This is where I’d reluctantly stand up in a room full of fellow-afflicted and confess: “I am The Dutch Foodie and I am a cookbook addict”.
Despite also being an internet addict and constantly googling for inspirational fodder, you just can’t beat leafing through a cookbook the old fashioned way. I especially enjoy the ones that are literally falling apart, with gunk-splattered pages, reminding me of recipes I much enjoyed and clearly cooked repeatedly.
I dare not disclose the latest count of my expansive cookbook collection. All I’ll say is that in the past weeks, Mr Postman has delivered two Ottolenghi books, one on Korean food, a Ukranian cookbook, one on chicken and, last but not least, #CookForSyria. I do like variety.
#CookFor Syria is a commendable initiative from award-winning London-based blogger Clerkenwell Boy and friends to raise money for and awareness of Syrian children in need. The initiative entices and inspires us to put on our own #CookForSyria breakfast, lunch or dinner for friends and family, donating the proceeds to UNICEF UK in aid of the thousands of desolate children affected by the Syrian conflict.
Not just is this a wonderful cause which I wholeheartedly support, this is a wonderful recipe book in its own right. All the recipes are donated by renowned food bloggers and celebrity chefs such as Angela Hartnett, Yotam Ottolenghi, Hemsley & Hemsley, Jeremy Lee and Tomasina Meirs to name but a few.
The dishes are deeply rooted in the traditions of Syrian cuisine, reminiscent of the more well-known North African and Middle Eastern cuisines of Morocco, Turkey and Israel. Yoghurt, aubergines, honey, pomegranate, freekeh and spices such as sumac and za’atar feature heavily.
This warm winter salad is inspired by the typical flavour combinations of Ottolenghi and #CookForSyria. In fact, the combination of butternut squash, feta and pomegranate is a tried and tested favourite of mine and you will find them in many guises on my table, be it in a salad, a hearty stew or even on a “pizza”. Throwing in another firm favourite, legumes, whilst I am at it.
The result? The sunny flavours of warmer climes befitting a cold English winter’s day. Perfect.
Warm Winter Salad of Butternut, Mung Bean and Pomegranate (serves 4 – GF V LC RSF)
This salad is best assembled and eaten while the butternut squash and legumes are warm rather than piping hot, so the salad leaves don’t wilt into oblivion. This provides a refreshing contrast with the cold feta and pomegranate seeds.
For the butternut squash
1/2 butternut squash, seeds and stringy insides removed, sliced or diced (I don’t bother peeling as the skin becomes soft and edible after roasting)
1 tbsp Za’atar (buy it or make your own. I made mine as per page 56 of #CookForSyria)
1 tbsp olive oil or rapeseed oil
For the legumes:
120 gr dried mung beans, green or puy lentils
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed or finely chopped
1 fresh red or green chilli, seeds in or out to taste
2-3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tbsp olive oil or rapeseed oil
For the salad:
seeds from 1 pomegranate
4 large handfuls of mixed salad leaves
pickled beetroot (optional)
a good handful of fresh coriander, mint and/or parsley, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely sliced
100 gr feta, cubed or crumbled
For the tahini dressing:
1 1/2 tbsp well-stirred tahini
3 tbsp bio yoghurt
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed or finely chopped
A little water or milk to thin out the dressing if needed
A pinch of ground cumin
A pinch of paprika, chilli powder or cayenne
Heat the oven to 200 C.
Mix the oil with the Za’atar and season with black pepper. Swish the butternut squash around in the spiced oil until well-coated and bake for 40 mins or until cooked and golden, turning half-way.
Meanwhile, rinse the legumes and cook as per packet instructions. Towards the end of the cooking time, heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the spices. Once they start to pop, add the garlic, chilli and spring onion. Cook until tender but still with a little bite.
As soon as the legumes are cooked, drain them and return them to the pan, Stir through the hot spiced spring onion mix and half of the fresh chopped herbs. Set aside.
Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients into a bowl, mini-food processor or blender and combine until smooth.
Divide the salad leaves over 4 plates or onto a large serving platter. Top with the roasted butternut and legumes.
Scatter over the feta, pomegranate seeds and red onion. Drizzle over the tahini dressing and sprinkle over the remaining fresh herbs.