Spicy Lamb and Butternut Salad

When I was a child salads were a simple affair. That’s not to say they weren’t delicious. Lettuce, tomato, cucumber, cheese, a boiled egg, some nice cold cuts. But we are blessed in New Zealand with excellent produce and when everything is fresh and packed with flavour there is nothing wrong with simplicity.

Sometimes my mother would serve a deconstructed salad. Other times she would make a layered salad. But both were elevated by her excellent homemade dressing. Fast forward to today and my mother’s layered salad with homemade dressing is a recurring request at nearly every family gathering.

Being an adventurous cook I like to push the envelope a bit more when it comes to salads. Especially during the cooler months. Although we’ve now ticked over to September and spring is around the corner summer food feels far away. I’m still looking for comfort. And so I think a salad at this time of the year needs a warm or hot element to provide that comfort.

This salad does exactly that.

I’ve mentioned previously that perhaps my favourite vegetable is butternut squash. I could eat it any which way but roasted is at the top of the list. It’s beautiful paired with lamb and deliciously tender lamb loins are my husband’s favourite. So we’re talking two warm elements, which makes this salad not only comforting but incredibly satisfying.

It also provides a wonderful balance of flavours and textures – the spicy lamb, the sweet butternut, the sharp feta, the crunch of the pine nuts and red onion and then, of course, the fresh spinach leaves. Beautiful colours too. It’s perfect. Perfect!

Below is the recipe to serve two lucky people, but it’s easy enough to augment the quantities to feed more.


Spicy Lamb and Butternut Salad

Serves 2


  • 1 medium-sized butternut squash
  • 2 lamb loins
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 80-100g baby spinach leaves
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 35g pine nuts, toasted
  • 50g feta cheese

Spice Rub for the Lamb

  • 2 teaspoons ground sumac
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Small handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • Salt, to taste



  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
  2. The first job is to get the butternut in the oven. Chop the butternut in half lengthways. Remove the skin and scrape out the seeds. Slice into batons around 1cm thick.
  3. Place the butternut pieces in a foil-lined shallow oven dish. Grind over salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and then with your hands ensure the pieces are all lightly coated with the oil. Place in the oven and roast for approximately 40 minutes until the butternut is soft and just starting to char at the edges.
  4. Now for the lamb. And you should start cooking the lamb to time it being ready at the same time as the butternut, remembering that the lamb needs a good ten minutes to rest once cooked.
  5. Combine the ingredients for the spice rub in a small bowl and mix together well. Rub the lamb loins with the spice rub until well coated. Drizzle a little olive oil over each loin and rub the oil all over.
  6. Place the loins in a griddle or frying pan that is already hot and cook for around four minutes per side. This will give you a nice medium finish. Transfer the loins to a warm plate, cover with foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
  7. During this time you can construct the rest of the salad. Wash the spinach leaves. I usually do this by immersing them in a bowl of cold water. I then drain the water and dry the spinach between layers of kitchen towel.
  8. Place the ingredients for the dressing in a jar, place the lid on and give it a good shake.
  9. Place the spinach leaves in a bowl and add the red onion slices. Spoon over a tablespoon of dressing and give the leaves a good toss. Add the dressing a tablespoon at a time and keep tossing. Use enough dressing so that the spinach is just coated. Make sure you have enough dressing left over for drizzling before you serve.
  10. Place the spinach leaves and red onion on a plate, spreading them out. Sprinkle over the toasted pine nuts and then crumble over the feta. Place a few butternut batons on top and, finally, the sliced lamb loin.
  11. Drizzle over a little dressing.


Now just eat. And enjoy!




  1. annika says:

    This is gorgeous Tracey. And so perfect for up here as it’s starting to get colder. I still have some leafy greens in the garden as well as mint and a seemingly endless supply of squash at the market.

    Liked by 1 person

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