Persiana Butternut with Feta, Pesto and Pomegranate Rubies

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I was sent a copy of Sabrina Ghayour’s fabulous cookbook Persiana by my dear friend Karien all the way from Scotland – what a lucky girl I am! – and needless to say, my mind is on fire. Like everyone else, all I want to cook is Sabrina’s gorgeous food.

Yesterday I made no fewer than three recipes from the book – the spiced rice and lentil mojardara, the baby potatoes roasted in turmeric and cumin, and this beaut in the photograph – butternut with pesto, feta and pomegranate rubies. Baking butternut is a doddle, really – halve them, drizzle with olive oil, season well and bake at 180 C until tender and lightly caramelised before scooping out the seeds, add stuffing and bake a little longer.

Sabrina makes a pistachio pesto to spoon over her baked butternut, and I do give her recipe for it below in case you want to make it, but I was a bit lazy and used bottled basil pesto from Pesto Princess instead. Since I had 3/4 cup cooked green lentils leftover from the mojardara, I mixed that with 1 heaped tablespoon of chopped, toasted pistachios and spooned it into the butternut cavities.

Instead of crumbling over feta to serve, I made a feta cream from feta, cream, yoghurt, garlic, cumin, salt and chilli flakes, and spooned it over the lentils and butternut before baking. To serve, drizzle the baked stuffed butternut with pesto loosened with a little water to make it more runny, scatter over pomegranate rubies, and there you go. Delicious hot or cold, and filling enough to be a vegetarian main course.

If you’re cooking for vegetarians over the festive season, you’ve found your perfect party dish! Beautiful to look at, and big on taste.

This is my version of Persiana’s recipe:


Serves 4


2 small butternuts, halved

1 heaped tablespoon (25 ml) pistachios, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan and chopped coarsely

1 cup (250 ml) cooked or drained, canned green lentils – any other cooked beans or lentils will do

1/2 cup (125 ml) cream

1 heaped tablespoon (25 ml) Greek yoghurt

2 wheels feta, crumbled roughly

1 t (5 ml) crushed garlic

1/2 t (2.5 ml) cumin

pinch of chilli flakes

salt and pepper to taste

1 T (15 ml) green pesto (rocket, Greek, basil etc)

2 t (10 ml) water

pomegranate rubies to serve – about 1 cup (250 ml)


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Cut the butternuts in half lengthways; drizzle each half with a little olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Bake cut side up on a baking tray for about 45-50 minutes until very tender and beginning to brown.
  2. Meanwhile, make the feta cream: mix the cream, yoghurt, feta, garlic, cumin, chilli, salt and pepper and set aside. Mix the lentils with the pistachios and set aside. Mix the pesto with the water and set aside separately.
  3. When the butternut is tender, scoop out the seeds and fill the cavities with the lentil-pistachio mix. Spoon the feta cream over each stuffed butternut, and bake for another 15-20 minutes.
  4. When ready, remove butternut from the oven and place on an attractive serving platter, drizzle over the pesto, scatter over the pomegranate rubies and feast!

Sabrina Ghayour’s pistachio pesto:


100g pistachios

70g grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

olive oil

large handful each of coriander, parsley and dill, coarse stems removed

3 T (45 ml) chilli oil

juice of 1 lemon


  1. Process the pistachios and cheese together until very finely chopped, adding a little olive oil (about 2 teaspoons/10 ml) while the motor is running to loosen the mixture.
  2. Add the herbs plus 1 or 2 teaspoons of salt and process until very finely chopped.
  3. Add the chilli oil and lemon juice while the motor is running, and just enough olive oil to make a paste. Taste for seasoning and store in a glass jar for up to 1 week.
Persiana butternut with pistachios, pesto, feta and pomegranate rubies
Persiana butternut with pistachios, pesto, feta and pomegranate rubies





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Celebrating life with food, wine, friends & happiness! Writer, cook and blogger. Author of four cookbooks. Passionately South African, proudly Capetonian.