Some salads are more fun to make than others. Some require big thoughts and a lot of chopping and tossing, and, while this is satisfying and therapeutic at times, at other moments I just want a big, hearty salad that is quick to make, and that just whacks me in the face with flavour. This is that salad! It is fun to make and even more fun to eat.
The fun in this salad is not, believe it or not, in a main seasonal vegetable. Rather, this dish takes us on a little adventure. The fun-loving star of this salad is actually moghrabieh, a form of rolled semolina popular in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Moghrabieh balls are huge, and when cooked, they retain a chewy, starchy consistency. Needless to say, I think they are rather addictive!
Traditionally, moghrabieh is cooked with meat and lots of it. In my dish, I have replaced meat with flavour - spicy, tomato-ey harissa flavour, to be exact. Because the balls are so hardy, they not only withstand a longer cooking time, but they absolutely thrive off it! Here, I've concocted a rather flavoursome chilli tomato base in which the moghrabieh cooks and softens. I'm sure you can already imagine how good this salad is....
Moghrabieh with harissa and lentils
Remember, if you are substituting moghrabieh with pearl couscous or fregola, you will need to adjust the amount of liquid you add. Cook with your eyes, and add water slowly as the liquid reduces.
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- 1 tbsp harissa (or more if you like it spicy!)
- 2 cups diced tomatoes or passata
- 2 cups moghrabieh (or use pearl couscous or fregola)
- 1 cup black lentils
- ½ cup (tightly packed) flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- ½ cup (tightly packed) mint, finely chopped
- ¼ cup (tightly packed) Chinese shallots, finely sliced
- 30g ricotta salata, grated
- Sea salt and black pepper
Begin by preparing the spicy tomato cooking liquid. In a large saucepan or pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then add the garlic and onion. Cook for 1 minute or so, then add the harissa. Cook for another minute, then add the diced tomatoes, 3 cups of water, a big pinch of salt and stir. Pour in the moghrabieh, cover and allow to cook on low heat for 30-35 minutes, adding another cup or two of water during the cooking time as the liquid dissipates, until the moghrabieh balls are al dente. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Bring another saucepan of water to the boil and add a big pinch of salt. Add the black lentils and cook for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Drain.
Add the black lentils and herbs to the moghrabieh, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and stir to combine. Taste, and season with sea salt and black pepper if required. To serve, scatter with grated ricotta salata.