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Heritage squash are the best squash! Tight flesh, deeply coloured and not too sweet. With a little sour and spicy nudge, this is a nourishing, comforting and substantial dish. It’s taken a long time to get over the sickly sweet butternut squash risottos of the early 2000s, this is something very different and a lot less hassle.
2kg squash - crown prince, red kuri, delicata or similar
175g barley, spelt or farro + aromatics (onion, celery, garlic – whatever you have hanging around)
Small bunch flat leaf parsley
Toasted pumpkin seeds or hazelnuts
For the pickled radicchio
1 small radicchio
75ml red wine vinegar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 star anise
Tahini (I use the creamy Lebanese kind)
Chop the pumpkin into 2 inch wedges or chunky pieces, don’t worry about peeling. Tip into a bowl with good drizzle of olive oil, toss and lay out skin side down on parchment, plenty of room between each piece. Put into a hot oven until catching at the edges and just soft.
Meanwhile cook the barley with double volume of water and aromatics (1/2 an onion, a chunk of carrot, smashed garlic cloves, parsley stalks, bay, if you have them) for 15 mins or until it still has a pleasing bite. Drain, tip in a bowl or back into the pan, dig out the aromatics (tongs are useful here) and quickly dress with olive oil, salt, plenty of pepper, lemon juice and a fistful of chopped parsley -herbs are an ingredient, not a garnish! Give this a good mix and set aside.
To make the tahini dressing, whisk 2 tbsp tahini with 4 tbsp water, a good pinch of salt and a splash of vinegar or squeeze of lemon. It will go lumpy, but keep going until it goes a few shades lighter and shiny.
Core the radicchio then pull the head apart with your hands, tearing any larger leaves in half. Bring the rest of the ingredients to the boil and then pour over the radicchio, pushing the leaves down as they wilt. Leave to cool in the liquor.
Mix the hot roasted squash through the grains and add any salad leaves and the pickled radicchio. Pile onto a plate and finish with the tahini and pumpkin seeds. (If you eat them, some feta or hard goat cheese would also work here.)