I first made this salad as an attempt to use up butternut that was about to expire. It’s possibly one of my favourite winter salads.
I can’t tell you how much I enjoy the difference in flavours and textures – warm, sweet caramelised pumpkin and crisp, tart green apple. Bringing them together is an ultra rich sheep’s milk labneh, which is a traditionally Middle Eastern cheese made from thick yoghurt. You can use cow’s milk labneh, make your own overnight – here’s how, or use a good feta. It really won’t be the same as the labneh isn’t salty and hard, but rather smooth, creamy and fresh. Mozzarella could work, but I wouldn’t use it here.
I get this gorgeous labneh in jars from Saucisse Deli at the Old Biscuit Mill.
Toasted pumpkin (or sunflower) seeds (toast it in a dry pan on medium heat for a minute shaking the pan frequently) and lemon zest add crunch and zip. The salad is dressed in a simple pomegranate molasses dressing that I make in a clean jam or pickle jar. I brought the molasses back from Istanbul, and it’s a pleasure to eat this salad while thinking of the bustle of the Grand Bazaar – the colours and smells, the haggling vendors and pyramids of spices. Pomegranate molasses is thick, sweet and tart at the same time. It’s similar to a balsamic reduction but differs in sharpness. You can now find it a large supermarkets and delis should stock it too.
500 g butternut, cut in small chunks
3-4 T olive oil (to coat butternut)
1 Granny Smith apple
juice, 1/4 lemon
8 mini labneh balls (subs with feta)
2 T pumpkin or sunflower seeds, toasted
zest, 1 medium lemon
8 small mint leaves (optional)
1.5 T pomegranate molasses
4 T extra virgin olive oil
salt, to taste
empty glass jar with lid (e.g clean peanut butter/ pickle jar)
Grease a baking tray, heat oven to 180 degrees Celcius.
Place butternut on baking tray, sprinkle with salt and add olive oil liberally. Shake well to coat.
Bake for 40-45 minutes until cooked thorough and staring to brown. Turn once after 25 minutes. Grill for 5 minutes at 220 degrees Celsius if you want the butternut to grill a little – monitor so it doesn’t burn.
Core and slice apple into quarters and slices. Cover slices with lemon juice to prevent browning via oxidation.
Arrange warm butternut on a serving platter. Scatter apple, sunflower seed, labneh, mint and lemon zest.
Add pomegranate molasses, olive oil and salt to jar, screw lid on tightly and shake vigourously to mix. Pour over salad and serve immediately. You don’t need a lot of dressing, the flavours are strong enough and you still want the sweetness of the butternut and the crisp tartness of the apple to shine through.