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 Autumn Vegetable Plait

Now we are into September, I think we can officially break out the Autumn recipes. While it might not be time for scarves, gloves and thick coats, I am definitely thinking of all things Fall.

With cooler temperatures and squashes and pumpkins arriving into the shops, my thoughts turn to roasts, soups, stews and casseroles. One of my favourite ways of cooking vegetables is to roast them and with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, autumn and winter vegetables really taste at their very best.

Kale

This vegetable plait consists of roasted seasonal vegetables, deep green Cavolo Nero, together with fragrant, woody herbs, chestnuts and blue cheese. They all go exceptionally well together and form a perfect vegetarian dinner dish. It’s also really good served cold the next day with salad, or in a lunchbox.

Autumn veg plait

Ingredients:
1 small Acorn or Queen squash, or a small butternut squash, washed, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
2 small red onions, halved and sliced
Small bunch of Cavolo Nero, washed, ribs removed and roughly torn up
Small bunch of Sage, rolled and cut into very fine strips
1 tbs Thyme leaves, chopped
200g Blue cheese like Stilton, rind removed and broken into fairly large crumbles
1 Pack of vacuum packed chestnuts, broken up a little
Puff pastry – either home-made or shop bought and rolled into a rectangle (approx 35cmx23cm)
Olive oil
Butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Egg and a little milk for brushing

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C

Rub the squash with 1tbs of olive oil, 1tsp salt and ½tsp pepper and place on a baking tray and roast until tender and just catching at the edges. This will take around 30 minutes. When ready, allow to cool.

While the squash is roasting, gently sauté the onions in a small knob of butter, a little oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until softened, translucent and golden. Remove from the pan and allow to cool. In the same pan, add a little more butter, the kale and a tbs of water. Stir around until it has wilted a little.

Place the puff pastry onto a lined baking sheet and cut thick strips around the edge, leaving a centre rectangle intact.

Autumn veg plait1

Gently, mix together the squash, kale, chestnuts, cheese, sage and thyme and place onto the pastry. It should be fairly compact as you are going to wrap the strips of pasty around it to form a parcel.

Brush the strips with a little of the egg wash and fold over the ends first and then alternate side strips until the filling is encased. Cover with cling film and chill for an hour or overnight if you are making ahead.

Autumn veg plait slice

When you are ready to bake, brush the egg wash all over the pastry and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

Autumn veg slice

Bring on Autumn, I love it!

Butternut, Kale and Sage Derby Quiche

I love all kinds of cheese and experimenting with recipes that contain cheese. When I was a child I used to look at Sage Derby in the delicatessen and think because it was so green, it must be really strongly flavoured, or pungent. However, when I actually tasted it, I loved it. Not strong at all, but a lovely fragrant, herby cheese that’s good for eating and cooking with.

butternut quiche

I discovered Fowlers Sage Derby cheese recently and it caught my eye as it didn’t have the usual bright green marbling. It was however, full of sage. I tried it and absolutely loved it, so of course I had to try and cook with it.

The autumnal weather we have been having lately has been making me think of the flavours of autumn – kale and butternut squash and of course sage goes so well with it. I decided the best way to showcase the cheese was in a quiche. Roasted butternut squash, wilted kale cooked with a little fresh sage and lots of the Sage Derby cheese. The result was completely decadent and delicious.

Butternut quiche side

Crust:
300g/10.5oz plain/all-purpose flour
1tsp salt
227g/8oz butter cut into cubes and chilled
1 large egg, beaten
1-2tbs iced water

Ingredients:
1 small butternut squash, peeled, halved and seeds removed (a small pumpkin would also work well)
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 bunch of Cavalo Nero/Tuscan Kale, washed, ribs removed and roughly chopped or torn
5 fresh sage leaves, finely shredded
6 extra large eggs
280g Sage derby cheese – grated
¾ pint double/heavy cream
Salt and pepper
A few scrapes of fresh nutmeg
A little olive oil and butter

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 until the dough just comes together.  You might not need all of the water.

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

Roll out the pastry and, without stretching, line the base and sides of a 10inch/25cm tin. Return to the fridge and chill for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F

Line the pastry with parchment paper or foil, leaving plenty to come up the sides. Fill with baking beans and place in the oven to blind bake for 15-20 minutes.  Take the pastry shell out of the oven, remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for further 5 minutes or until the pastry feels dry.  Leave to cool a little before adding the filling.

Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/430°F and slice the butternut squash just under 1cm thick and cut the slices in half. Toss in 1tbs olive oil with 1tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper and roast in the oven until the squash is tender and catching on the edges. This will take around 25 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, heat ½tbs of oil and a small knob of butter in a pan and sauté the onion slowly with a pinch of salt and pepper until they are soft and golden. Set aside to cool

Then in the same pan, add a tiny bit more butter if the pan is dry and sauté the kale and shredded sage until wilted, set aside with the other vegetables.

Lower the oven to 180°C/360°F

Roll out the pastry on a floured board and line a 25cm/10inch tin, leaving an excess to trim off later.

Butternut quiche close up

Place baking paper in the tin and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 20 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and then return to the oven to bake for another 5 minutes.

Whisk the eggs and cream with the nutmeg, another ½tsp salt and a little more black pepper. Stir in the grated cheese.

Layer the onions, squash and kale in the pastry case and cover with the cheesy egg mixture.

Carefully place in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until just set in the middle. The quiche will be puffed and golden brown and smelling delicious.

butternut quiche slice out

This is lovely eaten warm with a salad, but equally good cold. We had some of this one cold with some pickled shallots which went together perfectly.

Quiches are always good to take on a picnic or put in a lunchbox too. I think this one is good any time of year, but would be perfect for an autumn picnic and could easily hold its own on a festive table at Christmas.

Butternut quiche slice

It’s still summer now, but the butternut squash and sage combination is a precursor for all the Autumnal flavours – coming soon!