You probably expected, after my last post, that it wouldn’t take long for butternut squash to appear here. It is, without a doubt, one of my favourite things to eat.
This salad came about as an attempt to use up some left-over squash and blue cheese, a brilliant sweet and salty combination! For a salad to tempt me in autumn, it needs to have a little element of comfort. The squash and cheese bring just that.
Seeking out comfort seems to be my guiding principal when choosing what to eat right now. Since graduating and getting a temporary job working on a cookbook project, a job that fills me with gratitude along with a somewhat stressful desire to please/ impress/ not screw up/ produce the absolute best I can, I’ve been feeling a little tense, frazzled and unsure of myself. And I definitely have to try not to think too hard about how I have no idea where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing in a few months time – I’m an anxious person, I have little affinity with uncertainty.
So I suppose I look to the certainty and predictability of meals to help ground my day a little. I’m all for experimenting when it comes to what I eat every time though, but my hunger right now is always for something comforting, something that calms me down a little. Not so much in an indulgent, unhealthy, comfort food way (although a slice of home-made cake in the afternoon is pretty much a daily essential in my books!) but more, perhaps, in a nurturing way – foods that make me feel happy and healthy. For me, squash definitely ticks this box with it’s bright colour, sweetness and soft, creamy texture. More surprising are my current cravings for kale, cavolo nero or anything else of a generally dark, green, leafy nature. Perhaps it’s the earthy taste, I’m not sure, but it’s currently a very reassuring taste for me right now!
Pumpkin and sunflower seeds toasted in a little oil and cumin powder add some appealing crunch and spice to the salad, along with a little extra healthiness. I used my current default dressing for this, a mixture of olive oil, white wine vinegar and a touch of honey and mustard. It works fine, but I’m not sure if it’s the dressing for this salad. I need to experiment to be sure, perhaps a balsamic one would be better…I’d say go with your dressing of preference for this one!
Butternut squash and blue cheese salad (serves 4)
- 1 small-medium butternut squash, de-seeded and cut into largish chunks (there’s no need to peel it)
- olive oil
- 1 tbsp chopped sage
- a few thyme sprigs (optional)
- 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled (optional)
- 100g soft blue cheese, crumbled into largish pieces (I absolutely love St. Agur at the moment, but Roquefort would also be perfect)
- 3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
- 3 tbsp sunflower seeds
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 6 large handfuls of salad leaves such as baby spinach, rocket, watercress, radicchio
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1/4 tsp honey
- 1/4 tsp mustard
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Place the chunks of butternut squash in a roasting tray, drizzle over 2 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle over the chopped sage. Add the thyme sprigs and unpeeled garlic cloves to the tray if using and season with salt and pepper. Toss everything together to evenly coat in the oil.
- Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes until tender when pierced with a knife and starting to caramelise slightly. When cooked, remove from the oven and either leave to cool completely, or add to the salad while still slightly warm. Discard the thyme twigs and garlic cloves.
- For the toasted seeds, place the seeds in a small bowl, drizzle over a little olive oil and add the cumin powder. Toss everything together well. Toast in a dry frying pan over a medium-high heat until they start to pop and smell fragrant. Transfer to a plate to cool.
- To make the dressing, either whisk together the vinegar, honey, mustard and a little salt and pepper in a bowl, then slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking all the time until emulsified, or place everything in a screw top jar or a little plastic lidded tub and shake vigorously to combine everything.
- Place the salad leaves in a large bowl. Drizzle over 1-2 tbsp of the dressing and toss the leaves to coat them evenly in the dressing. Add a little extra dressing if you think it needs it. Add the roasted squash chunks, blue cheese and toasted seeds and toss gently to mix with the leaves.