Nigella’s Christmas Feast: Butternut and beetroot with chilli, ginger sauce

I don’t think there is a table this bright-hued, rambunctiously clashing, vegan-friendly dish could be on without becoming the star of the show. And, with the deep sweetness of the soft-fleshed squash and the fieriness of the beetroot, chilli and ginger sauce, coolly offset by the tanginess of the oat-milk crème fraîche, it has the taste to match.

It could certainly be bumped up: serve it at a warm whisper above room temperature on a platter strewn with radicchio, lightly dressed and flecked with dill fronds and perhaps a scattering of pomegranate seeds, or hot in a warmed shallow serving dish in which you’ve first tumbled in some borlotti beans (canned is fine) heated up with olive oil and a little finely chopped rosemary. Before you cook the squash (and it’s fine to roast it in advance, then heat it up in a 200C/180C fan/gas 6 oven for 20 minutes or so at the last minute), chop up half a red onion, and leave it steeping in lime juice or red wine vinegar then, just before serving, squeeze it out and gently stir the lucent pink flecks through the borlotti beans before topping with the butternut and its fabulously fuchsia sauce.

A final note on the pink sauce: I’m afraid I must sternly insist you do not use ready-cooked beetroot for it; you simply must roast the beetroot as directed in the recipe, though this can be done up to two days ahead, which certainly makes life easier.



150g-175g of raw beetroot

200g oat milk crème fraîche

Two cloves of fat garlic

20g fresh ginger

1 Red chilli

1 tablespoon sea salt flakes

½ tsp fine sea salt


1 Butternut squash

1 tablespoon ground mace

1 tablespoon ground ginger

4 Tbsp olive oil (or cold-pressed rapeseed)

1½ tsp sea salt flakes (or ¾ tsp fine sea salt)

  • The oven should be heated to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. The beetroot should be cut in half. Wrap it loosely in foil. Toast in the oven until tender, about two hours. Leave the package to cool.
  • Once the beetroot’s cold, you can make the sauce. Put the crème fraîche in a bowl that you can use a stick blender with. Cut the garlic into halves and add them to the bowl. Next, peel and cut the ginger using a tablespoon. The chilli can be sliced into small pieces.
  • The beetroot should be peeled, but unless you are looking for more Lady Macbeths-like flavor, you might want to use gloves. I wear disposable gloves that can be washed and reused. You can also break up the beetroot and add the bits to the bowl. Blend until you have a creamy, vibrant-pink cream. This can also be done using a bullet mixer. This vibrant fluid sauce can be put aside for now.
  • The oven should be heated to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 for roasting the butternut. You don’t need to peel the butternut. Just halve it and take out the seeds. Then cut the pieces into chunks. Tumble these into a large but fairly shallow roasting tin (I use one measuring 34cm x 37cm x 5cm), sprinkle over the spices as evenly as possible, pour over the oil and then, with a couple of spatulas – or your hands – turn the butternut chunks well in the oil and spices until lightly coated. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes or until tender. Squashes vary greatly and you don’t know if the flesh is smooth, dense or slightly grainy. Let us hope that the latter.
  • You can keep the butternut warm in the turned-off oven if that suits you, and then, when you’re ready to serve, arrange on a platter or in a large shallow bowl, spoon some of the beetroot sauce pinkly over its orange flesh, and pour the rest into a little jug for people to add more if they want – and they will – as they eat.