Happy Spring Day everyone!
Also, Happy Braai Day if you’re South African!!
In an ode to both Spring Day and Braai Day (and bikini season looming on the horison, boo-hoo!) here’s the recipe for my favourite salad. It’s the only green salad I know of that gets people returning for seconds; it’s got the sweet earthiness of the butternut balanced with the salty creamy cheese, which in turn is balanced with crisp red onion and crunchy pumpkin seeds, with a nice bite coming from peppadews and balsamic vinegar – all against a backdrop of peppery leaves. And it’s so pretty too!
If you want to go all-out with it, try adding thinly sliced biltong or smoked chicken, or how about replacing the feta with a nice stinky gorgonzola?
To make a big bowl of Roast Butternut & Feta salad (serves 4-6):
(all quantities are approximate by the way – it’s salad for crying out loud!)
250g butternut, peeled and diced
1/2 red onion, peeled and sliced
150g Danish feta, cubed
Handful of raw pumpkin seeds
Handful of hot peppadews (the pickled kind, but drain the liquid off), sliced into strips
Herby mixed salad leaves (things like rocket, mizuna, baby spinach, radicchio, etc.), torn up if the leaves are very big
If you’ve bought pre-packed butternut cubes (life is too short to try to peel butternut), then they are most likely enormous chunks which need some taken off the back and sides – using a sharp knife, cut them into 2 x 2cm cubes. Toss them in a tiny amount of olive oil with salt and pepper, then roast at 180 degrees Celsius for about 45 minutes – they need to be cooked through but not mushy and falling to pieces. Let the cubelets cool to room temperature before assembling the salad (cold butternut cubes seem slimy to me, but maybe that’s just me).
While the butternut is roasting, heat a dry pan and toast the pumpkin seeds. As they heat up, the oils will come to the surface and they will become shiny and darken slightly – watch them carefully, because burnt pumpkin seeds have a very different taste to toasted pumpkin seeds! When they are ready they will sound dry and crispy as you move them round the pan. Decant them into a dish so that they don’t end up burning in the residual heat of the pan.
Then assemble the salad while nibbling on 50g of the feta:
Scatter the leaves into a pretty salad dish, followed by a sprinkling of onion, butternut, feta, peppadews, and the toasted seeds. Try to make sure that you can see all the different ingredients for a pretty salad. Then, splash gently with a bit of balsamic just before serving, and watch in amazement as everyone gobbles it up and comes back for more.
Serve at a braai with lots of good friends and cold beer!