:: With the warmer weather comes the opportunity for alfresco entertaining and packing up the picnic basket for a lazy lunch somewhere picturesque.
I spent a glorious Saturday picnicking in Pinjarra with friends to celebrate a birthday. We each contributed a dish to the picnic rug and the birthday girl kindly supplied the champagne for the occasion.
Haloumi features greatly in my cheese obsession and can be added to just about any leafy salad.
It’s is a semi-hard, salty cheese from Cyprus that’s typically made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk. Haloumi has a high melting point which means it can easily be fried or grilled, resulting in a delicious snack that can be served Cypriot-style with dried figs or honey, or as an addition to salads to give an extra layer of flavour and texture.
This salad is incredibly versatile and can be adapted to whatever’s in season or whatever your favourite salad ingredients happen to be.
Try adding some roasted (or even tinned) beetroot or thinly shaved fennel and you could even beef it up with the addition of puy lentils to transform it into a light meal on its own. If you’re not a fan of haloumi you could substitute feta.
300g haloumi, cut into 3mm slices
half a butternut pumpkin, cut into 5mm slices
3-4 handful of leafy greens (I used a combination of baby spinach and rocket)
4 tbsp pinenuts
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp honey
Preheat your oven to 200°C. Once hot, place the pumpkin slices on a baking tray, brush with olive oil and bake until the corners start to blacken and the slices are roasted through.
Set aside to cool. It’s important to make sure that the pumpkin is completely cooled before you add it to the salad as otherwise it will wilt the leaves.
Heat a small amount of oil in a frypan over medium heat and fry the haloumi slices until browned on both sides. Drain on absorbent paper and set aside to cool.
Using the same frypan, toast the pinenuts over low heat until just starting to brown. You don’t want to get distracted and go put the washing on like I did as they will quickly burn to black crisps, so keep an eye on them and jostle the pan every 30 seconds to get them evenly toasted.
For the dressing, place your ingredients in a glass jar and shake until everything is emulsified and combined. Taste and flavour accordingly – some people prefer more honey but if you’re using a lot of sweeter vegetables like beetroot and sweet potato, you might want to go easy.
Now to assemble the salad – you basically want to layer everything evenly so that when it comes to serving, everyone gets a bit of greens, a bit of pumpkin and some cheese in each scoop.
Using a large, shallow serving platter, place the layer of green leaves on the bottom. Scatter half the herbs and pinenuts over the top and then place on slices of roasted, cooled pumpkin in an even layer.
Top with the slices of haloumi, the rest of the herbs and the pinenuts. Pour over the dressing just before serving.