Sometimes the simplest of dishes are just as impactful as the more complex, time consuming ones. Ottolenghi has a reputation for complex dishes with many processes and even more ingredients. That’s true, indeed, and there are some very complex dishes in his book Plenty More, the one I am cooking from at the moment. But there are others (thank goodness) that are *relatively* simple. Rather than flavours layered over and over and over in a dish, the simple contrasts and textures are enough to provide just as much impact, but in a different way.
This recipe recommends pickled walnuts, but they are difficult to find here. So we make a salsa with freshly shelled walnuts, and that is paired with the labneh and butternut pumpkin. It is a delicious combination.
As mentioned, this is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More – we are cooking our way through this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area.
Char-grilled squash with labneh and pickled walnut salsa: A riot of colour and flavour alike. Buy labneh, which is thick, strained yoghurt, from a providore or a Middle Eastern grocer, though it’s quite easy to make your own. Just hang natural yoghurt in muslin for a couple of days. Or use goat’s curd or a very fresh goat’s cheese instead.
In fact it is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.
Char Grilled Butternut with Labneh and Walnut Salsa
65g walnuts, roughly chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 Tblspn red wine vinegar
1 Tblspn olive oil
2 Tblspn olive oil, plus extra to finish
sea salt and black pepper
900g Butternut pumpkin
30g rocket leaves
150g labneh (make your own – see below for instructions – or purchase from providores)
10g dill leaves
labneh (if making your own)
300g Desi or Greek Yoghurt
To make the labneh, line a sieve with a piece of muslin cloth – if it is thin, you can use double thickness. Place the yoghurt in the cloth, and fold the cloth over the to of the yoghurt. Place a weight on top and allow to drain for several hours until very thick. It can be drained overnight in the fridge – place the sieve on a plate or bowl to catch the drained liquid.
To make the salad, first make the walnut salsa. Put all of the salsa ingredients in a small bowl with a little sea salt to taste, and stir. Set aside.
Heat the oven to 200C.
Cut the squash in half, discard the seeds and cut into wedges about 1.5cm thick at the base. Place in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, add the remaining olive oil and mix with your hands to coat the squash in oil.
Place a ridged griddle pan on high heat. When red-hot, cook the squash in batches for about two minutes on each side, to get good grill marks all over. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, and roast for 10-15 minutes, until tender. Remove and leave to cool.
Arrange the squash and rocket on a serving plate, dotting with dollops of labneh as you go. Spoon over the salsa and sprinkle with dill. Finish with a dribble of olive oil.