Roasted pumpkin, crushed hazelnut and feta salad.
Think of this as my attempt at redemption from all my previous posts.
Last Saturday, I went with the girls for a picnic at Marina Barrage. I was deciding between bringing dessert and bringing a salad. I brought a salad. And it is the most painstaking salad I’ve ever done, not that you need to break and arm and a leg for it. I just happen to fail abysmally at organisation.
So a tray of charred pumpkin crescents, shrivelled tomatoes (because I tried roasting them too) and 3 hours later, I produced this. Not too shabby, but I didn’t fancy how I smelt like burnt food when I met the girls at Marina Bay.
This was the only picture in which our faces weren't obscured by half our head of hair.
People go there to fly kites, the enthusiasm of which still eludes me. I understand why they fly kites there though. The wind can snap your head off your neck like a stick of dried spaghetti. I’m not being melodramatic. We spent minutes at a standstill, like one of those pointless children games where everyone would look ridiculous frozen in whatever position they were caught in.
This wasn’t a game.
Because games didn’t involve the threat of entire plates of glorious food launching off at each other’s faces, or worse still, at other picnickers fifty metres away.
We got to eat our hair though. L’oreal? Sunsilk? Not very tasty.
Clockwise: Xin Yi's drinks, Leonie's brownies, Gushi's salmon, Liru's spaghetti, Lim Zhen's sausages and seaweed chicken, my salad (!) and Fang Yu's sushi.
In all honesty, I had no idea where in nine hells the Marina Barrage popped up from. I didn’t even know it existed. Like how I found out only recently that there’s a grouchy teenager inhabiting a room in my house that my mom tells me he is my brother. With the way he was mooching around the hosue, I could’ve sworn he was some hobo from off the streets. I guess we learn something new every day.
I’ll admit, I make a terrible picnic buddy, because the ideal picnic weather of sun and sun and more sun! almost fried me like crispy keropok. I was as useful as mud-crusted old sneakers and twice as unpleasant. This is me refusing to subscribe to societal ideals. My ideal picnic environment would be air-conditioning, music and a Wii.
Nice to see such enthusiasm for my salad, and Lim Zhen's camera-ready as always.
One thing I’m thankful for was that there was minimal food wastage. Gushi and I planned ahead you see. She’d make salmon (my favourite fish beside mackeral, trout, pomfret, tilapia…), and I’d make salad (her favourite as long as it’s food). That way, we’re guaranteed that we would finish each other’s food although I got the niggling suspicion that she actually wanted to sneak away with the entire container of salad (Don’t lie!).
I probably had lots more to say about the picnic (something about weird kite shapes and how Gushi’s a pig), but that was on Saturday – four days ago! Much have happened since then. Like the 1000 over letters I had to fold and insert into envelopes at work today. In fact, I’m finding it difficult to type because I’m using all my willpower to prevent my hands from folding up every single scrap paper on my table of their own volition now. The things I do…
Roasted pumpkin, hazelnut and feta salad
Serves 4 generously, or 1 greedy piggy
1/4 medium pumpkin *
50g hazelnuts (lightly toasted)
One large handful of cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup raisins (soaked in hot water for 15 minutes and drained)
A sprinkle of feta cheese
Mesclun salad mix **
Pine nuts (lightly toasted)
2 tbs Dijon mustard
2 tbs honey
1 tbs white wine vinegar
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
Note: to save the hassle of a dressing, you could use one of those store bought honey mustard dressings like I did which is especially useful if you end up burning a batch of pumpkins and running out of time.
1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
2. Wash the skin of the pumpkin thoroughly but do not cut it off because once roasted, it adds a lovely crunchy texture to the mushy flesh. Using a spoon, scrape the seeds and stringy bits of the pumpkin out***. Cut the quarter into thick wedges, about 3cm (1 inch) thick. Place the wedges flat on a baking tray and coat them with olive oil or any vegetable oil. I don’t recommend being overly generous with oil a la Jamie Oliver, because it’s not necessary. Season with salt and pepper and whack ’em in the oven for 20 minutes. Do watch the colouration of the pumpkins because they should not be charred at all, just nicely roasted and tender.
3. While the pumpkin is roasting, lightly toast the hazelnuts over the stove in a skillet or any other pan till they are golden brown. After which, toast the pinenuts likewise while waiting for the hazelnuts to cool. Pulse the hazelnuts in a food processor or blender a little at a time till chunky and not too fine.
4. Wash and slice cherry tomatoes into halves.
5. Wash the salad mixture and dry them with a salad spinner if you have one. I do not, so I dabbed them gently with a cloth. Wet salad leaves will wilt and lose their crispness if left damp, and if you are packing this for a picnic like I was, you want to ensure that they are as dry as possible for the best crunch hours later. Place the dry salad mixture into the serving bowl (or container in the case of a picnic) and fluff them up for a cushiony bedding for the pumpkins later.
6. Once the pumpkins are done, cut them into bite sized chunks and don’t be too particular about uniformity. It’s more rustic like that. Scatter the pumpkin bits over the salad leaves followed by the cherry tomatoes, the nuts, the raisins and the feta cheese.
7. Put together the dressing and drizzle atop the salad. ****
*The pumpkin I used was of Japanese variety: dark green skin and yellow flesh. Feel feel to use any other type of pumpkin or squash. I would think butternut would be a good substitute.
** For convenience sake and because I haven’t chanced across a supermarket in Singapore (Fairprice Finest or Cold storage regardless) that sells whole radicchio and such. To make things even simpler, do away with the salad mix and throw in good handfuls of rocket instead.
*** I threw away the pumpkin seeds that I dug out because I had too many things that needed my attention. I did, however, want to save the seeds and roast them because roasted pumpkin seeds are great as a topping for cereals, muesli, granola, salads… I will post up a simple recipe for that because “Waste nothing, eat everything”.
**** If you are preparing this salad for a picnic, or for an occasion hours later, do pack the feta cheese, nuts, dressing and raisins in separate containers because you do not want soggy salad. Also, make sure the pumpkins are cooled properly to prevent condensation before packing them in with the salad leaves. If not, you’ll need another container for them.