A Christmas salad cracker

PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Fresh, lively and zesty, this stunning salad works well as a main course paired with halloumi.

Without halloumi, it's sturdy enough to accompany something like roast turkey, chicken or salmon. In other words, a great side salad for Christmas Day.

Halloumi is a deliciously mild, firm cheese originating in Cyprus. It holds its shape well when cooked, but it tends to be rather salty, so be a little cautious when adding other salty ingredients.

Halloumi's delicate taste pairs well with robust ingredients and big flavours.

Starring in this quinoa salad, I have used red quinoa because I like the colour - a deep rich chestnut - and I love the natural tanginess of the stirred-through dried cranberries.

Quinoa salad topped with halloumi

Serves 4-5 as a main, topped with halloumi

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

200g red quinoa, well rinsed in cold water and drained

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

⅓ telegraph cucumber, peeled, deseeded, sliced and roughly chopped

¾ cup whole almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

30-40g baby rocket or baby spinach leaves

For the halloumi

1 Tbsp olive oil

200g halloumi cheese (I use Whitestone), thinly sliced about 0.5cm thick

3 Tbsp lemon juice

Method

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring for 5 minutes or so until and softened but not browned.

Add the stock and the quinoa and bring to the boil. Cover with lid and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa is al dente. Remove from the heat. Drain really well in a sieve, pressing down with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.

Spread on a large plate and allow to cool completely. Fluff up with a fork.

Combine the extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and pomegranate molasses in a small screwtop jar. Shake well and pour about half of the dressing over the quinoa and toss to mix. If the salad is to be served the following day, cover and refrigerate until an hour or so before serving.

Tip on a large serving platter. Stir in the cranberries, mint, cucumber, chopped almonds, salad greens and the remaining dressing and toss well.

Note: It's important that the nuts and the salad greens are added immediately prior to serving to preserve the crunch and crispness.

To cook the halloumi

Heat a frypan over medium heat and, when hot, add the olive oil and halloumi slices and cook until golden in spots, usually one to two minutes.

Do not crowd the pan or the halloumi will steam. Work in batches if necessary.

When side one is spotty and golden, flip and cook until the second side of each slice is golden.

Reduce the heat if browning too fast.

When slices are cooked, remove from the pan and place on a large flat plate.

While the pan is still warm, stir in the lemon juice briefly just to warm through. Drizzle the juice over the halloumi slices. When ready to serve, arrange the halloumi slices on top of the salad.

 

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