We were having friends over for a relaxed barbecue dinner and so that our kids could play. I wanted something simple, quick, delicious, but a little different. This tasty pumpkin and feta salad fit the bill perfectly!
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One of Mum’s favourites
Mum loved this tasty pumpkin and feta salad. She loved almost everything pumpkin as long as it was savoury – she was not a fan of pumpkin pie, for example, and the jury is still out on whether she would have liked our pumpkin spice cupcakes. She tried to pass this pumpkin love onto my brothers and me.
In contrast, she hated sweet potato with a passion. I have no idea why because they are not all that different. Still, this salad definitely had to be made with pumpkin if Mum was going to eat it.
Tips for a great pumpkin and feta salad
The star of this salad is definitely the dressing. You might know that I like to pair pumpkin with maple syrup, and this is another example of how good they are together.
The maple syrup adds a subtle sweetness and lovely woodsy-ness that would be missing if you used honey or sugar instead. This goes wonderfully with the understated sweetness of the butternut pumpkin.
I prefer to keep the dressing separate to prevent the rest of the salad from becoming soggy before it is served. To save time and reduce the number of dishes, I mix it in a little jug.
Tip: Make are you use A grade syrup and not any imitation stuff!
Tasty pumpkin & feta salad: the options
Otherwise, this salad is so simple. It is basically 4 ingredients with a dressing, and you can pretty much change up those four ingredients as you wish.
Pumpkin or sweet potato
Apart from roasting the butternut pumpkin (butternut squash), which you can do in advance, this salad really is quick and easy to put together. You can choose the temperature of your pumpkin depending on your preference and time: both chilled and warm work well.
If you don’t have any pumpkin, you can substitute sweet potato, which works wonderfully too. We recommend butternut pumpkin as it is readily available and has a lovely texture, but you can use whatever pumpkin you have available.
Lamb’s lettuce or baby spinach
We used lamb’s lettuce (a.k.a. Mâche or Feldsalat) because that is what we had available (it is very common in Germany). However, baby spinach works ready well, too and I often use it when it is available. Even butter lettuce torn into small pieces can work well. Watercress would also be a nice addition.
Feta or grilled haloumi?
Not a fan or feta? Did you forget to add some to your supermarket delivery? Try a different cheese instead. I’ve had this salad with mini mozzarella balls, with buffalo mozzarella and with grilled halloumi. Yum!
You can change up your nuts, too. I used a mixture of pine nuts and cashews, but you could use one or the other. Hazelnuts have a nice flavour in this salad. Alternatively, change the nuts for pumpkin seeds and add a teaspoon of pumpkin seed oil to the dressing. Whatever you have on hand and suits your tastes. Of course, it is fine to use just one type of nuts too.
In any case, it is better to use unsalted (raw) nuts, rather than roasted and salted. Pre-salted nuts will often overpower the subtlety of the rest of the salad. However, I will admit that I have been guilty of just using roasted and salted cashews more than once, to save time. Leave the salt out of the dressing to avoid the salad being too salty.
This salad is great as a side salad, but it is also filling enough and easy enough to have just on its own for lunch, for example. It will then serve two to three people.
Want a more substantial salad? Throw a little grilled beef (my favourite) or grilled chicken or turkey in! It is a great way to use left over salad, pumpkin and turkey from Thanksgiving. I am sure that grilled tofu would be great too.
Tip: Depending on your ‘meat’ and your personal tastes, you may like to consider adding a small clove of garlic to the dressing. I wouldn’t use too much or it will overpower the subtleness of the other ingredients, but a little can go a long way. Alternatively – and this is my preference – rub some garlic over your meat before grilling it for a more subtle garlic taste.
Make this tasty pumpkin and feta salad soon!
This pumpkin and feta salad really is that simple, that versatile and that tasty that it deserves to be on your favourite salads list and get eaten often. Try it and you will see that I am right.
What are your favourite simple salads? Do you have one versatile dish that you can adapt to suit?
Tasty pumpkin and feta salad
- 150 g Lamb's lettuce or baby spinach
- 300 g butternut pumpkin cut into mouth-sized chunks
- 1 handful of cashews or pine nuts or other nuts of your choice
- 150 g feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon mustard sweet or dijon
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place the pumpkin chunks in a well-oiled baking pan. Season with salt and pepper and use your fingers to mix the pumpkin until all the chunks are coated in oil. Place the pan in the oven (180°c). Roast for about half an hour, taking care when turning the pumpkin over after about 20 minutes.Once the pumpkin chunks have started to brown and are soft in the middle, remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- Crush the cashews in the palm of your hand. If they are not already roasted, add to a small (dry) non-stick frypan. Add the pine nuts. Briefly brown the nuts over medium heat, tossing the nuts occasionally until the nuts start to brown, being careful not to burn them.
- Wash the salad and add to your salad bowl. Crumble pieces of the feta into the bowl. Add the nuts and pumpkin to the salad bowl. For the dressing, place the remaining ingredients into a cup and whisk with a fork until well combined. Season to taste. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Alternatively, you can serve the dressing on the side.
- Crumble pieces of the feta into the bowl and add the nuts and pumpkin.
- For the dressing, place the remaining ingredients into a mug and whisk with a mini whisk or fork until well combined. Season to taste.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss through. Alternatively, you can serve the dressing on the side.