So I was minding my own business at work this Friday (and I apologise once again for the dearth of posts here, but work has been *crazy*) when I got an SMS from Andrew: “Do you have a recipe for pumpkin and sweet potato salad?”. As it happens, I don’t, so I SMSed back: “No, but I can write one! What do you need…?”
Anyway, it transpired that one of the teachers at the school where Andrew is doing his placement had a sweet potato and pumpkin salad at some point which she really liked. She thinks it had Philadelphia cheese in it, and that the vegetables were roasted. I had no problem with roast pumpkin in a salad (indeed, roast vegetable and chickpea salad is one of my favourite lunches after a roast the night before), but was dubious about the Philly. I still am dubious, in fact, but fortunately I am not even a little bit dubious about Persian feta, which is creamy and tangy and makes much more sense in this context…
Here’s my version. It’s rather lovely, if I say so myself – sweet and mellow from the vegetables and peppery from the rocket and creamy and tangy from the cheese. And so colourful!
Your Shopping list2 medium sweet potatoes (about 700g in total) a big wedge of pumpkin (about 800g) olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper 1 medium bunch of rocket 1-3 spring onions, depending on whether they are the lovely chubby oniony ones or the ones that are like giant chives. 100 g persian feta olive oil, balsamic vinegar
Now what will you do with it?
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Peel your sweet potatoes and pumpkin and cut them into cubes (I go with a bit less than an inch – a nice bite-sized chunk). Place them on a large baking tray, and season with salt, pepper and rosemary. Drizzle some olive oil over them, and toss to coat. Sorry about the complete lack of quantities here, but this is a real personal taste thing. If you like olive oil spray and minimal salt, that’s fine with me (but if you are a lots of olive oil person, don’t go overboard here or the veggies will drown, which is a sad fate for a vegetable. Also a very un-tasty one.).
Roast for about 40 minutes or until soft and caramelised a little around the edges. Leave to cool – you want them pleasingly warm but you don’t want them to wilt the rocket.
Speaking of the rocket, now is a good time to wash it and remove it from its stems. While you’re at it, slice up the spring onion, and place it and the rocket in a large salad bowl.
When the roast veggies are at a temperature that appeals to you, pour them into the bowl with the rocket, and toss briefly. Crumble the feta and add to the bowl, and drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. You don’t need much – I suspect about a tablespoon of each is ample. But I don’t actually know because I’m annoying like that.
Serve at once, either as a light lunch in its own right, or as a pretty serious side dish. We had it with felafel, which was pretty nice. Cold roast meat would work well here, too (and you could be very cunning and roast extra veggies with the meat the day before, so that you have a head start on the salad – which would now be room temperature rather than warm, but that’s OK).
Variations, so many variations!
I wanted to make three or four salads for Andrew’s colleague to choose from, but this weekend got busy so I’m just going to tell you about the ones I imagined. The ones that were edible, not the silly salads, that is.
Firstly, I chose Persian feta for the creaminess, but I think this would be excellent with ordinary feta, and another lovely light lunch might be to make this without cheese, and grill some halloumi at the last moment to serve over the top. With good bread. Yum. Ooh, or skip the cheese entirely and have with good bread and proper spicy soppressa sausage cut into thick slices and fried (no oil required – soppressa is full of fat which renders very easily). Or make it just as it is, or with shaved parmesan, and toss it through pasta, at which point it is definitely not a light meal any more.
If you are avoiding dairy, fear not, a good handful of toasted pine nuts or walnuts would be lovely in this. You could have those with the cheese too, of course, but you don’t really need them there. To toast nuts, put them in a dry frying pan over medium heat and watch like a hawk. Don’t do what I do, which is wander off and do something else in the kitchen while the nuts merrily blacken to charcoal. (This happens faster than you can possibly imagine. It’s gotten so bad that I now try to recruit Andrew for all my nut-toasting requirements, because he actually pays attention to what he is doing…)
Another thing you could do with this is make a vaguely Indian-themed roast veggie salad. Instead of rosemary (and, incidentally, there was no reason at all you couldn’t have used sage, had you chosen to), try roasting the veggies with cumin, ginger, chilli and coriander seed (or for an equally aromatic but less spicy version, use garam masala), and use sunflower oil instead of olive oil. Use baby spinach instead of rocket and swap out the cheese for chickpeas. This would be nice hot or at room temperature, I should think, and would make a good lightish main with yoghurt and flatbread on the side, or a good accompaniment for any protein you might have cooked with a dry curry rub of some kind or on a barbecue.
Or you could make my other roast vegetable and chickpea salad, which involves a mixture of roast vegetables (pumpkin, eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, tomato, carrot, parsnip, whatever) with chickpeas, lots of parsley, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Again, no quantities required because this one works pretty much any way you do it.