Salad of Roasted Pumpkin + Burnt Butter + Sage + Feta + Candied Walnuts

This is an old favourite, based on a recipe from the Community cookbook that I have, of course, tinkered with. It is so. bloody. delicious. It works as a dish outright or as a side. It’s a party favourite and all of the individual elements can be prepared ahead of time and stored for assembly at the last minute. Even better party wise, it doesn’t require any oven space, just the use of the stove top about 2 minutes before serving and the only elements that need to be stored in the fridge are the feta and the butter, which hardly take up much space so you’ll be the apple of any host’s eye!

The candied walnuts were inspired by a dish we are currently serving at Fred’s which walnuts coated with a deep wet caramel paired with delectable goats cheese. When I tasted the combination, I immediately thought of this dish, which in its original form does call for walnuts, but I URGE you to take the extra 15 minutes to candy them because this. is. a. revelation.

As noted above, you can make many of the elements ahead of time, up to 2 days before you intend to serve the dish. The pumpkin can be roasted and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, although it will begin to lose its structure and become softer, so you may want to only cook it until it is just soft. The candied walnuts can be made in a much larger batch and stored on the bench, in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks! They’re delicious on their own or you could sprinkle them over ice cream, carrot cake, other salads… experiment with them and let me know your findings! The butter sauce, unfortunately, will solidify when stored in the fridge and the sage will lose its crisp which is, in my opinion, an essential element of this dish. You can experiment with making it ahead and microwaving it, but I can’t vouch for the results. It’s so fast to whip up that I don’t think you’ll save much time by making this ahead anyway – it’s the other elements that are more time consuming.

On the butter sauce: I really take this far on the burnt end because I love the sweet, nutty finish it gives. I find that even when the butter fat has gone right through to almost black, it holds a beautiful creamy flavour and doesn’t taste burnt. You can experiment with it and see what you like. Perhaps start by just bringing it to the point where the butter fat has turned a nice brown colour if you’re making a burnt butter sauce for the first time.

Drink this with a refreshing Chardonnay like Rob Oatley’s Signature Series or slightly more floral and my favourite of all time, the M3 by Shaw + Smith. If you’re looking for something a little more fancy, upgrade to the stone fruit focused, impeccably balanced Tolpuddle for a real treat. You want a wine that has a decent backbone of complex flavour along with high acidity and is mouth filling like these Chardonnays to match the rich, creaminess of this dish. The crisper fruitiness of a Riesling might get lost in this dish, leaving just the acid, while the punch of something like a NZ sav blanc could be too much. Pinot Gris/Grigio is likely to fall completely by the wayside when up against these flavours. So if you do want to deviate to other white grapes, find one that has full bodied fruit balanced with subtle oak (if any), high acidity and if possible, a bit of malolactic fermentation (this means that the wine has a creamy taste to it too). All of these factors are common in Australian Chardonnays.

Print Recipe
Salad of Roasted Pumpkin + Burnt Butter + Sage + Feta + Candied Walnuts
Prep Time 20
Cook Time 30
Servings
Main Serves
Ingredients
Prep Time 20
Cook Time 30
Servings
Main Serves
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Cut pumpkin roughly into pieces approx .5 cm thick of varying shapes no larger than 3.5 cm long, removing skin. Toss in 1 tbs olive oil, ras-el-hanout and sea salt. Spread on a baking tray lined with baking paper and roast for approximately 15 minutes until cooked through: soft but not coloured. Remove and set aside to come to room temperature. You can also store in a sealed container in the fridge for later use.
  2. For candied walnuts, break up any large walnuts into smaller pieces approx the size of popcorn (although it doesn't need to be uniform). Spread close together on a piece of baking paper on a heat proof tray or dish. Place sugar in a small saucepan and pour the water over to cover the sugar. Place over low heat and gently stir the sugar to ensure it is all covered by water. Allow to dissolve at low heat until sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat, stop stirring (!) and allow it to come to a boil. Keep it over the heat, occasionally swirling the pan to encourage even colouring, until it reaches a deep caramel colour. Caramel can very quickly go from deep golden brown to dark brown (in about a second!) so if you're not sure, take it off when it hits a rich golden brown colour to be safe. Otherwise, take it as dark as you like. Then, remove from heat and pour it over the walnuts carefully - it will be very hot! Aim for even coverage of the nuts. If necessary you can lift the sides of the tray to move the caramel around for better coverage. While it is still hot and liquid, sprinkle the nut/caramel mix with some sea salt, approx 2 tsp total. Leave it to harden on the bench top. Once hardened, break up into smaller pieces and set aside. This can be stored in an airtight container or bag on the bench top for up to 2 weeks.
  3. For the butter sauce, place 1 tbs olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the butter and leave over heat, swirling occasionally to spread the butter around and mix it with the oil, until it is foaming. Add the sage leaves, ripping larger ones up into smaller pieces. Save a couple of leaves fresh for garnish. Leave the mixture over medium-high heat until the butter has begun to burn. You want to take this quite far - the sage will become extremely crispy and the butter fat will turn dark brown or, if you're like me, you can let it go black. Turn off the heat when it starts to turn dark brown/black as it will continue to cook even further. I took it so far the sage leaves had also gone black and were DELICIOUS (they don't taste burnt), but that may be a preference. You at least want the butterfat to turn brown in the mixture, so you will see lots of brown specs in the clear liquid. Remove from heat and set aside while plating up.
  4. Place half the pumpkin pieces on a plate. Sprinkle the walnuts around the plate, aiming to evenly disperse them. Crumble half of the feta over the pumpkin. Spoon half of the butter/sage over the pumpkin, coating each piece. Sprinkle 1 tsp of poppy seeds over it all to evenly cover. Garnish with a leaf or two of fresh sage, sprinkle with extra sea salt as desired and a spot of cracked pepper. Bon Appétit!

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