A fabulous, autumnal combination of salty feta cheese, sweet and juicy roasted grapes and freshly shelled, new season walnuts. Serve it for a seasonal starter, lunch or even supper with a chunk of good bread on the side.
Grapes are the loveliest fruit
Grapes surely must be the most wonderful fruit: wine and raisins; need I say more? They go with cheese, they make good juice, salads – both sweet and savoury – and jelly. They look sexy. They are neat to eat. They come in just a few varieties (or do I know nothing?) helpfully differentiated by colour.
Thank heavens and science for seedless grapes. I do occasionally manage to buy seedy ones by mistake, usually great big ones from the local market, tempted by their size and inversely proportional price.
But they have a certain charm like most produce untouched by cross breeding and cultivation interventionism – they have seeds! are all the others eunuch grapes? It transpires, of course, that they are not propagated by seeding but by cloning their cuttings, poor grapes.
On the other hand, if it was down to me, I’d be happy to see seedless lemons, stoneless cherries and pipless pomegranates; breed them however you want.
I have been drying grapes in a dehydrator each autumn, when they get ridiculously cheap and delicious. If you have a countertop dehydrator, it’s a quick and easy way and those appliances are also useful for drying tomatoes and mushrooms.
Homemade raisins are something else entirely and I have to admit not many find their way off the dehydrator.
But recently I’ve discovered roasted grapes – and I’m obsessed now.
How to roast grapes
I roast them the way I like to roast summer berries when so plentiful they get a little tired: sprinkled with very little sugar. Grapes take a few minutes longer than berries to get oozy and wrinkly which is how they are the best. They love balsamic vinegar and aren’t averse to a drizzle of olive or walnut oil.
Then they get blasted with big brief heat. They will occasionally burst, causing a bit of a splatter mess in the oven so if you want to take the trouble, pierce each grape with a knife before baking. Out of the oven, cool them down in the tray they roasted in.
How to use roasted grapes?
They are great just with yoghurt and a pinch of granola for breakfast. They are a super good side to pork or chicken, roasted on the vine like tomatoes.
And of course they are wonderful served on a cheeseboard, which is what gave me the idea for this salad, having tasted the grapes in the company of sharp, salty Cheddar. I realised that a saltier, sharper cheese like feta would be an even better match.
The harmony of the juicy, sweet, crunchy and salty in this salad of grapes, feta and walnuts is simple, genius and completely, droolingly delightful. And the whole preparation is about crumbling the feta into a bowl with roasted grapes, and adding some, preferably freshly shelled, walnut pieces.
More grape recipes
Chicken with grapes and olives oven baked with a few chestnut mushrooms looks autumnal and tastes divine. Sweet and salty combo is not just for caramel ice cream, you see!
Schiacciata con l'uva (pronounced ‘ski-a-charter’ and meaning 'squashed'), Tuscan grape focaccia is a sweet version of the flat bread, with grapes and raisins.
Lamb breast, or lamb belly, is a cheap cut which needs to be cooked really slow and low. My recipe is for rolled breast of lamb stuffed with raisins and served with roast grapes. Rolled or unrolled, roast lamb breast is a cut deserving attention and very easy to cook.
More feta recipes
Chicken and melon salad with feta and avocado. Roasted sliced chicken breast is lovely paired with fresh melon, salty feta, filo crumbs and a few seeds.
Fresh cucumbers with feta cheese and honey are a minimalist version of Greek salad and all the better for skipping tomatoes – mainly for your digestion.
Saganaki is a Greek dish of anything cooked and served in a small skillet, cheese saganaki the most popular. This recipe for fried saganaki feta is dead simple and makes a super tasty snack or appetiser. Saganaki feta with caramelised figs, a great mix of flavours.