Roast Pumpkin and Goat’s Cheese Salad
I think it must be one of the most frequently asked questions I get about cooking. “What can I do with herbs? I buy them for a recipe and then I’m left with them. Help!”
Herbs (and spices) are my most favourite ingredients to use. They transform the most simple of dishes – bring it to that ‘other level’ that so many TV chefs are so fond of.
So how to do it? Well, I have a couple guidelines that I tend to follow.
Herbs fall into two categories (mainly), soft and hard. Soft herbs are the fresh leafy/grassy ones like basil, oregano, chives, chervil, tarragon – I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. Hard ones generally have ‘woody’ stems, think of rosemary or thyme.
Soft herbs are at their best when you use them raw in dressings, sprinkled on dishes after cooking or added at the end of cooking a sauce. Hard herbs need a bit of cooking and work best when cooked along with roast meat or vegetables, in stews, soups or sauces.
For me, there are a couple of herbs that cross the divide like parsley and sage. Parsley works well at the end of cooking, sprinkled over pasta and all sorts of other meals, here it brings a fresh finish. In contrast it adds deep flavour to soups, stocks and stews when cooked. I know this wouldn’t be for everybody, but I quite like a little, and I mean a little (it can be powerful stuff), fresh, finely chopped sage leaves over dishes where I have used sage during the cooking process – just to heighten the fragrance element. Sage does really well when cooked. I’m sure I don’t have to mention how great a sage and onion stuffing is? Sage is really good with roast vegetables too, and of course pork in any other form – I love to put a few leaves in the pan when I’m making pork chops.
The follow up question to “What do I do with herbs?” is “How do I store them to keep them fresh for as long as possible?” I’ve tried loads of ways, and this one has given me the best results. I dampen a piece of kitchen towel in tap water, squeeze out the drips, wrap it around my bunch of herbs and keep them in the salad crisper area of your fridge (that’s the plastic drawers at the bottom, just in case you are not sure;-) ). Don’t expect them to last for weeks though, they are fresh, so they will go off, but you should get a good 5 to 7 days in this way – longer for the hard herbs.
Now that you’ve got the idea – give this recipe a try, a great illustration of how versatile herbs can be. I challenge you to use herbs in at least one meal a day.
Roast Pumpkin and Goat’s Cheese Salad – The Recipe
Preparation Time: Under 10 minutes
Cooking Time: About 15 to 20 minutes to roast the squash
For the Salad
4 x baby gem lettuce shredded or chopped finely
50gr / 1.7 oz. toasted pumpkin seeds
50gr / 1.7 oz. toasted pine nuts
100gr / 3.5 oz. mange tout, chopped finely
250gr / 8.8 oz. soft goat’s cheese
To Roast the Butternut Squash
1 x medium butternut squash with the seeds removed and cut into roughly thumb sized pieces (keep the skin on).
2 x tbsps of olive oil
1 x tbsp of honey
2 x tsps of fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Dressing
4 x tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice of a lemon
1 x tbsp honey
8 to 10 basil leaves chopped finely
1 x tbsp finely chopped chives
1 x tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
- To roast the squash, pre-heat your oven to 200°C / 400°C. Place the squash in a roasting tin, drizzle over the honey and oil, sprinkle over the thyme and a few grinds of black pepper and mix everything through until covered. Roast in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until it has softened and taken on some colour. When cooked, add a little salt.
- Whilst the squash is roasting (or you can roast it in advance), prepare the dressing by whisking the oil, lemon juice and honey in a bowl, then stir through the herbs. Add seasoning, tasting as you go.
- Place the ingredients for the salad in your serving bowl, keeping back a little of the squash, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts and cheese to dress.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss it through until everything is covered evenly. Place some of the squash, nuts and seeds and cheese over the top decoratively and drizzle with a little extra oil if you wish.