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.

 

Stilton, Spinach & Walnut Stuffed Mushrooms

I don’t care what people think, life is definitely not too short to stuff a mushroom!

Stuffed mushrooms2

I love stuffed mushrooms and these meaty, Portobello ones have delicious Colston Bassett Stilton cheese, fresh spinach, walnuts and sage.  They make a really nice lunch that’s perfect for this time of year and make a great side dish for nice juicy steak.

I have also made smaller versions of this recipe, using chestnut mushrooms and served them warm as a canapé.

Stuffed mushrooms

Serves 2

Ingredients:
3 Portobello Mushrooms, with stems removed
1tbs olive oil
Knob of butter
Salt and pepper
1 small onion, finely chopped
Freshly chopped sage
Large bunch of fresh spinach leaves
180g Stilton cheese, broken up into large crumbles
Handful of walnuts, roughly chopped
Two slices of lightly stale white bread, just leave it out for an hour. Remove crusts and whizz up in the food processor until you have crumbs
Small bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
4tbs double cream

Stuffed mushroom

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/375°F

Add the parsley to the breadcrumbs and stir to combine and set aside.

Heat the oil and butter in a non-stick pan.

Very finely chop one of the mushrooms and add to the pan, along with the chopped onion, sage and a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook until the onion has softened, add the spinach until wilted and then stir in the cream. Cook for a further minute, before turning off the heat. Stir in the stilton, walnuts and herby breadcrumbs.

Stuffed mushroom closeup

Using a spatula, gently press the mixture into the mushroom caps, dividing the mixture equally between the two mushrooms.

Stuffed Mushroom slice

Bake for around 30 minutes, until melted, golden and crisp. Serve as a first course with salad, or on the side of a steak.

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.