7 May 2013

Pomegranate & Preserved Lemon Couscous Salad

Last week we were in Perth visiting family, it was 27 degrees, blue skies,  sunshine, walks on the beach, lots of amazing food and an introduction to my new beautiful niece. My parents have a great garden with mandarin, lemon and lime trees, olives, roses, chillis, herbs, nasturtiums cascading and a pomegranate tree, its branches heavy with deep red fruit. This morning back in Melbourne its raining but I have several pomegranates filled with crimson arils, each one a little burst of sunshine as a pick me up. This salad is a wonderful mix of flavours and textures, the slightly warm robust pearl couscous, lots of fresh herbs, spiced sweet potato that's crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, the depth of the preserved lemon and then that pop of pomegranate seeds, all topped off with a nutty, tart, creamy mix of yoghurt, tahini and pomegranate molasses. All in all a beautiful and delicious autumn salad.

The easiest way to peel a pomegranate is to cut a small circle around the stem end and pull that top away, do the same with the other end then score around the edges (as if you were cutting an orange into segments) and peel that skin away. Then you should be able to break most of the tiny jewels out into a bowl. You can do this in a bowl of water if you like to stop it from splashing (and staining) you with the juice. In water the arils will sink and any bits of the white pith will float to the top so you can skim it off.

Ingredients (serves 4):

1 golden sweet potato, peeled & cut into 1 cm squares
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup pearl couscous
1 1/2 cups stock or water
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice

handful fresh mint
handful fresh coriander
2/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 preserved lemon, washed, flesh discarded & peel very thinly sliced

200 g thick natural yoghurt
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon tahini 

In a bowl toss the peeled, cubed sweet potato in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, cumin, cinnamon and some salt. Cook in a deep fry pan over a medium heat with a lid on for approximately 8 minutes, gently stirring regularly, until the sweet potato is just soft. Increase the heat and remove the lid for a further few minutes allowing some of the edges to brown. Remove from heat and set aside in a serving bowl.

Using the same fry pan add another tablespoon of oil and the pearl couscous, cook over medium heat, stirring continuously until the "pearls" start to turn golden brown. At this point add the stock or water and put the lid on, simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed, approximately 8 minutes then turn off the heat, stir in the butter and lemon juice and allow to sit with the lid on for a further 5 minutes, the couscous should still have a little bite to it.

While the couscous is sitting roughly chop the mint and coriander. Add to the serving bowl along with the thinly sliced preserved lemon and the pomegranate seeds (keep a small handful aside to decorate the top). Once the couscous is ready add to the serving bowl and stir to combine all the elements.

In a separate small bowl combine the natural yoghurt, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice and tahini. Pour over the salad and decorate with the  handful of pomegranate seeds set aside.

Serve by itself or its particularly good with grilled lamb.

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