Fall Salad with Pita Chips

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.

Fall salad3

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.

Fall salad2

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.

Ingredients:
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

Dressing:
3tbs plain yoghurt
2tsp grain mustard
2tsp lemon juice
1tsp maple syrup
Pinch of salt and black pepper

Method:
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.

Squash

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.

Pita chips

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.

Fall salad1

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.

Fall salad4

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.

Fall salad

I think this colourful, autumnal salad is a great lunch dish and any left overs make a good packed lunch too.

 

Roasted Acorn Squash Quiche with Chestnuts, Bacon and Stilton

There are so many lovely pumpkins and squashes around at the moment and I love trying as many as possible.

Squash, bacon & Stilton Quiche

I think my favourite way of cooking squash is to roast it in the oven. Either simply with olive oil, salt and pepper, or adding spices and chilli.

These quiches contain roasted Acorn squash and I have left the skins on as they are fairly thin and roast up really nicely. Sometimes the older and bigger squashes have very thick skins and I tend to peel those.

Along with the squash, these quiches have crispy, smoked bacon, chestnuts and plenty of Stilton cheese, so lots of big flavours going on. I don’t add any salt to the eggs and cream as I think the bacon and Stilton add enough salt of their own, but this is my preference.

This recipe makes four individual quiches. I used 12.5cm, deep fill tartlet tins with removable bases, but you can easily make one large one.

Squash, bacon & Stilton Quiche2

Crust:
400g all-purpose flour
1 pinch of salt
230g very cold butter cut into cubes and chilled again
95ml iced water

Ingredients:
2 Acorn squashes, topped, tailed, halved and seeds removed
5 extra-large eggs
¾ pint double/heavy cream
300g Blue Stilton cheese broken in to large crumbles
320g Good quality smoked streaky bacon
180g pack of prepared sweet chestnuts, roughly broken up
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbs olive oil

Method:
Add the flour, salt and butter to a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until the butter is the size of small peas, or rough breadcrumbs. Add the iced water a little a time while pulsing the food processor, just until the dough just comes together. You might not need all of the water.

Form the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic. Leave to chill for 30 minutes.

On a floured board, roll out the pastry and then, taking care not to stretch the dough, line the tins with the pastry, re-rolling until all the tins are done. Place the pastry cases in the fridge and chill for another 30 minutes.

Squash, bacon & Stilton Quiche3

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F

Line the pastry cases with parchment paper or foil, fill with baking beans and place in the oven to blind bake for 15-20 minutes. Take the pastry shells out of the oven, remove the paper and beans and then return to the oven for further 5 minutes or until the pastry feels dry. Leave to cool before adding the filling.

Squash, bacon & Stilton Quiche1

Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/430°F

Cut the halved squashes into slices, just over 1cm thick and rub them all over in 1tbs olive oil with 1tsp of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Roast them in the oven until the squash is tender and catching on the edges. This will take around 20-25 minutes, depending on how thick the slices are.

While the squash is roasting, fry the bacon until the fat renders out and it is crisp, set aside on kitchen paper to cool before chopping into small, bite-sized pieces.

Lower the oven to 180°C/360°F

Place the blind baked pastry shells on a baking tray to make transporting to the oven easier.

Place a couple of slices of squash in the bases of each quiche, then layer over the bacon, chestnuts and chunks of Stilton cheese. Divide the filling between the 4 cases and top each one with another couple of slices of the squash.

Whisk the eggs, cream together with more freshly ground black pepper and pour over the quiches until each one is full.

Taking care not to spill, place the tray with the quiches in the oven and bake for around 30 minutes or until just set in the middle. The quiche will be nicely puffed and golden brown and will smell very good indeed.

Squash, bacon & Stilton Quiche slice

This quiche is really good hot or cold and half of one of these makes for a really nice lunch with a little salad.

Squash, bacon & Stilton Quiche plate1

The big autumnal flavours of the quiche make it perfect for an autumn party, picnic, Thanksgiving or Christmas and just the thing for a lunchbox.

Stilton, Walnut and Apple Scones

These savoury scones are flavoured with blue cheese, walnuts, apples and sage. They are really quick to make and just the thing to bake on an Autumn Sunday afternoon.

Stilton Walnut Scones

The secret to these is toasting the walnuts, it really brings them to life and they go so well with the Stilton and apple.

Ingredients:
380g self-raising flour
85g cold butter, cut into dice
1tsp salt
100g walnut halves
180g stilton cheese, rind removed and crumbled
1 large, crisp apple – grated and squeezed to remove most of the juice
8 sage leaves, finely shredded and chopped
200ml cream
1 egg yolk and a little milk to make an egg wash

Stilton scone closeup

Method:
Toss the walnuts in a dry pan and toast them on a medium heat. Keep them on the move and don’t let them burn. You know when they are ready as they start to smell nutty and toasted and they will take on a more golden colour – around 5 minutes. Set aside to cool, before roughly breaking up or chopping them.

Place the flour and salt in a bowl and rub in the butter. Do this by hand, or in a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. The butter should look like small peas and the mixture will be like rough breadcrumbs.

Add the sage, apple, walnuts and stir through the crumbled Stilton cheese.

Using a fork, or with the mixer on low speed, add the cream to create a rough dough. Do not overmix.

Turn out onto a floured board and wrap in plastic, forming a disc. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

When you are ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 190°C/375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment or a non-stick liner.

Roll or flatten out the dough to a thickness of around 5cm and cut out your scones. If you use a 6cm cutter, you should get around 8 altogether.

Stilton scones1

Place the scones on the lined baking sheet and brush with the egg wash.

Bake for around 20 minutes, or until baked through and the tops are golden brown.

Stilton scone open

These are lovely, hot from the oven with salted butter and perhaps some chutney and a little more of the Stilton. They make a delicious afternoon treat on a rainy autumn day.