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March 25, 2011 / amyjmcintosh

Pumpkin, date and macadamia salad

What’s your favourite vegetable? Mine is pumpkin. When I was living in Scotland, I remember getting strange looks when I bought it from the grocer. It’s known as butternut squash in the UK and apparently they use it as pig food. Shock horror, it’s not winning popularity contests as a result. Thankfully, pumpkin doesn’t suffer from such bad PR here in Australia. Unfortunate for pigs, lucky for me.

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I would describe pumpkin as one of the most versatile vegetables around. You can puree it into soup, mash it into a pie, whip it into a cake (or scones if you’re like Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen), chuck it into a stir-fry, carve it for Halloween or throw it into a salad. And did I mention it goes down a treat roasted with a pinch of nutmeg? According to our friends at Wikipedia, most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves, and even the flowers. Who knew?

With autumn upon us here in the southern hemisphere, I’m starting to cook more soups and less salads. But in the interests of keeping the warmer months alive for just a little bit longer, I’ve invented a rock-star salad recipe. Since a friend of mine introduced me to adding dates to salads, I’ve become quite obsessed by the idea, so you’ll notice the appearance of a handful of pitted dates in this recipe. The addition of macadamias also goes down a treat, but lightly toasted pine nuts are just as tasty. This dish can be served on its own or as an accompaniment to meat. And, if there’s any leftovers, you can take a leaf out of my book and take them to work. Be warned, your workmates will be jealous.

Pumpkin, date and macadamia salad
Serves 4

800g-1kg butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into hearty cubes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tbs agave nectar (available from health food stores)
1 tbs salt-reduced soy sauce (or Tamari soy if you’re gluten-intolerant)
400g tin butter beans, rinsed and drained
a few good handfuls of mixed salad leaves (I recommend using a mixture of radicchio and rocket)
2 handfuls of coriander leaves, loosely picked
2 shallots (spring onions), chopped
1/2 cup of pitted dates, roughly chopped
2 handfuls of macadamia nuts or toasted pine nuts

Heat the oven to around 180 degrees. Chuck the pumpkin in a roasting pan and drizzle with a bit of oil, season well with salt and cracked pepper and give the pan a good shake. Roast the pumpkin in the oven until it’s tender. I find it usually takes about 30 minutes or so. Once it’s done, take it out of the oven and let it cool. It will smell delicious!

Next up, whisk the olive oil, chilli flakes, garlic, agave and soy sauce in a bowl or Pyrex jug. Then, simply throw the washed mixed lettuce leaves in a nice, big salad bowl and throw in all the other ingredients and pour on the dressing. It’s fine to serve the pumpkin while it’s still warm, but I prefer it a room temperature so it doesn’t wilt the lettuce leaves. Gently toss the salad and you’re done.

In the mood for more salad? Check out my chicken salad recipe.

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