September 28th, 2009


Harvest Festival on a Plate -Butternut Squash and Hen Egg Salad with Saffron Mayonnaise

This last weekend  we went to the annual Aldeburgh food festival. It has become a family affair and we have been going for the past three years. As Suffolk is a neighbouring county, local and in easy reach and its a place to find interesting regional and locally produced food.

In general it’s a really fun day out as there’s lots to do, the food on offer is good, the shops are excellent, the walk along the reed beds and the whiff in the antiques shop all add to the enjoyment, it is brilliant. This year we were entertained by three Celebrity chef’s giving cookery demonstrations; Mark Hix started of with a version of a Seasonal Suffolk food on a plate followed by Tom Aitkens cooking fish and chips and finally we had the privilege to listen to Fergus Henderson’s beautiful almost poetic views on British food. The crowd was mesmerized when he described tripe to be a sensual and soothing dish….erm…well I commend him for his colourful words that made me smile but I’ll stay clear of the tripe for now!

Mr.P gave me my pocket money and armed with my Aldeburgh jute shopping bag I’m off, discovering the weird and wonderful delights that Suffolk has to offer. I made a lot of good purchases with my pocket money from the gorgeous looking organic butternut squash, venison mince from The Wild meat Company, a dozen free range hen eggs, Mixed Baby Salad leaves from Thorpeness Leaves, Organic Spelt Grain from Maple Farm Kelsale, Wild Boar Bacon from Susan Adams to a couple of good looking bottles of Vincotto and Verjuice from EssFoods. It was quite hard to decide what to buy and what to leave as I wanted to explore all day and did not want to rush back home. Well it must be my loss as I did quite like the look of the lobsters, scallops, oysters and lots of local fish on offer.

The vibrant almost neon/ fluorescent green cauliflower was a pleasure to the eye along with the fantastic salad selection all from Thorpness Leaves. As the colour intrigued me I asked if it was a romanesco, as the colour looked like it but not quite the shape, the lady laughed out loud and replied no it’s a common cauliflower. I thought it was a great response as I obviously expected something exotic and out of the ordinary, but no, it was just a cauliflower with a funky colour. She did recommend though that I should steam it instead of boiling it,as boiling  changes the colour and steaming helps keeping the vibrant green. We then moved onto the salad selection as I spotted two of my favourites one is the red mustard leaf and the other is bulls blood beetroot leaf, I love the pungent concentrated flavours.


I created this delicious looking char-grilled butternut squash salad with saffron mayonnaise as my tribute to the Aldeburgh festival, it’s bright, happy and tasting just as festive as the food  on the day. I used the butternut organic squash, vibrant green cauliflower, hen’s eggs and the lovely mixed leaves from my shopping basket. The rest of the ingredients I found in my larder and fridge, it’s a great way to use up the tiny little bits that are just simply taking up space, it’s time for a clear out! This recipe is my take on a harvest festival on a plate and I would like to inspire you to do the same and create your own harvest festival on a plate with produce found in your local area and of course your own larder.

  • 1 small butternut squash, young and very fresh
  • 2tbs olive oil
  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • 2 slices of ciabatta bread or sour dough bread, cut into 1cm dice
  • 100g quinoa
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 free range hens eggs
  • 1tbs pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbs coarsely chopped fresh walnuts
  • 2 radishes, finely sliced
  • Mixed baby salad leaves such as bulls blood, red mustard leave, mizuna, rocket, land samphire ect.., washed

Cook the quinoa: Rinse the quinoa under cold running water, transfer to a small saucepan add salt, saffron and turmeric and fill the pan with cold water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for about 15 - 20 minutes or until the quinoa is completely cooked. Rinse under cold running water, drain and chill.

Preheat the oven to 200°C and heat a griddle pan on the cooker.

Wash the butternut, I like to cook it with the skin on. Cut the butternut into wedges and remove the seeds. In a mixing bowl mix the butternut, with 1 tbs olive oil and seasoning.

Char-grill the butternut then place it on a baking tray and continue cooking in the oven until tender but still holds it shape, let the butternut cool once cooked.

Cut the cauliflower into small florets and steam until tender, refresh. Once cooled dress with a dash of olive oil and seasoning, set aside.

Soft boil the hens eggs for 5 minutes, cool and peel. Cut the egg into 1/4's and season.

Heat a small saucepan with the remaining oil and fry the diced bread until golden all over, season and drain on kitchen paper.

Assemble the dish by placing the components of the dish on the plate, garnish with the seeds, nuts and mixed leaf and place the mayonnaise in a small dipping pot.

Saffron Mayonnaise

  • 2 fre range egg yolks
  • 250ml sunflower or light olive oil ( extra virgin olive oil is too fragrant and will be very bitter)
  • 1tsp dijon mustard
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • Pinch of saffron

Whisk the egg yolks, saffron, mustard, lemon juice and seasoning on a medium size metal bowl.

Slowly add the oil in a slow flowing stream whilst whisking to emulsify the mayonnaise. If it's getting a bit too thick add a teaspoon of warm water and then continue to add the rest of the oil. If the mayonnaise gets too thick it will separate if you are trying to add all the oil therefore letting it down with the water is the right thing to do.

Taste and adjust the seasoning of needed.

Keep the mayonnaise refrigerated until needed.

Serves 4 main course/ 6 starters

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