Thursday, 2 August 2012

Butternut squash and parma ham salad

I love the versatility of butternut squash. It's a fine key ingredient for a soup and makes great mash. Halved and roasted, it's a worthy main dish in its own right if you add a few extra ingredients to star alongside. And it's cheap as well as tasty. so what's not to like?

The downside for solo dwellers is that even the smallest butternut squash will merrily feed two. If you're making soup, you can freeze half, of course. Otherwise you need to be inventive to use it all up. It's best to cook it all in one go then use up the leftovers in something else - curry, a stir-fry, or even make banana bread using the squash instead of the bananas.

I like it in a salad, where the sweetness contrasts well with the other ingredients - the salty ham, sharp tomatoes and crunchy leaves.

What you need: 
1/2 a butternut squash
Mixed salad leaves
2 slices of Parma or other air-dried ham
A handful of cherry tomatoes
A few black olives
Olive oil
White wine vinegar

What to do:  
Deseed and peel the squash, then cut it into bite-sized cubes. Spread on a baking sheet, drizzle with a dribble of oil and toss well, then bake for about 40 minutes at 180C. Leave to cool.

Wash and dry the salad leaves and put them in a bowl. Halve the cherry tomatoes and scatter them and the olives over the leaves. Shred or tear the ham into small pieces and tuck into the salad. Lastly, add the squash cubes. Whisk up a light dressing of olive oil, vinegar and a little black pepper, pour it over the salad and toss everything together.

Cook's tips: 
Don't use too much oil to roast the squash - you only need just enough to stop it sticking to the baking sheet and no more. Cooked, the cubes should be quite firm and dry, almost like oven chips.

If you don't eat meat, replace the ham with slices of salty goat's cheese or feta.

A ripe avocado works really well too as an extra ingredient.

I don't bother adding salt to the dressing - the ham has plenty.