Following my recent chicken epiphany (echickany?), and in light of the fact that my partner is a pescatarian, I just want to lay down some truth regarding the insidious and all-encompassing nature of the humble pepper. Pull up a chair and hunker down, because I have some complaining to do.
And I’m British – I know how to complain. Tutting is key.*
Something you notice when your partner doesn’t eat meat and is allergic to peppers is that 99.9% of all vegetarian food has peppers in it. No joke – I have purchased things that shouldn’t even have peppers near them, only to read the ingredients list and mournfully resign the offending items to life at the back of the cupboard. This is sad for the following reasons:
- I love peppers
- Isla loves peppers
- Peppers do not love Isla
- We both love couscous – especially Moroccan couscous… and there is one (1!) supermarket in our area that has a pepper-free offering
- I really hate wasting food
So, naturally, I set out to make my own, because how hard can it be? Surprise! Although couscous is super easy to make, getting the right combination of flavours can be difficult without the subtle sweet-spiciness that comes with peppers backing you up.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
This is a one-bowl, one-pan affair, and I’ll tell you right now that you may as well use a whole block of cheese; you’ll end up eating most of it right out of the pan if you have any gumption at all. The great thing about this recipe is that the ingredients will last you a very long time; an unopened block of halloumi can last 4-6 months in the fridge, kale is one of the sturdiest leafy greens about, and the rest of the ingredients are all store cupboard essentials. Neat-o.
Look how delighted I am with it!
This whole recipe is for Isla, so I’ve tried to combine her favourite things in one meal: fried halloumi, Moroccan-style couscous (with raisins, obviously), and garlicky kale. I hope you enjoy it!
(UPDATE: Her only criticism was “more raisins please”)
“Moroccan” Couscous, Halloumi & Kale (vegetarian)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Heat-safe bowl/jug with a plate that fits snugly on top, or some foil; large frying pan; tongs or spatula for turning the halloumi; a willingness not to dismiss this recipe out of hand just because it involves kale.
- 225-250g halloumi cheese**
- 70g couscous
- 100ml boiling water
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- A handful of raisins
- A handful of chopped nuts (I used cashews, but toasted almonds and pine nuts would also be grand)
- Juice of 1⁄2 a lemon***
- 1⁄2 tsp turmeric
- 1⁄4 tsp ground cumin
- 1⁄4 tsp garam masala
- 2 cloves garlic
- 200g bag kale (if unwashed, give it a thorough rinse)
- 2 tsp reduced salt soy sauce
- 1 tsp oil, plus a little extra for the pan
- 10-15g (a generous handful) parsley
- Boil a kettle and pop your pan on a medium-high heat with a splash of oil. While these all get going, grab your bowl and get started on the couscous. Add in your dry couscous and the spices (turmeric, cumin and garam masala) along with 1 tsp oil and mix until every grain is coated and it’s no longer clumping together. Crumble in your stock cube and add 100ml hot water, the raisins and nuts. Roughly chop the garlic cloves and add half to the couscous, stirring once and covering with the plate/foil. This will plump up all by itself while you sort out the rest of the meal. Neat.
- Cut your halloumi into thick slices – one block should yield around 6 pieces with the ends trimmed off (which I personally see as a chef’s perk, and consume with gusto); carefully place the pieces into the pan. If using a reduced fat halloumi, it tends to give off a bit more liquid, so you can tip the pan during cooking and collect this carefully with a paper towel to help things along. Cook the halloumi for five minutes or so on the first side until golden brown, then turn it to cook on the other side for just a couple of minutes. It always takes less time on the other side, because of REASONS. Probably science reasons.
- Take the halloumi out of the pan once it’s done to your liking and set aside. Add the kale to the now-vacated pan (careful – if it’s been rinsed, it’s likely to spit a little when it hits the heat) and follow up with the rest of the garlic and the soy sauce. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, while you get on with plating up.
- Uncover the couscous and add the lemon juice and parsley (if using) stirring through before dividing between two bowls or plates. Give the kale a final stir and serve alongside the couscous with the halloumi on top.
This is definitely the healthiest recipe I’m ever likely to come up with and, while I’m very pleased to be able to present this to you, I really don’t want you to get any expectations. I assure you that most of the things I’m cooking are going to involve a lot more cheese and a lot less kale. I hope, however, that you enjoy this recipe as much as I did!
*Tutting is also impossible to do in writing (short of writing ‘tut’ every few lines), so you’ll just have to insert your own. It’s like pin the tail on the donkey, but with less animal cruelty.
**For some reason the lighter versions come in 225g packets rather 250g? Anyway, just use a whole block and save any you don’t eat. Some supermarkets do versions with chilli in, which would give this dish a nice kick of heat if you fancied a twist.
***If your lemon is reticent to give up its juice (and I’m sorry but doesn’t that just sound filthy?) give it a few good rolls on the counter with the palm of your hand, pressing down firmly as you do so. Also, it’ll make your hands smell citrus-y and delicious! Win-win.