Sunday, 7 August 2011

Roasted Mushroom, Butternut Squash and Walnut Salad

One of the best things about a rare day at home is the chance to make your own lunch. Too many sandwiches are just sloppy, slimy and bland, or nice but incredibly expensive (Pret, I love you, but I am not spending £6 on a salad). Our office salad bar is remarkably nice, but it's the same thing every day and you never really know what's in the dishes. Although that's better than one canteen I worked in, where you could always predict the soup with unerring accuracy because the cooks just pureed whatever meat, fish or salad was least popular the day before. Yes, all things considered, it's definitely a good thing to prepare your own midday meal. 

However, an unexpected lunch at home does leave you at the mercy of whatever you've got in your fridge - and when your fridge is as little as ours, you can end up with some odd combinations. This one worked out really well though, and would definitely merit a deliberate reprise some time. You know, where you think about ingredients in advance and stuff.

I roasted some squash, chucked in some mushrooms (too lazy to get another pan dirty by frying them) and served the whole lot with some toasted nuts and seeds and a tangy balsamic dressing. It worked out really well - sweet, sharp, satisfying and yet light. Admittedly, it felt like quite an autumnal lunch, but seeing as the weather is all over the place anyway, I don't think that's too serious a problem.  

I would also like to point out that this would be amazing with small nuggets of crispy bacon, although I didn't include any after having been outrageously teased for calling an aubergine, chorizo and lentil stew "almost vegetarian". I'm sticking to my guns! It was almost vegetarian. This, on the other hand, is all veggie and all delicious. Between the squash and the nuts, I found it pretty filling on its own, but some nuggets of blue cheese would be delicious if you have it.

Next week it's back to the grindstone and the canteen, but this might shake me out of a lunchbox lethargy - even cold, I think this would be worth a bit of night-before preparation. If only as a change from Pret's Italian Chicken salad. What's more, it will be a vegetarian change. So there! 

Roasted Mushroom, Butternut Squash and Walnut Salad
Very, very loosely based on this recipe from Epicurious 
 For one

- a handful of mushrooms, washed or peeled and quartered
- about a quarter of a butternut squash, washed and cut into bitesize chunks, plus the seeds if you can be bothered to pick them out
- a handful of walnuts (or whatever you fancy - chestnuts would also be nice, I think)
- a spring onion, finely chopped
- salad leaves - I went for baby spinach
- balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper
- fresh or dried thyme and rosemary

Preheat the oven to about 180C, and toss the squash in oil, salt, pepper and the herbs. Roast the squash for about 30 minutes, adding the mushrooms with 15 minutes to go, and the walnuts and squash seeds with about 5 minutes to go.

In the meantime, get out your salad leaves and marinate the spring onions in about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar for 5 minutes or so (it slightly pickles them, so that you're not so oniony for the rest of the day). When all the oven stuff is done, scatter it over the salad leaves. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the vinegar and spring onions, mix around then drizzle over the salad. Enjoy!

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