It’s definitely starting to look autumnal outside now and I couldn’t be happier. I know some people are feeling sad that summer is over, but autumn is SO much better. All the colours, flavours, smells, fashion and even the angle of the sunlight make this my favourite time of year.
Now all the squashes and pumpkins are starting to come into the shops, I like finding as many ways of using them that I can. I think roasted butternut squash is really good in a salad with greens, tasty cheese and a nice dressing to bring it all together.
This is a hearty, autumnal themed salad with roasted squash, red chicory, apples, walnuts and a really punchy blue cheese that I picked up – Buxton Blue. This is a deep russet coloured cheese with blue veining and has a really good kick to it. I also topped the salad with some Parma ham and a few pita chips for a bit of crunch – these are very quick to make.
I like to serve the dressing on the side, or if I am taking one to work with me, I love those little screw top pots that hold just the right amount. This one has grain mustard, maple syrup and yoghurt which really works with the bitter red chicory leaves, salty cheese and sweet apples.
1 small butternut squash or pumpkin
1tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head of red chicory or radicchio, end removed and leaves separated
1 bag of mixed salad leaves, or any other greens like baby spinach or kale
1 crisp, red dessert apple
Half a lemon
1 handful of walnut halves
Around 100g blue cheese – I used the Staffordshire Cheese Company’s Buxton Blue
1 pack of Parma ham
1 large pita bread
3tbs plain yoghurt
2tsp grain mustard
2tsp lemon juice
1tsp maple syrup
Pinch of salt and black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/395°F
Peel and chop the butternut squash into bite-sized chunks. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a lined baking sheet. Roast for around 20-25 minutes, giving them a turn half way through. The chunks should be tender and the edges just staring to catch.
Brush the pita bread with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cut into into bite-sized squares, place onto a sheet and roast with the squash for 5-10 minutes – keep an eye on them, they should be crisp and golden.
Set aside while you assemble the rest of the salad.
Whisk the dressing ingredients together and check the seasoning. Add a little more lemon or maple to adjust to preferred taste.
Core and slice the apple and toss in the juice from half a lemon so it doesnt discolour. Arrange the leaves and red chicory on a platter and scatter over the squash, apple slices and walnuts. Break the cheese into crumbles and scatter those over too. Gently turn to mix the salad together.
Take slices of the Parma ham, gather then together, tear and place little ‘heaps’ in and around the rest of the salad. Finally, top with the crunchy pita chips. I prefer to serve the dressing on the side.
The salad can be scaled up or down, depending on how many people you are feeding and of course, it can be plated individually. I normally serve 1-2 slices of the Parma ham per person and sometimes use pecans instead of walnuts.
I think this colourful, autumnal salad is a great lunch dish and any left overs make a good packed lunch too.