A few weeks ago while I was at Costco, I spotted Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's new cookbook, Jerusalem, and I had to have it.  I have Yotam Ottolenghi's other cookbook, Plenty, which is full of beautiful vegetarian recipes which are served at his eponymous London restaurant.The first order of business was to bookmark the pages of recipes that I want to try.  I must have been really hungry when I did this exercise because 95% of the pages have post-its on them. The first recipe I tried this past weekend was the roasted butternut squash and red onions with tahini dressing.  Wow is pretty much all I can say.  Easy and so flavourful.  There are a few slightly exotic ingredients in this recipe, but don't be dissuaded - they are easily sourced from Middle Eastern food stores or good grocery stores.

Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds - like peanut butter but made with sesame seeds.  You can get it from most grocery stores.  Like natural nut butters, you have to stir it vigorously every time you use it because the oils tend to separate from the solids.

Za'atar is a spice condiment made from sesame seeds, thyme and sumac, salt and sometimes other spices.  It is often used in Arab cuisine.  If you can't find za'atar ready-made, you can buy the spices at a bulk spice store and mix your own.


Roasted butternut squash and red onions with tahini and za'atar

Recipe Type


Side dish


Middle Eastern


Yotam Ottolenghi, "Jerusalem" cookbook

Prep time:

20 mins

Cook time:

40 mins

Total time:

1 hour




  • 1 large butternut squash (2 1/4 lb /1.1 kg in total), cut into 3/4 by 2 1/2-inch/2 cm by 6 cm wedges
  • 2 red onions, cut into 1 1/4-inch/3 cm wedges
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons/50 ml olive oil
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons light tahini paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons/30 g pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon za’atar
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 475°F / 240°C. Put the squash and onion in a large mixing bowl, add 3 tablespoons of the oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper and toss well. Spread on a baking sheet with the skin facing down and roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables have taken on some color and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions as they might cook faster than the squash and need to be removed earlier. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  2. To make the sauce, place the tahini in a small bowl along with the lemon juice, water, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Whisk until the sauce is the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini if necessary
  3. Pour the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil into a small frying pan and place over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often, until the nuts are golden brown. Remove from the heat and transfer the nuts and oil to a small bowl to stop the cooking.
  4. To serve, spread the vegetables out on a large serving platter and drizzle over the tahini. Sprinkle the pine nuts and their oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.