"You post a lot of salad recipes," observed a colleague the other day. And so the tradition continues :)
I've made this salad nearly every weekend for the last month as it makes heaps and heaps, more than enough to keep two people of healthy appetite going through the week for their workaday lunch. That and it's easy to make, rather addictive and bizarrely comforting to eat.
The beauty of it is that you can, in theory, use any grain, vegetables and protein you wish but this particular combination is stellar. And while it might seem complicated to prepare, it really isn't - two components practically cook themselves and the only thing that requires a bit more attention is the cooking of the haloumi. For the ultimate lazy option you can put the cubes in with the squash but that resulted in rather crispy haloumi so I wouldn't recommend it unless you have better timekeeping skills than myself!
It's very easy to give in to the cravings for red wine and starchy comfort foods this time of year when it's bloody freezing and dark outside - not to mention all the Christmas parties where there's booze and mince pies aplenty - and this is a wonderful quick meal to have in the fridge on standby when you need a light meal to balance out all the seasonal indulgences.
As with all my recipes, it's more an idea than anything to be followed to the absolute letter - use what combinations you enjoy, what you need to use up, and if you have any other dressings you'd like to use other than plain old olive oil and lemon juice, go for it!
Barley, wild rice, butternut squash and haloumi salad
Makes heaps and heaps
1 cup wild rice (uncooked)
1 cup pearl barley (uncooked)
1 butternut squash, cubed
A few cloves of garlic
Fresh rosemary, sage, thyme, any earthy herbs you have lying around (I like rosemary)
Dried chilli flakes (optional)
1 x 200g block haloumi cheese
NB: Vegans could add avocado, toasted nuts or grilled marinated tofu in place of the haloumi.
1 x 85g bag of watercress
6 radishes, thinly sliced
1 small bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
1 roasted red pepper (from a jar), thinly sliced into strips
Fresh parsley, as much as you like, chopped
Fresh dill, as much as you like, chopped (including the stalks)
Sunflower seeds, as much as you like
Salt and pepper
1 large lemon
Hummus to serve, if desired
Preheat the oven to 200 C.
Cook the barley and wild rice according to packet instructions. Or, if you're me, put both grains in your rice cooker with enough water, flick the switch to cook and get on with the rest! Once cooked, allow the grains to cool slightly. I usually spread the cooked grains out on a baking tray. They don't have to be completely cold but shouldn't be boiling hot either.
Either coat a baking tray with cooking spray or drizzle a little olive oil in it and tilt it around to coat the bottom. Add the cubes of butternut squash, peeled garlic cloves, herbs, chilli flakes if using, salt and pepper, and drizzle a little more oil on the top if desired. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the cubes are golden and cooked through. Set aside.
Cut the block of haloumi into bite-sized cubes, similar to the squash. Heat a non-stick pan on the stove on medium-high heat, coat with cooking spray and fry the haloumi cubes until golden brown all over. Put on a plate or in a bowl and squeeze some lemon juice over the top. Set aside.
In a giant bowl (I use one of those big biscuit-coloured earthenware mixing bowls), combine the cooled grains, the roasted squash (remove the rosemary but pour the oil in with the squash, it's yummy), the browned haloumi cubes, watercress, radishes, fennel, pepper strips, chopped herbs and sunflower seeds. Mix thoroughly together either with clean hands or with two salad scoops. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle a little more olive oil, grate in a little lemon zest from the fresh lemon and squeeze in some lemon juice to taste. Then toss the salad again.
Serve in bowls with a dollop of hummus on top, if desired.
I think it's even nicer a day or two later. Leftovers keep well in the fridge for up to a week...if they last that long!