After a somewhat tumultuous couple of weeks preparing to close my beautiful little restaurant at Spark: York, I am back in my kitchen pondering the attraction of salads in the autumn when many are reaching out for carb-heavy cheesy comfort. Here’s the thing, I believe that, if you stay nutritionally focused, warm salads such as this one are perfect. Packed with virus-busting nutrients including cumin-roasted squash with organic black beans, red and wild rice, dried cranberries, peppery rocket, loads of lemon and red chilli topped with English Blacksticks Blue cheese, toasted seeds and an indulgent honey mustard dressing you are good to go whatever the season throws at you. If you scroll down to the bottom of this recipe, you can find a summery variation which I would serve warmed from the sun served alongside a crisp white sauvignon blanc.
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into wedges
2tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste
150g of wild and red rice (you can buy this pre-mixed in all Asian stores)
1 400g can of organic black beans, drained and rinsed
A couple of handfuls of dried cranberries
100g wild rocket
1 red chilli, seeds removed and thinly sliced
Juice of half a lemon
150g of a mild blue cheese, crumbled
2 tsp of mixed seeds or chopped hazelnuts, lightly toasted, for garnishing
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
2 tsp cyder vinegar
1 tbsp runny hunny
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
How I make it
Heat an oven to 200C.
Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients and whisking together. Set aside to allow all the flavours to combine.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on a flat baking tray. Place the squash wedges on top, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle the cumin seeds over the top and season to your taste. Place in a heated oven for 30 minutes until the squash is soft and starting to caramelise at the edges.
Meanwhile, rinse the rice and place into a small lidded saucepan. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat, partially cover and allow to simmer – stirring occasionally – until the rice is cooked through (about 25 minutes). Drain and set aside.
Remove the wedges from the oven and carefully place in a large mixing bowl. Add the cooked rice, beans, cranberries, chopped chilli and lemon juice. Then add the dressing and gently combine.
Crumble the cheese over the top and garnish with the mixed seeds or hazelnuts.
Serve immediately with crusty bread and lashings of Kalamata olive oil.
In the summer, replace the blue cheese with feta, the cranberries with pomegranate arils and the seeds/nuts with toasted pine kernels.