Middle Eastern-inspired butternut squash and black rice pilaf

Today’s mission is to cram the maximum number of breast cancer friendly foods into one recipe that suits all diet preferences. This one is meat and dairy free, sugar and gluten free, and filled with delicious ingredients that support breast health.


  • half an organic butternut squash, chopped into 2cm chunks
  • half a fennel bulb chopped into 2cm pieces
  • 1 red onion chopped to a similar size
  • 1cm crossways slice of lemon, cut into 8 segments
  • 4 cloves of garlic, still in their skins
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 100g dry weight black rice
  • half a pomegranate, seeds removed
  • 50g pistachios
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp XVOO


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170′ fan (190′ conventional).
  2. Prepare the first five ingredients on the list and toss them in a roasting pan with the olive oil, cumin seeds, thyme and salt.
  3. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes until the squash is soft and yielding and starting to colour a little.
  4. Meanwhile, place the black rice into a saucepan with 500ml vegetable stock and a generous pinch of salt and boil gently for 30 minutes (recipes often say less time than this but I find it takes an age to cook).
  5. Drain the rice and place it in a large bowl with a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water (to take maximum advantage of those anthocyanins).
  6. Add the oven-roasted ingredients and toss the whole lot together with the pomegranate molasses and a generous amount of ground black pepper.
  7. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with pomegranate and pistachios.
  8. Drizzle over remaining olive oil.
  9. Serve with steamed Cavolo Nero or watercress salad.


This is a standalone vegan dish but would equally well accompany roast meats or grilled fish. For vegetarians, a scattering of feta or a few slices of halloumi would add an extra layer of flavour.

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