Char-grilled sprouting broccoli with sweet tahini
This salad is loved even by those who claim not to like tahini. Serves four.View Recipe
550g purple-sprouting broccoli
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1½ tsp honey
2 tsp lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 tsp each white and black sesame seeds, toasted (or just 2 tsp white)
Trim any big leaves off the broccoli and cut off the woody base of the stems. Blanch for three minutes in boiling, salted water until al dente, refresh, drain and leave to dry.
Toss the broccoli in the oil, a teaspoon of salt and a large pinch of pepper, then cook on a very hot ridged griddle pan for two minutes on each side, until slightly charred and smoky. Set aside to cool.
Whisk the tahini, honey, lemon juice, garlic and a pinch of salt, and slowly start to add water half a tablespoon at a time. At first, the sauce will look as if it has split, but it will soon come back together. Add just enough water to make the sauce the consistency of honey – around three tablespoons in total. Arrange the broccoli on a platter, drizzle with sauce and scatter with sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature.
Roast butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za'atar
If you want a vegetarian dish to make an impact on the table, this does the job – it looks great and has really complex flavours. Serves four.View Recipe
1 large butternut squash (around 1.1kg), cut into 2cm x 6cm wedges
2 red onions, cut into 3cm wedges
50ml olive oil
Maldon sea salt and black pepper
3½ tbsp tahini paste
1½ tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp water
1 small garlic clove, crushed
30g pine nuts
1 tbsp za'atar
1 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
Heat the oven to to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Put the squash and onions in a large bowl, add three tablespoons of oil, a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper, and toss well. Spread, skin down, on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes until the vegetables have taken on some colour and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions: they may cook faster than the squash, so may need to be removed earlier. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Put the tahini in a small bowl with the lemon juice, water, garlic and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Whisk to the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini as necessary.
Pour the remaining oil into a small frying pan on a medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and half a teaspoon of salt, cook for two minutes, stirring, until the nuts are golden brown, then tip the nuts and oil into a small bowl.
To serve, spread the vegetables on a platter and drizzle over the sauce. Scatter the pine nuts and oil on top, followed by the za'atar and parsley.
Marinated mushrooms with walnut and tahini yogurt
Shimeji are those odd-looking clusters of small mushrooms you often find in so-called "exotic" selections at the supermarket. They have an appealing firmness that is retained during light cooking. Here, they're combined with chestnut mushrooms and marinated to make a refreshing mix that you can serve on its own, add to salads (try it with red and white endive and lots of soft herbs), or combine with other great things, as I do here. Serves four.View Recipe
75ml olive oil
1 tbsp white-wine vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
Juice 2 medium lemons
Fine sea salt and black pepper
150g buna-shimeji mushrooms, large base removed
200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
120ml Greek yogurt
35g tahini paste
1 small clove garlic, crushed
250g podded broad beans (fresh, or frozen and defrosted)
75g walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp chopped dill
1 tbsp fresh chopped oregano
Whisk together the oil, vinegar, maple syrup, juice of one lemon, about half a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper. Put all the mushrooms in a large bowl, pour over the dressing, stir, making sure all the mushrooms are coated, and leave to marinate for an hour.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, tahini, garlic, the juice of the other lemon and half a teaspoon of salt. Use a fork or a whisk to whip into a light paste. You can refrigerate this sauce for up to a day.
Next, put the broad beans in a pot, pour over plenty of boiling water, leave for a minute, then drain and set aside to cool down. Once cool enough to handle, gently squeeze each bean so it pops out of its skin (if you don't mind the skin, skip this stage). Add the beans, walnuts and cumin to the marinated mushrooms, stir, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
Serve in small bowls or plates, topped with a dollop of thick tahini sauce and sprinkled with chopped dill and oregano.
Tahini and halva brownies
The cooking time is crucial if you’re to get the desired balance between cakey and gooey, but it can vary depending on both your oven and where you put your brownie tray. The difference between a cooking time of 18 and 22 minutes can be significant, so do stay alert. These keep for up to five days in an airtight container. Makes 20 brownies.View Recipe
240g unsalted butter, cut into 2cm dice
240g dark chocolate (70-75% cocoa solids), broken into 3-4cm pieces
330g caster sugar
120g plain flour, sifted
30g cocoa powder, sifted
130g walnuts, lightly roasted and roughly chopped
150g tahini paste
130g halva, broken into 2-3cm pieces
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Quarter-fill a small saucepan with water and place on a high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and sit a heatproof bowl on top of the pan, making sure its base does not come into contact with the water. Put the butter and chocolate in the bowl, leave for about two minutes, to melt, then remove the bowl from the heat and stir until you have a thick, shiny sauce. Set aside to come down to room temperature.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and creamy, and the whisk leaves a trail behind it – about three minutes with an electric whisk, longer by hand. Gently fold the chocolate mix into the eggs – don’t overwork the mix – then fold in the flour, cocoa, walnuts and three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt. Pour into a 21cm x 31cm baking tray lined with parchment paper and spread out into an even layer.
Use a spoon to insert tahini into the brownie mix in about 12 places, then use the back of a clean spoon to swirl it a little through the mix – not too much: you want it uneven. Dot the halva on the surface, pushing it down a little so that it is well submerged but still visible.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until the top is crisp and the middle still has a slight wobble and is gooey inside: check after 18 minutes (see introduction). The brownies may seem a bit undercooked at first, but they will firm up as they cool down. Cut the baked brownie into 20 pieces and serve warm-ish (and gooey!) or at room temperature (and not quite so gooey).