I’m not sure where the summer months have gone, but suddenly Autumn is upon us. Autumn not only brings the cooler weather and an excuse to start thinking about snuggly blankets and hot chocolate, but it also brings the arrival of some really great seasonal fruit and veg. After having three months to soak up the summer sun, many varieties of late ripening fruit and veg are at their best and in abundance during early Autumn.
Think table grapes, sweet figs, quince, plums, apples, pears, walnuts, eggplant, new potatoes, corn, and of course, the not so humble pumpkin.
Pumpkins vary in size: from golden nugget varieties which are about the size of a softball and easily hollowed out and stuffed, to ‘The World’s Biggest Pumpkin’ (Atlantic Giant pumpkin) which usually requires a forklift to get it from the garden to kitchen. In Australia, the most commonly available pumpkins remain the Butternut, Queensland Blue and Jap. This orange member of the squash family is one of those universally loved vegetables, probably for their sweetness but also their versatility. Pumpkins can be baked, steamed, stuffed, grated into cakes, muffins and savoury slices, pureed for pumpkin pie and best of all, roasted. Roasting pumpkin with a little olive oil not only brings out the vegetable’s natural sweetness, but also helps your body to absorb all the pumpkin’s rich source of vitamin A. If you’re too lazy to peel it, it can even be roasted skin on for a great fibre boost.
I have decided to celebrate the first of the Autumn harvest with a beautiful salad by utilising sweet, lightly spiced and roasted pumpkin chunks and the new season walnuts that are just starting to fall off our trees. The earthy lentils pack in some extra carbohydrate, protein and soluble fibre to make this salad more substantial and filling – perfect to make ahead and take for a weekday lunch (if so, leave the rocket out until ready to eat!).
- 1/2 medium butternut pumpkin
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- pinch chilli powder*
- 1 cup black (beluga) lentils**
- 4 cardamom pods, crushed lightly
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup crumbled danish feta
- 1 1/2 cups finely shredded red cabbage
- 50g rocket, washed
- 1/2 cup new season walnuts, chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil, extra
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.
- Peel, de-seed and chop the pumpkin into bitesized cubes. Place in a bowl then drizzle over 1-2 tbsp olive oil, spices and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix to coat all the pumpkin chunks evenly then tip onto a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Place in the oven and roast for approximately 45 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft and just starting to turn brown and caramelised around the edges.
- Meanwhile, place the lentils and cardamom pods in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to the boil then cover and turn down to a simmer. Allow to cook for a further 20 minutes or until cooked through and most of the water has been absorbed. Remove lid and allow to cool until warm but not hot.
- Place lentils in a large bowl with the sliced red onion. Drizzle over the extra 2 tbsp olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Give this all a good mix. Add the red cabbage, rocket, walnuts, feta and 3/4 of the roasted roasted pumpkin (if there's any oil from roasting in the tray, add this too). Mix well.
- Either leave this all in a big bowl for everyone to help themselves or divide into serving bowls, top with the remaining pumpkin and extra walnuts if desired.
- * Use as much chilli as you feel comfortable with, I feel it really makes the dish but feel free to leave it out if you like any spiciness.
- ** If you can't find black lentils, whole green or brown lentils will work fine.
- To get this recipe on the table quicker you can microwave the pumpkin chunks with a little water first (about 7 -10 minutes does the trick) to soften, then crisp up in a 220C oven for another 20 minutes. You can also replace the lentils with canned and well drained lentils.
- I definitely recommend getting your hands on some new season walnuts in their shells if you ever see them for sale. Freshly cracked walnuts taste amazingly better than the stale ones in the plastic packets in the supermarket.