We as chefs have different influences in our craft. Some are good and some are not so good. How we use those influences to bring the best out of our abilities as chefs could either make us or break us.

What’s your influence chef obie? A former colleague once asked me, I answered “family”. How so? She asked “Family cooks from the soul, they don’t always rely on the latest trends or the gadgets we modern chefs use. Just simple pots and pans that they use to create a meal to bring friends and family together. I remember how I started to love this job of mine though it was not a pleasant memory but alas, I am living my dream as a chef. I have traveled and lived in three countries, enjoyed every second of it and now I am back home to further that dream as a chef”

With influences from my family comes new food ideas, new recipes and new perspective on classics. Today I will share this recipe that I came up with. A dish that does deliver on flavour and freshness. A fusion of two cuisines (Italian, I think and South African) that somehow do work. I used this salad at a wedding that we catered for and got great comments that I decided to include it in my spring menu!

Roasted Butternut and Feta Cheese Salad. Served with a balsamic dressing, toasted almond flakes, marinated Calamata olives and cherry tomatoes. Sounds like a good Spring day salad to me. What makes it South African for me is that we love butternut squash here and the Italian comes in with the olives, balsamic and obviously the olive oil. So here is my recipe, hope you enjoy.

Roasted butternut and feta cheese salad with olives, cherry tomatoes and balsamic dressing

Ingredients Serves up to 4 people

Butternut, Cubed 500g

Olive oil 50ml

Sea salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

Salad mixed leaves 150g

Feta cheese 125g or ½ cup

Calamata olives 50g or cup

Cherry tomatoes 50g or cup

Toasted almond flakes 50g or cup

For the dressing

Olive Oil 300ml

Balsamic Vinegar 100 ml

Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon

Honey teaspoon

Sea salt to taste

Black pepper to taste


Pre heat oven at 180 degrees Celsius, while your oven is heating up wash and peel the butternut. Cut the butternut into medium sized cubes, for me the more rustic the cut butternut the better but try to keep the size as uniform as possible to ensure even cooking. Season the butternut with salt, pepper and olive oil. You can add some herbs too to add flavour. Place the seasoned butternut onto a roasting pan and cook in your pre heated oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Remember to stir the butternut from time to time to prevent it from burning. Once cooked let it cool down for a couple of minutes

While the butternut is roasting time to get that dressing ready. In a bowl, mix using a whisk balsamic, honey and Dijon mustard. Then in a steady stream, whisk in the olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Adjust it to your taste. If the dressing seems to be thick, add a little water to loosen it up.

To serve

Get your favourite salad bowl and place the lettuce in it. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, deseed the Calamata olives and tear them in half. Set aside. Toast your almond flakes in a hot pan. Once ready to serve dress the lettuce with the balsamic dressing, add the roasted butternut, olives, cherry tomato and almond flakes. Crumble the feta cheese over the salad and add more dressing. Serve and enjoy with friends and of course family.

Chef Obakeng

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