Thursday, 28 May 2015

Butternut squash and feta salad with lemon, mint and honey dressing

I realise that I seem to have been eating an awful lot of butternut squash and chickpeas recently.  I would counter this by noting that it's all in the interests of economy and that both of these ingredients are awesome so I think it's okay.

This is another recipe that I've made up myself having been inspired by something  else I tried - in this case, it was a Tesco salad thing that I bought en route to work once morning for lunch; I ate it and thought, hmm.  You know who could do a better version of this?  Haha.  I made it a couple of times and tweaked it and then finally tried it on other people (Sarah and Sunita) last night.  It went down well and I can also say confidently that although I enjoy it hot it's also one that you can take and eat cold for lunch (leftovers woohoo!).  It's very easy and very much a construction job, so don't be put off by the ingredient list.  I find this is easier if you do all the component parts separately, let everything cool down, and then stir it all together before putting it back into the oven to heat through which also lets the feta melt slightly.  So in theory although it's dead easy it's probably one to make while you're pottering about doing other stuff.

Ingredients to make one respectable bake, feeding 4 people as a main with salad etc:

1 butternut squash - average sized, peeled and diced into bite sized cubes
1 can of chickpeas, drained
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
Generous shake of garlic powder or granules - just for ease, really; you want it to coat everything but not to have to use loads of fresh, or it will overpower everything
Good seasoning of salt

1 large sweet pepper - red, yellow, orange - sliced
1 large onion - sliced
Oil for sautee-ing and roasting

2-3 cooked, pickled beetroot, blotted dryish and diced finely
bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped finely
1 package of feta
Handful of pumpkin seeds
1 package of spicy flavoured couscous - harissa, Moroccan style, etc.  I think I used an Ainsley Harriot 'Spice Sensation' one, but they are all good.
1 pouch of cooked, mixed grains; the Merchant Gourmet ones are good but equally so are the Sainsbury's own version...I mean this kind of thing:

For the dressing:
Juice of one large lemon
1 bunch of fresh mint
2 tbsp honey
Approx 100ml EV olive oil

I use my trusty stick blender and beaker to make the dressing, if you haven't got a stick blender they are about a tenner from ASDA etc and you don't need an expensive one - I have had mine for years.  I use it for soup, sauce, etc.  

Heat the oven up to about 180-190 degrees.
Into your roasting/baking dish, put the cinnamon, cumin, paprika, salt and garlic, along with a generous slosh of oil, and stir it about.  Add the diced squash and the drained, blotted-in-a-tea towel chickpeas, stir it so it's all coated, and put it in the oven.

In the meantime, in a big mixing bowl, just over the couscous with boiling water, and then put a clean tea towel over the bowl so the heat stays in. 

Finally, on the hob, saute off the onion and pepper til it's soft and golden.

Keep an eye on the squash and chickpeas - you want them to look quite well roasted, a bit dark etc.  Once they are done, take them out of the oven and set aside to cool a bit.  Likewise, set the onions and peppers aside to cool, too.

Check the couscous.  If it's done, add the mixed grains, making sure to crumble/separate them in.  Stir the couscous and grains in together gently, being sure to mix them up well.

Then, layer; add the cooled pepper and onion, the chickpeas and squash, the parsley, the beetroot, the feta.  Using a large spoon, gently fold it all together and then put it into a baking dish; I actually use the same one I bake the chickpeas and squash in to save on washing up but it's just because it's a good size.  Pack it in reasonably tightly.  That's ready to go now, and you can bake it straight away or whenever really - you could probably even make it a day in advance.

The dressing is super easy - just blend the ingredients together with a stick blender in a cup or whatever and put it into a jug, to be poured over the warm bake when it comes out of the oven.  Depending on taste you might add more or less honey, mint, or lemon - it's up to you.  I like it sharp and fresh and a little bit sweet.

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