Roasted Pumpkin and St Agur Salad

 The end of summer is here. We are feeling the cold seep into London, which in unfortunate because my relationship with Gelato was just getting exciting, but with the cold comes changing leaves, crisp aired walks, that feeling of excitement like school is starting (yes I know I’m in my 30’s, but I still love stationary shopping). This salad makes me think of summer but uses delicious pumpkin ripe and ready for autumn. Add in a rich blue cheese, toasted nuts and cranberries and you have something really simple but special.

The sweet roasted pumpkin is matched up against the savoury, salty tang of the blue cheese, the bitter toasted walnuts and the sour dried cranberries and pomegranate  molasses. The serving size is perfect  as dinner for two and to be enjoyed with a glass of lightly sweet Riesling or a rich Sauternes. For best results, use a soft shelled pumpkin, which can still be found at good green grocers. Alternatively peel a culinary pumpkin before roasting or use butternut squash.

Roasted Pumpkin and St Agur Salad

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Serves 2-4, about 500g of pumpkin per person

15mins prep

25mins cooking

Ingredients

1 small Italian Delica or other soft shelled pumpkin

2TBS olive oil
Maldon sea salt and cracked black pepper to season
1tbs fresh thyme, chopped
150g St Agur (another Roquefort or Gorgonzola may be used, but St Agur is my favourite)
100g dried cranberries
100g walnuts, chopped and roasted
150-300g baby leaf salad and rocket (75g per person, roughly)
For the dressing
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1½ tbsp pomegranate molasses
Pinch of Maldon sea salt
Cracked black pepper to taste

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 200c/400f

Cut open the pumpkin, empty out the seeds and cut into wedges 1½-2cm thick. Variation is fine as it adds character to the salad. (Can a salad have character?) Lightly oil a roasting tin and lay the wedges down so one side of each wedge is flush with the bottom of the tin. By doing this you will get a lovely even darkening on the underside of each wedge. If you can’t fit all the wedges in side-down, lay some of them on their backs, skin down. Drizzle over the rest of oil, scatter the thyme leaves, and season with Maldon salt and black pepper.

Roast the pumpkin for 15 minutes, then turn the wedges over and roast another 10-15 minutes or until the tip of a sharp knife can be inserted into the thickest part of the pumpkin easily. Caramelisation is key for great flavour here.

Meanwhile, lightly toast the walnut pieces in a sauté pan (no oil needed) over medium heat. Leave the nuts still in the pan for a minute, you will smell them when they are ready, then toss them around in the pan until evenly toasted. Set aside.

Slice the cheese so that it will be easily broken into pieces.

When the pumpkin is finished roasting, take out of the oven to cool slightly. Arrange the salad leaves on a dish. I prefer an flat serving dish to a salad bowl, as it shows off the colourful ingredients better.

Arrange the pumpkin wedges so that some are nestled under leaves and some laying on top. Do the same with the cheese, breaking it into pieces. I always think organised chaos when serving salads. Scatter over nuts and cranberries, drizzle over olive oil and pomegranate molasses, and sprinkle a pinch of Maldon salt. Pour your glass of wine. Voila!

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