Khoresht-e-Kadoo – butternut squash boats

This Persian dish is a favourite at Persepolis Towers. It is a delicious combo: the sharpness of the cooking stock contrasts beautifully with the creaminess of the squash. It is usually prepared with chicken in Iran, but as our next cookery book is vegetarian, we are trying to wean you off meat.

Kadoo in Persian just means squash, and in common parlance little differentiation is made between them: the word is applied equally to courgettes and pumpkins. If you really want to be pedantic, you can refer to the butternut variety as kadoo halvayi – it is, after all, sweet and creamy like halva.

Bazaar requisitions:

  • 100g Persian yellow split peas (chana dall)*
  • 1 butternut squash
  • rapeseed or groundnut oil for cooking
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 cm ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 Scotch Bonnet (or other hot) chilli, chopped (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
  • half teaspoon ground cumin*
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric*
  • 2 teaspoons tomato purée*
  • 150ml sour grape juice* (or white wine with a little lemon juice)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh, pickled or frozen sour grapes (optional)*
  • salt to taste*
  • 2 acorn squashes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil*
  • 2 teaspoons honey*

*denotes available at Persepolis

First off, put the split peas in a pan of water, bring it to the boil and cook for about half an hour before draining and setting to one side.

Peel the butternut squash, set the seeds aside for roasting, and cube the flesh roughly (aim for 3cm chunks). Heat a splash of oil in a sauce pan, and fry the squash cubes for about eight minutes until they are golden in colour and beginning to soften on the outside. Scoop them out on to some kitchen towel to drain.

Next toss the onion, pepper, ginger and chilli into the hot oil and fry until the onion is just starting to brown. Stir in the spices, followed by the puree, followed by the squash and the split peas. Pour in the verjuice and the whole sour grapes if using, and top up with water if necessary (the stock should be level with the top of the vegetables). Bring the pan’s contents to the boil and then turn the heat down and leave it to simmer for around 35 minutes or until the squash is very soft and the split peas cooked. Season to taste.

Whilst the casserole is cooking, get the ‘boats’ ready. Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 (190?C). Halve the acorn squash, discarding the seeds, and if necessary trim a bit off the bottom of each half so that they will sit comfortably with the cut side facing up. Mix the olive oil with the honey, and rub it over all the exposed flesh (that will be the squash’s, not yours), pop them on a baking tray and slide them into the oven to bake for about 45 minutes or until they are well cooked.

Serve the khoresht, or sauce, inside the acorn squash boats. Dinky, no? Accompany with plain white basmati rice and some plain yoghurt.