An easy to assemble warm salad full of Autumn flavours

‘Cherry tomatoes and bulbs of garlic can all be roasted, then drizzled with olive oil’

Lily Higgins: “This time of year I always resort to warmer salads for dinner as the weather begins to change.”

Lily Higgins: “This time of year I always resort to warmer salads for dinner as the weather begins to change.”

 

Summer always ends with inky fingers as our evening walks involve picking blackberries from the hedges. We rarely return home with any as they’re all eaten on the journey back.

Inspired by this I’ve created a salad with some of my favourite autumn flavours. Feel free to make some additions to this salad. Ribbons of parma ham, crumbled feta or dollops of goats cheese are all delicious. Crumbled blue cheese is perfectly salty and tangy with this too. It makes a fantastic side dish served with duck or venison.

This time of year I always resort to warmer salads for dinner as the weather begins to change. Roasting a big tray of different vegetables at the start of the week means that a salad like this can be assembled in minutes. Warm the vegetables in the oven slightly if you prefer, they can be very unappetising when fridge cold. I usually roast a few trays at a time to make best use of the oven being on. Cherry tomatoes, whole bulbs of garlic and peppers can all be roasted then drizzled with olive oil. These are delicious folded through hot pasta with fresh torn basil. Squash-like butternut can be chopped into wedges and roasted then added to salads or made into soup. Aubergines can be roasted whole or halved and used to make baba ganoush.

To add that smokiness that comes from a flame roasted aubergine I’ve started to use Achill smoked sea salt. It has such an intense sweet oaky smoked flavour and is so nice on everything from bolognaise to chocolate brownies. It’s a really unique seasoning that transforms what it touches.

Add even more substance to this dish by serving with wild rice, quinoa or barley. These can be cooked in bulk and dressed with a simple mix of olive oil and lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and kept in the fridge. Fold through lots of fresh herbs before serving. There is still fantastic produce in the farmers markets and in shops. Jaded vegetables that have been flown in under ripe from halfway around the world often lack flavour. Many larger Irish supermarkets now have a designated part of their store for local produce. That is where you will find the freshest vegetables that reflect the seasons and you’ll be supporting local farmers too; so it’s beneficial for everyone.

Blackberry and butternut salad

Serves 4
1 butternut Squash
2 red onions
1 handful pecan nuts, toasted
200g blackberries
2 handfuls salad leaves
15g basil leaves
Olive Oil
2 tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
Sea Salt

Method
Preheat the oven to 200C. Cut the butternut squash in half and peel with a sharp knife. Remove the seeds. Cut the squash into slices and place on an oiled baking tray. Peel the red onions and cut into wedges. Place on the tray with the squash. Drizzle everything with a little olive oil and season with sea salt. Roast for 30-35 minutes, turning the squash half way. Keep a close eye on the onion that it doesn’t burn, remove as soon as it looks done. Once cooked set the squash and onion aside to cool slightly.  

Pick the basil leaves from the stalks and place on a platter with the salad leaves. Dress with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil, just enough to make the leaves glisten and mix gently. Arrange the slightly warm squash and onion wedges on top of the leaves, add the toasted pecan nuts and blackberries and a few more little basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and finish with a pinch of crunchy sea salt before serving.

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