The weather has really started to warm up during the day here lately, which has been so lovely! It's almost enough to lull you into the notion that spring has arrived (cue sudden cold snap). It's also made me really start to feel like eating salads again! This coincides nicely with the Eat The Alphabet blog challenge - which this month is featuring vegetables and grains which start with the letters M, N and O.
There are a lot of choices for M, N and O - so I'm sure we're going to see a great variety of recipes. I wanted to take the opportunity to share an ingredient that I've always loved, but many people don't even know about - Nasturtiums. I always remember having nasturtiums in the garden as a kid, it was fun to know that some of the plants were edible and that we could use them when we were playing and actually eat them!
I've never seen nasturtiums for sale at any green grocers, but they are incredibly easy to grow and they thrive on neglect. You can buy seeds at any garden centre or from many places online - they are a great addition to your salads especially since they're not readily available - so are a great thing to serve for guests. You'll probably want to plant them somewhere contained, otherwise they will spread all over your garden. Here is a picture of them in my veggie garden:
The best thing about nasturtiums is that you can eat the leaves and the flowers - so they make your salad very pretty. Nasturtium leaves have a slightly peppery taste, so start with a few and add them to your own taste. If you can't buy or grow nasturtiums then you can use baby spinach in this salad instead, it won't taste the same - but it will still be nice!
1 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas (soaked for 24 hours, rinsed, boiled and drained OR a tin of chickpeas which has been drained and rinsed)
400g pumpkin, peeled, chopped and roasted for about 20 minutes (will vary depending on how big you chopped it)
150g penne pasta
4 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup pepitas
Generous amount of nasturtium leaves and flowers
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 tsp agave nectar
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
1 tbsp soy sauce (or more to taste)
Cracked black pepper to taste
1. If you haven't already done so, cook the pre-soaked (for 24 hours) chickpeas (unless using canned) until tender, drain and rinse under cold water. If using canned, drain and rinse well. Similarly, roast the pumpkin as above and allow to cool (or use warm).
2. Bring a pot of water to the boil and boil the pasta until al dente - this is usually 1-2 minutes less than what the packet says. Drain and rinse with cold water.
3. Combine the pumpkin, chickpeas, pasta, chopped tomatoes and nasturtium leaves in a bowl. Toss.
4. Heat a small frypan over a high heat. Add the pepitas to the dry saucepan and toast for 2-3 minutes, stirring/tossing often. They will puff our slightly and start to brown. Keep your eye on them at all times, as they burn quickly. Once toasted take of the heat and allow to cool.
5. Combine all the remaining ingredients in a small bowl or jar and mix/shake well to make the dressing.
6. Add the cooled pepitas and the dressing to the salad and mix well. Serve immediately, placing the nasturtium flowers on top before serving.