into 2cm slices (keeping the skin on). In a roasting tray, scatter the squash slices and red onion wedges and drizzle with around 2tbsp olive oil, a generous sprinkling of salt & pepper, chilli flakes and cumin seeds. Toss together then roast in the oven for 40 minutes, turning half-way.

  3. In a small, dry frying pan toast your pistachios on a medium heat for a few minutes, until starting to smell toasty and colouring slightly. Remove from the heat, roughly chop them, then put in a large mixing bowl.

  4. Finely chop all the soft herbs and add three quarters to the mixing bowl with the chopped pistachios – the remaining quarter (a large handful or so) are going into your green tahini.

  5. To make the green tahini, blitz the remaining soft herbs with the juice of ½ a lemon, 4 tbsp tahini and a big pinch of salt and pepper (I also like to add a pinch of Aleppo pepper and/or sumac but that’s a non-essential boujee extra). Blitz until smooth, then slowly add in water until you get a drizzleable consistency.

  6. Next, make the dressing for your rice: mix together the juice of the remaining ½ lemon, 3 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper, 2 tbsp white wine or apple cider vinegar (and a pinch of chilli flakes, Aleppo pepper or sumac, optional).

  7. In your large mixing bowl, add the drained rice to the herbs and chopped pistachios, pour in the dressing and give everything a good mix.

  8. To serve, pile up the warm herby rice, top with the roasted squash and onions then drizzle over a generous helping of green tahini. If you want to add extra pizzazz, you could add more chopped toasted pistachios, more herbs, some feta and/or some pomegranate seeds.

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