Pumpkin is a real autumn vegetable. It is harvested in autumn, and it lends itself perfectly for all kinds of dishes that suit the weather. In the Netherlands there are two species commonly available: butternut squash and ‘pumpkin’ (smallish bright orange, I suspect it is Hokkaido pumpkin). I prefer to use butternut squash, because I find the hokkaido usually a bit to sweet and quite mealy, but in this recipe I did use a hokkaido because I got one as a present. You can make this recipe with any winter squash.
In the Netherlands the naming conventions for pumpkins and squashes are a bit different than in English, which can lead to confusion. In English you have summer squash (harvested immature, no seeds developed yet, tender skin; examples are courgette/zucchini and pattypan) and winter squash (harvested mature, contains seeds, tough skin; examples are butternut, acorn, spaghetti and the different kinds of pumpkins). In the Netherlands summer squash is not known as summer squash, but just as the species it is, for example courgette. All the winter squashes are generally named pumpkin, except for ‘sierkalebassen'(ornamental gourds), which are not suitable to eat.
This salad is perfect for autumn. It is a salad, which always gives me a bit of a summery feeling, but it has enough bulk and bold flavours to satisfy me even when the weather is getting colder. Roasting is my method of choice for preparing pumpkin, because it is easy and it gives you the nice, caramelized crust, while cooking/steaming tends to make pumpkin watery and mushy. Roasting also gives you a great chance to add extra flavour to the pumpkin, in this case garlic and rosemary oil. Pumpkin always needs some bold or pungent flavours to prevent it from tasting icky sweetish. The feta adds a salty touch, and a bit of sharpness (for some extra sharpness, add a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar). The hazelnuts complement the nutty flavour of roasted pumpkin, and give some crunch to a dish that would otherwise be quite mushy. Delicious! To make it from a side-dish into a main, add a cooked grain (bulghur would be very nice).
Roasted pumpkin, feta and hazelnut salad (serves 2)
1 small pumpkin
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 sprig rosemary
75 g hazelnuts
100 g feta
Cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds (you can wash and roast them if you like). Divide into wedges and place in a baking tray. Preheat the oven to 200C.
Finely crush the garlic, rosemary and salt in a pestle and mortar. Add the olive oil and mix well. Use a brush to spread half of the oil over the pumpkin wedges. Place the baking tin in the oven and roast for 30-45 minutes, or until nicely roasted. Brush with the remaining oil, then place back in the oven for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, roast the hazelnuts until golden, then crush them or chop them up. They have the best flavour when they are really roasted until golden, but they do tend to burn quite quickly as well, so keep an eye on them. Crumble the feta.
Place the pumpkin wedges on two plates, sprinkle over the hazelnuts and feta. Serve.