Returning to the kitchen with a basket of Autumn bounty presents a challenge: pasta, soup or composed salad- that is the lunchtime question. I’m not a sandwich person: too many school and work lunches, eaten on the run, killed the sandwich option for me forever. The provincial classic, Soupe au Pistou, combining green beans, tomatoes, zucchini, new potatoes, shelled red and white beans, then topped with a spoon of pesto, is an all time favourite. Warm composed salads are the other. With a few pantry and fridge staples, such as couscous and Halloumi cheese, this salad came together magically.
Ingredients for two large serves
- 100g pearl couscous
- 1 tablespoon EV olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- ½ red capsicum, finely diced
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- Halloumi cheese, drained or one small packet, cut into serving shapes*
- a little EV olive oil for frying and grilling
- one small zucchini, chopped thickly into 2 cm chunks on the diagonal
- two or more fresh ripe figs
- mint leaves, torn
- ground sea salt and pepper
- vinaigrette or lemon juice to dress (optional)
- Make the pearl couscous. In a small heavy based saucepan, add the oil, then add the couscous, capsicum and garlic and quickly toast over medium heat, stirring for 30 seconds on medium heat.
- Add the stock. Reduce heat to medium/low and cook, covered, for 20 minutes or until the stock is absorbed and the couscous is soft.
- Meanwhile, heat a stove top grill pan and grill the zucchini chunks. Remove and set aside. Season.
- In a regular frying pan, cook the Halloumi pieces in a little oil until brown on both sides. Remove and set aside.
- Halve the figs. Dunk the cut side in a little honey and fry in the on the cut side until brown and caramelised.
Assembling the salad.
Lay the warm couscous on a flat serving plate. Then add the zucchini, followed by the Halloumi, then the figs. Scatter torn mint over the dish, season and dress lightly.
- I buy Halloumi in 1 kilo jars for around AU$10. The cheese keeps well in its salty brine and provides enough cooking cheese for around 6 months. Small packets of Halloumi from supermarkets would make this dish more costly.
- Kefalograviera cheese fries well and would make a good substitute for Halloumi.
- Other pantry staples could be substituted for the pearl couscous, such as orzo pasta. Use what you have.
This is an Almost Italian original recipe, inspired by this year’s stash of fresh figs.