The gauntlet was thrown down on Friday night – The Prawn King vs Yotam Ottolenghi (cooked by me as Yotam was busy). As it was such an amazing sunny evening we decided that it was the perfect night for The First BBQ of 2011 and this is where The Prawn King comes into his own. I come from a family of serious BBQ men – actually man, my father Tom Collins is a barbeque genius, the yoda of the charcoal pit – and I have to say The Prawn King is making his way up to the lofty heights of Mr. C.
So while he was up slaving (?!) away in the heat of the fire, I was preparing what I consider to be one of Ottolenghi’s best salads from his first book Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. This is a man’s salad, not for the faint hearted and it allows you to eat fried haloumi and still say you are having a salad, brilliant! The other great thing about this salad is that you can break it down and use all the component parts in other salads. I think is a perfect addition to barbequed meat.
Here’s the full recipe though – try it you won’t be disappointed.
Ottolenghi char-grilled asparagus, courgettes and manouri (or haloumi)
(serves four to six)
350g cherry tomatoes, halved
140ml olive oil
coarse sea salt and black pepper
24 asparagus spears
200g manouri / haloumi sliced 2cm thick
25g rocket (I like baby spinach in there too)
for the basil oil:
(I know this is not very Yotam, but if you have some fresh pesto in the fridge you can always take a spoon full and let it down with some olive oil and use this instead. Has to be fresh though, not the yuck you buy in a jar.)
75ml olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
25g basil leaves
a pinch of salt
¼ tsp black pepper
Preheat the oven to 170c/325f/ gas mark 3.
Mix the tomatoes with three tablespoons of oil and season. Spread them out, skin-side down, on a baking tray lined with parchment, and roast for 50 minutes, until semi-dried. Set aside to cool.
Trim the woody bases off the asparagus and blanch in boiling water for four minutes. Drain and dump into a bowl of cold water until all they are properly cold. Drain fully. I then spread them out on a clean tea towel to make sure that they are 100% dry - nothing worse than a watery salad. Transfer to a bowl and toss with two tablespoons of oil, salt and pepper.
Slice the courgettes very thinly lengthwise (a mandolin would be very useful for this job, otherwise use a vegetable peeler) and mix with a tablespoon of oil, salt and pepper. Place a ridged griddle pan on a high heat and leave for a few minutes until very hot. Grill the courgettes and asparagus, turning after a minute - you want nice char marks on all sides. Remove and leave to cool.
To make the basil oil, blitz all the ingredients in a blender until smooth.
Heat the remaining oil in a pan and fry the manouri / haloumi for three minutes a side, until golden. Drain on kitchen paper, or char-grill the cheese on the griddle for two minutes a side. However I found that when I tried to char-grill the cheese it all stuck to the griddle so I'm afraid I fry my haloumi in butter. This was a tip from a Greek girl (so you can pretend it's authentic!) and it does taste AMAZING. Face it, you are eating fried cheese so don't try and be healthy, go the whole hog and use butter.
Arrange the rocket, vegetables and cheese in layers on a flat serving plate - build up the salad while showing all the individual components. Drizzle with as much basil oil as you like (save the rest for another dish) and serve.