I don’t think there is a table this bright-hued, rambunctiously clashing, vegan-friendly dish could be on without becoming the star of the show. And, with the deep sweetness of the soft-fleshed squash and the fieriness of the beetroot, chilli and ginger sauce, coolly offset by the tanginess of the oat-milk crème fraîche, it has the taste to match.
It could certainly be bumped up: serve it at a warm whisper above room temperature on a platter strewn with radicchio, lightly dressed and flecked with dill fronds and perhaps a scattering of pomegranate seeds, or hot in a warmed shallow serving dish in which you’ve first tumbled in some borlotti beans (canned is fine) heated up with olive oil and a little finely chopped rosemary. Before you cook the squash (and it’s fine to roast it in advance, then heat it up in a 200C/180C fan/gas 6 oven for 20 minutes or so at the last minute), chop up half a red onion, and leave it steeping in lime juice or red wine vinegar then, just before serving, squeeze it out and gently stir the lucent pink flecks through the borlotti beans before topping with the butternut and its fabulously fuchsia sauce.
A final note on the pink sauce: I’m afraid I must sternly insist you do not use ready-cooked beetroot for it; you simply must roast the beetroot as directed in the recipe, though this can be done up to two days ahead, which certainly makes life easier.
FOR THE SAUCE
150g-175g raw beetroot
200g oat milk crème fraîche
2 fat cloves of garlic
20g fresh ginger
1 red chilli
1 tsp sea salt flakes or 1⁄2 tsp fine sea salt
FOR THE BUTTERNUT
1 butternut squash
1 tsp ground mace
1 tsp ground ginger
4 tbsp cold-pressed rapeseed oil or olive oil
1 1⁄2 tsp sea salt flakes (or 3⁄4 tsp fine sea salt)
- Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Cut the tail and stem off the beetroot and wrap loosely with foil, sealing the edges tightly. Roast in the oven for about 2 hours, or until it feels properly tender when pierced with the tip of a normal eating knife. Unwrap the parcel and leave to cool.
- Once the beetroot’s cold, you can make the sauce. Put the crème fraîche in a bowl that you can use a stick blender with. Peel and halve the garlic cloves and drop them in. Then peel the ginger with the tip of a teaspoon, and either chop it roughly or cut it into three or four pieces, and add these to the bowl. Deseed the chilli and tear it into two or three pieces and add them to the bowl, too, followed by the salt.
- Peel the beetroot, though unless you want more than a touch of the Lady Macbeths, it might be wise to wear gloves as you do so (I use disposable ones, and wash and reuse them). Break the beetroot up a bit over the bowl and drop the pieces in, too. Then blitz to a smooth, shocking-pink cream with a stick blender. You can also do all of this with a bullet blender. Set this amazingly vivid fluid sauce to one side for now.
- To roast the butternut heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Do not peel the butternut, just halve it, remove the seeds, and then cut into large chunks. Tumble these into a large but fairly shallow roasting tin (I use one measuring 34cm x 37cm x 5cm), sprinkle over the spices as evenly as possible, pour over the oil and then, with a couple of spatulas – or your hands – turn the butternut chunks well in the oil and spices until lightly coated. Sprinkle with the salt and roast in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until tender; squashes vary enormously and, until you cut up and cook one, you never quite know whether its flesh will be smooth and dense, or slightly grainy and watery. Let us hope for the former.
- You can keep the butternut warm in the turned-off oven if that suits you, and then, when you’re ready to serve, arrange on a platter or in a large shallow bowl, spoon some of the beetroot sauce pinkly over its orange flesh, and pour the rest into a little jug for people to add more if they want – and they will – as they eat.
Food styling: Emily Kidd. Prop styling: Luis Peral. Photo assistant & retouching: Sophie Bronze. Food styling assistant: Susanna Unsworth. Recipes taken from Nigella Express, At My Table, Feast, Simply Nigella, Nigella Christmas, Cook Eat Repeat. For more, visit nigella.com.