Size does matter. I know this because I’m inordinately attracted to all things small – puppies, kittens, quail eggs, those teeny baby apples. Too cute for words. So when I spotted tiny red onions at Woolies on Friday, it was pretty much a given that they would end up in my basket. Red onions are normally outrageously expensive. These diminutive darlings were just R16,99. I was a gonner.
Back home I gave them with some olive oil love, a dash of salt and a kiss of brown sugar and in the oven they went to roast until seriously caramelised. I tumbled them on a large platter along with butternut I’d tossed in plenty of spicy harissa and roasted at the same time. Some butter lettuce (baby of course) micro greens, feta and pumpkin seeds went on and I was done. To balance the spice of the harissa, I cooled things down with a fresh, light cucumber-mint salad dressing. This butternut salad ticks pretty much all the health boxes. Fortunately it’s tasty too.
All you need is…
1 large butternut
2 tbs powdered Harissa blend (Woolies stocks it)
12 small red onions (or 5 large)
1 tbs dark brown sugar
sea salt (I prefer Maldon)
packet baby butter lettuce leaves
packet of micro greens (Pick ’n Pay’s Asian Mix containing coriander works particularly well)
2 rounds of feta (150g)
5cm English cucumber
small container low fat or fat free plain yoghurt
8 mint leaves
¼ tsp minced garlic
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius with a non-stick baking tray already in the oven. Cut the butternut in 8 pieces. I prefer cutting them lengthwise, simply because it’s prettier. I also keep the skin on because 1) it helps the butternut slices to hold together while roasting and 2) I like eating it. If this fills you with horror, by all means peel it. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, a generous pinch of salt and the harissa. (I like using the dry powdered blend for roasting veggies, but you can use any harissa paste. Just make sure it is quite spicy, you need a decent chilli kick.) Tumble onto the baking tray and roast until cooked through and caramelized. Turn the slices halfway through. Cooking time depends on how thickly you slice it, but 25-30 minutes should do the trick.
Being so small, the onions cook way faster, so I put them in towards the end. Simply slice them in half (keep the root on when you peel them, it holds the onion together.) Drizzle with olive oil, give it a pinch of salt and sprinkle over the sugar. Toss through to ensure everything’s nicely coated, then into the oven it goes. You may need a second baking tray if the one containing the butternut is too full.
Make the dressing while the veggies are roasting. Simply slice the cucumber in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Slice into rough chunks and place in your blender with the mint, yoghurt, garlic and pinch of salt. Blitz until smooth, then cover and refrigerate until you use it.
Either serve the roast veggies slightly warm or at room temperature. To serve, simply layer the roast veggies on a platter with the baby butter lettuce, crumble over the feta, micro greens and pumpkin seeds. Serve with the cold cucumber-mint dressing. I love the contrast of the crunchy lettuce, the slightly warm, soft roasted veggies and the cold dressing. Enjoy this roast onion and butternut salad on its own as a light vegetarian main. It’s even better at a braai, especially with lamb chops