Autumn is here with its mad weather swings and the end of season produce bounty. Amid cyclone warnings and Easter holiday breaks suddenly summer – such as it was – is definitely behind us. I always mourn the end of summer, and then as the realities of autumn arrive with all its beauty, seasonal produce and shorter days, I remember again that there is so much to autumn that I do enjoy. The lawns and the garden are definitely slowing down ready for a final mow and tidy up before winter, mushrooms are popping up for foraging, there is a glut of fruit and vegetables and the kind of weather that makes it okay to hunker down in the kitchen, entertain family and friends, or find a cosy place and relax with that book I have been wanting to read.
Here is a great crossover salad born of a glut of herbs, end of season omega plums and the first of the winter pumpkins. Fresh walnuts are starting to fall, but I made this with the final handful of last seasons walnuts. Although all the ingredients are heros here I have to pay homage to the French walnut mustard which is one of my top ten ingredient picks at the moment “Edmond Fallot Moutarde Aux Noir”, (available at Raeward Fresh in Queenstown). So delicious, you may find yourself wanting to eat it off the spoon, I know I do this too often, but really it is that good! It partners with anything you would normally match with walnuts and mustard making it a great autumn / winter condiment – think about – apples, onions, fruit mustard compotes, pumpkin, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, meats such as chicken or pork …… it is going to taste great with any of these alone or in combination, hot or cold. The dressing for this salad, was inspired by my colleague Ollie Roborgh a beautiful woman with great talent in the kitchen.
PUMPKIN AND PLUM SALAD WITH BASIL WALNUT DRESSING
Salad accompaniment for approximately 4 people
- 1/2 medium size butternut pumpkin (or your favourite roasting pumpkin)
- 1/2 red onion
- Handful of walnuts
- Approximately 8 omega plums (these have a delicious sweet sour flavour)
- 1 cup chopped celery – stalks and leaves
- Save some extra delicate bright green celery leaves for final garnish
- 1 -2 cups of fresh basil leaves
- 2 tbsp walnut mustard
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (not too strong) or nut oil such as walnut or macadamia. Plus extra for roasting pumpkin.
- !/2 cup white wine vinegar (for red onion)
- Salt and pepper to season
Preheat oven to 200′ c
Cut pumpkin into bite size pieces, toss with a little olive oil salt and pepper and roast till tender.
While the pumpkin is cooking finely slice your red onion into a small bowl and cover with white wine vinegar, toss this well and set aside. This will go a beautiful bright pink colour and will add a bright flavour to the rest of the quite rich flavours, and an amazing colour burst.
Using a blender, food processor or stick blender process basil walnut mustard and olive oil to form a paste like emulsion. Put this aside, you may not end up using it all but it will keep well in the fridge and can be added to other salads marinades or vinaigrettes.
Slice your plums into approximately 8 wedges each.
Once the pumpkin has cooked and slightly cooled toss through a couple of large spoons of basil dressing so that it is well coated, it is best to toss just the pumpkin or the other beautiful colours get a bit muddy.
To assemble your salad use the bowl/plate you will serve the salad in to compose your salad arranging pumpkin, plums, celery, walnuts and red onion into your bowl, with a final flourish of basil dressing walnuts and celery leaves.