Roasted Red Pepper, Asparagus and Halloumi Salad with Pink Peppercorn Dressing

This salad, with it’s vibrant colours can easily be made ahead. Perfect if you don’t have a lot of time but would like to appear as if you have thought about the ‘perfect starter’ for days. The salad is not only visually pleasing to the eye but the balance of flavours (smoke, pepper, acidity, slight sweetness and earthy tones) and the pleasing textures make this salad a pleasure to eat. The texture in the salad is provided by the roasted almonds and Halloumi.

I love squeaky Halloumi, normally made from unpasturised goats and sheeps milk. We had the pleasure of not only meeting Louise Talbot, founder of Cutting the Curd,  but we got to sample her wonderful cheeses! The Halloumi she made was nothing I had tasted before, completely beautiful and strangely minus the squeak. Making my own cheese is one of those priorities that are on the kitchen to-do-list. If you have more time than me you can join her in one of her cheese-making courses at Leiths – which I decided would make a pretty cool birthday present.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Salad

  • 6 peppers (try to mix the colours up)
  • 2 bunches asparagus (approx 450g)
  • 120g almonds
  • 250g Halloumi
  • 1 tbspn capers (in brine)

Dressing

  • 1-2tbspn pink peppercorns
  • 1tbspn lemon juice
  • 4tbspn Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tbspn honey
  • pinch salt

Garnish

  • few sprigs pea shoots or lamb lettuce
  • edible flowers if you really want to splash out

Method

  1. Oven on 240c or BBQ
  2. Slice the peppers in half and deseed place on baking tray in the oven till the skin starts to blister and blacken (see note). Remove and place in glass bowl and wrap some cling film over the bowl, which will help peeling the skin from the pepper. Lower the oven to 180c
  3. Bring a large saucepan of water on the boil. Prepare the asparagus by cutting the woody stalk bits at the bottom (for a neat look) or simply hold the asparagus up straight and bend in the middle, the stalk will naturally break at the wooden part. If you are up to being fancy, with a peeler peel the last 5cm of the base of the asparagus to reveal a bright green inner stalk. Place a large bowl of ice water ready to refresh your asparagus.
  4. Plunge the asparagus in small batches into the water, which should only be a gentle simmer, blanch for 2-3minute depending on the thickness of the stalks. The best way to see if they are ready is to taste one. Once ready remove the asparagus with kitchen tongs and plunge into the ice water. Remove once completely cool and pat dry. Repeat the process till all the asparagus are cooked. Refrigerate (See note)
  5. Place the almonds in a oven tray and roast till golden – remove and cool completely
  6. For the dressing, place peppercorns in a mortar and pestle and crush (not too fine you want to see the skin of the peppercorns in the dressing). Roughly chopp capers. In a small ramekin mix oil, honey and lemon trying to balance the flavours so one does not dominate. Add peppercorns and capers.
  7. Just before serving heat a small frying pan or griddle pan to medium heat. Slice the halloumi in 5mm slices.  Add a little oil (in case of griddle pan oil the haloumi rather than the pan) and fry till golden, turning every now and then. Remove and drain. Repeat with all the pieces.

To Plate

  • Place a 3 pieces of pepper on a plate – preferably different colours
  •  Add a handful of asparagus on top of the peppers
  • Place 3 pieces of halloumi around the asparagus
  • Top with a small handfull of pea shoots
  • Scatter with almonds
  • Drizzle with the peppercorn dressing (see note)

Kitchen Notes

-the blacker the pepper the more intense the flavour. This however does not mean leaving the pepper in the oven till it burns to a oblivion. As the pepper roasts the ‘flesh’ starts to deminish making it difficult to peel from the skin.

–the term to ‘blanch and refresh’ refers to the cooking method whereby vegetables are plunged into boiling water for a certain time and then refreshed in ice water to stop the cooking process and to maintain the colour  of the vegetables.

—I like a well dressed salad, if you are the same, I recommend making the dressing double and placing it in a deep plate. Toss each serving of asparagus in the dressing before plating

 

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