Kumara, feta and rocket salad with pumpkin seeds and basil pesto dressing
At this time of year, with basil so plentiful, it's worth making a batch of pesto oil to have on hand. When the oil is used as a salad dressing, the result is nothing short of transformational. At my local farmers' market, big bunches of borage lie among the herbs and lettuces, and although the stems are hairy and unsuitable for eating, the beautiful edible flowers have a flavour reminiscent of cucumber. Use them with a thick slice of cucumber to garnish a long gin and tonic or to delicately garnish a summer salad.
Feta is my usual go-to cheese whenever I am looking for a sharp, salty bite to add to a salad. For a perfect breakfast, I crumble it over an avocado that has been spread on warm toast, often adding chopped mint. Feta can be baked with olive oil and garlic, crushed into a lunchtime omelette with chopped ripe tomatoes or, as we did recently, baked and served as a first course with roasted kumara.
|4 Tbsp||Olive oil|
|1½ tsp||Ground coriander|
|1 to taste||Salt|
|3 Tbsp||Pumpkin seeds|
|2 tsp||Balsamic vinegar|
|1 handful||Rocket leaves|
|1 to taste||Borage flower|
- Preheat the oven to 200C. Wash the unpeeled kumara, then cut each one into 8 long wedges. Place the wedges in a roasting dish and toss with the oil, ground coriander and a good sprinkling of salt. Cook in the oven until tender and golden brown - about 30 minutes.
- While the kumara cooks, place the feta in a small ovenproof dish and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Scatter the pumpkin seeds over the kumara and leave until lightly toasted. This will take a couple of minutes, so add them just before the kumara is ready to come out of the oven. Set the feta and kumara aside to cool. Tip any oil from the roasting pan and feta dish into a bowl, add the balsamic vinegar, rocket leaves and borage flowers and toss gently.
- Divide the kumara between serving plates. Slice the warm feta into blocks - it may crumble but that doesn't matter - and place a piece over the kumara. Top with a spoonful of pesto. Pile on the rocket leaves and sprinkle the pumpkin seeds and borage flowers around the salad, spooning any leftover dressing around the plate.
- To make the dressing, put the basil leaves in a bowl and toss with a little of the olive oil, then put the mixture into a food processor. Add the remaining oil, pine nuts, garlic and zest. Blend until smooth, then stir in the parmesan. Line a sieve with a large piece of muslin, then place over a bowl. Tip the pesto into the muslin and set aside. Allow the oil to drip through slowly for at least 4 hours. Keep the contents of the sieve in a sealed container in the refrigerator for another use, and pour the oil into an airtight bottle.