If there's one thing the lockdown has been good for, it's been supporting small businesses. I may not be spending money on nights out, or fancy dinners, or weekend trips; instead, I'm ordering parcels of goodies to my front door. Hearing the buzzer go is now as exciting to me as it is to the average dog or three-year-old child – altogether, the stream of little boxes and packages feels like a long, drawn-out Christmas.
One of the earliest treats I bought myself during lockdown was a mixed 12-case of beers from Newbarns Brewery, a brand-new brewery in Leith, Edinburgh founded by alums of The Kernel and Beavertown's Tempus Project (including friend and Pellicle Magazine co-founder Jonny Hamilton). Newbarns was nearly done building its brewery when the pandemic hit, and pre-ordering a case of its beers-to-be felt like a good way to support pals – and to surprise myself with a fresh box of beer several weeks down the line.
When it made its heralded arrival, that long-awaited case included an exemplary Oat Lager, a Nelson Sauvin Pale Ale and a Table Beer made with Mosaic hops. The three were contract-brewed (at Burnt Mill Brewery in Suffolk and The Kernel in London, respectively) while Newbarns' HQ neared completion, and all three are absolutely ravishing. They're what I look for in beer right now: sessionable, balanced, food-friendly, but still deeply compelling.
Another recent parcel I ordered, on recommendation from Jonathan Nunn's excellent newsletter Vittles, contained 1 kilo – the minimum order – of Anglum: an artisan-made, halloumi-style sheep's milk cheese, created here in the UK. Anglum has all the squeak and joy of its Cypriot equivalent, only it's richer in flavour, not as mouth-burningly salty, complex enough even to enjoy on its own.
I did that, of course, but then I had enough left over to fry and serve alongside this couscous dish. Though this recipe was heavily inspired by tabbouleh (Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe in particular), I don't want to call it that. For one, tabbouleh is typically made with bulgur wheat – but because my lockdown stash of pantry staples contained a half-bag of couscous, I decided to use that instead.
Also unlike tabbouleh – which, proportionally, is more herbs than grains and is often served alongside other mezze dishes – this couscous-heavy dish is hearty enough to enjoy as a main in its own right. Bring it to the park with a picnic blanket and a chilled table beer (or four), and you’ll be well on your way to an ideal (and small business-supported) summer evening.
Couscous Herb Salad with Marinated Halloumi
For the marinated halloumi:
500g halloumi, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons za'atar
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
4 cloves garlic, crushed
For the couscous salad:
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus additional
1 teaspoon black pepper
400ml boiling water
50g (3.5 tablespoons) unsalted butter
125g pine nuts
300g sweet cherry tomatoes
6 spring onions
140g flat-leaf parsley
3 teaspoons baharat spice mix (make your own using this recipe)
Juice of 1 lemon
- First, marinate your halloumi. Place the slices in a medium bowl and add the olive oil, za'atar, lemon juice and zest, and garlic. Set aside for roughly 1 hour.
- Next, prepare the couscous. Add the couscous to a large bowl. Drizzle in one tablespoon of olive oil and season with 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt and the black pepper. Mix until evenly coated. Pour over the boiling water and mix briefly. Cover with cling-film and leave for 10-15 minutes, or until the couscous has absorbed the water and swelled. Fluff with a fork and leave to cool.
- Meanwhile, make your butter-toasted pine nuts. To a small frying pan, add the butter and place over high heat. Once melted, add the pine nuts. Cook, stirring frequently, for approximately 3-5 minutes, or until the butter foams up and browns; it will smell nutty and toasty. Once nut-brown, remove from the heat. Leave to cool for 10 minutes. Add the pine nuts and butter mix to the couscous and stir to combine.
- Prepare the herbs and vegetables. Quarter the cherry tomatoes and add to a very large bowl. Thinly slice both the white and green parts of the spring onions and add. Rinse the parsley well, and slice as thinly as possibly. Separate the mint leaves from their stems and do the same.
Add to the bowl and mix together.
- Once the couscous is room temperature, add to the vegetable and herb mix and toss to combine. Add the baharat spice mix and lemon juice. Gently tip in the liquid the halloumi has been marinating in, and drizzle in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Mix well to combine; taste and add additional salt if needed. Set aside.
- Fry the halloumi. Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat and arrange the slices in a single layer (you may need to fry in two batches depending on your pan size). Cook for several minutes on each side until golden-brown; flip frequently to ensure the halloumi does not burn.
- To serve, divide the couscous herb salad between plates and top with the warm halloumi slices.
Claire M Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our award-winning first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen, and for more beers like this one, sign up for our All Killer No Filler subscription box here.