I'm not quite sure why, every Sunday without fail, I pick up and flick through The Age's Life magazine. Newspapers' glossy, coloured Sunday lift-outs are invariably trashy and superficial, I know, but there's something about this choice of title that really riles me. If vacuous interviews, pop statistics devoid of analysis, fashion spreads full of analysis and expensive techno-gadgets are truly the Stuff Of Life then kill me now. Maybe I persist in looking because it gets the blood pumping, and
raging self-righteousness passion is actually the stuff of (my) life. Or it could just be the off-chance that Karen Martini has contributed an enticing vegetarian recipe.
And if you don't think that haloumi pictured up there looks enticing, then I'm not sure what I can do for you. (Just trying clicking that "next blog" button up top and put us both out of our misery.) You barely even need a recipe to make it, you just need some bright spark to put two already-awesome ingredients into one sentence for you. Haloumi, and pomegranate syrup. Kaboom! Sweet, sour, salty and fried. How could dinner get any better? Well, Karen also thought to sprinkle over chilli flakes, za'atar and thyme and they're certainly worth the effort, but it's the pomegranate syrup that still has me shaking my head in wonder.
Haloumi and pomegranate syrup could well be the Stuff Of Life, but they're probably not the Stuff Of A Well-Rounded Dinner. So I made this salad. It's based on a Middle Eastern couscous salad that Michael and I used to make all the time, back before we had a food blog or a life in Melbourne. From Kurma Dasa's Vegetarian World Food, it's filled with fresh herbs and vegetables, dried fruit and nuts, and has a dreamy tahini-lemon dressing. (It's also why this post, in spite of the featured slabs of cheese, earns a vegan-friendly tag.) It lasts for days in the fridge, tastes lovely at room temperature and is great for transporting to a picnic to share, or just for an ordinary workday lunch.
It's also pretty forgiving of alterations, and I made a lot of them:
- quinoa is the new couscous, at least in this house.
- I don't buy this whole "1/4 cup finely chopped red capsicum, 1/4 cup finely chopped green capsicum, 1/2 cup finely chopped tomato" guff. I'm chopping one WHOLE red capsicum and an entire tomato, 'cause we can't abide leftover veges, and as many beans as Michael brought home.
- almonds > peanuts, even if the peanuts are roasted.
- currants are always, always > sultanas.
(Based on Karen Martini's pan-fried haloumi with chilli, za'atar and pomegranate molasses, from the Age's Sunday Life magazine)
olive oil, for frying
300g haloumi, cut into 1cm thick pieces
3 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 tablespoons za'atar
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
Drizzle some olive oil into a frypan and bring to high heat. Fry the haloumi slices until golden brown on each side, then transfer them to absorbent paper.
Arrange the haloumi on the serving plate(s); sprinkle over the thyme, chilli and za'atar. Drizzle over the pomegranate molasses and serve immediately.
Eat-anywhere quinoa salad
(inspired by Kurma Dasa's couscous salad, published in his book Vegetarian World Food)
1 cup quinoa
2 1/2 cups water
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons tahini
4 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 tomato, diced finely
1 red capsicum, diced finely
a handful of green beans, cut into small lengths
1 x 400g can chickpeas
1 small Lebanese cucumber, diced finely
1/2 cup currants
1/4 cup green olives, chopped (I bought chilli-garlic marinated ones)
1/4 cup almonds, chopped roughly
Stir together the quinoa and water in a saucepan; bring them to the boil, then turn down the heat and cook them through on medium-low heat until the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). While it's cooking, do all the vegetable chopping listed above.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, sugar, tahini, mint, salt, pepper and parsley.
In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa and the remaining ingredients. Stir through the tahini dressing and serve at your leisure.