Jewelled pumpkin rice

Serves 4–6

For the pumpkin and rice
Butternut squash 500g, peeled and deseeded (the flesh of a 750g squash), cut into 1 cm dice
Fine sea salt 1 tsp
Olive oil 2 tbsp
Saffron a big pinch, about 50 strands
Unsalted butter 100g
Cinnamon stick 6cm piece
Allspice berries 4 crushed
Onions 1 large or 2 medium, thinly sliced across the grain
Dried barberries (or currants) 15g
Shelled unsalted pistachios 50g
Ground cardamom ½ tsp
Basmati rice 300g, soaked in tepid, salted water for 1 hour
Vegetable stock 450ml (or 450ml boiling water mixed with 2 tsp vegetable bouillon)

For the crispy onions:
Large Spanish onion 1, very evenly sliced
Vegetable oil for frying

First, make the crispy onions. Heat 8-10mm depth of vegetable oil in a wide saucepan over a high heat. When it is hot but not smoking, add a 1cm layer of the shaved onions and reduce the heat to medium. Fry, stirring often, until they are an even golden colour. Drain and spread out on kitchen paper to cool, then repeat the process (you may need to top up the oil) until you have used all the onion.

Preheat the oven to 230C/gas mark 8. Toss the diced butternut squash with half of the salt and the olive oil. Spread it in a single layer in a baking tray and roast for 30 minutes until tender. Mix the saffron with 3 tbsp boiling water and add 25g of the butter. Set aside. Heat the remaining butter in a medium saucepan with the cinnamon and allspice until it foams, then add the onion and ½ tsp of salt. Fry over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft and starting to colour. Add the barberries, pistachios and cardamom and cook for 10 minutes more.

Now drain the rice and add to the pan, stirring for a minute or two to coat, then pour in the stock. Taste for seasoning, then add the roast squash. Cover with a circle of greaseproof paper and a tight-fitting lid and cook over a high heat for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for a final 5 minutes. Remove the lid and paper and drizzle with the buttery saffron water. Replace the lid and leave to rest, off the heat, for 5–10 minutes.

Serve with a scattering of crispy onions and some yoghurt seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper.

Recipe from Moro East.