Summer couscous salad:chickpea,almond, pomegranate & feta

by Sasha Wilkins on July 31, 2010 · 15 comments

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Maybe six years ago Bev made a couscous salad for my now goddaughter’  baby shower. I can’t remember any of the other ingredients, but the revelation for me was the inclusion of pomegranate seeds. I’d long had the fear about fruit in salads, not liking sweet & savoury food together (clearly I had been fed too much gammon & pineapple at school dinners), but I gritted my teeth, took a spoonful for politeness, & had a kitchen Damascene moment. Since then I’ve happily messed about with fruit in salads, and  opened my mind a little more.

But I’d forgotten about that especial salad until last weekend when I thought to make a couscous pilaf-y thing for our garden party and suddenly the idea of feta & pomegranate sprang into my thoughts.

I love the contrast of textures and flavours in this dish: there’s the intense, smooth saltiness of the feta, then the crunch and sweet explosion from the pomegranate seeds, the chewy nuts, the earthiness of the chickpeas and and the restrained kick & crispness of the raw scallions. For  a carb-heavy side dish, as above, I go large on the couscous, and just use the additions as a flavouring rather than as a major part.

If I was making this as a main course salad for four or so people, instead of as a party side dish, I would make enough couscous for four, (I’m not going to tell you how as I have a hit & miss record with couscous but follow the instructions on the packet), but would probably still add pretty much the same amount of other ingredients as I list below.

I made the couscous the night before, so that it wouldn’t be too wet when I came to amalgamate all the ingredients – soggy, claggy couscous is grim. A standard pound bag of (wholemeal) couscous made two pretty large bowls (as above), enough to be used as one  type of several side dishes at a large barbecue party.

To the couscous I added:
One tin of drained chickpeas. I set the colander out in the sun to dry them off, but you could just use kitchen paper – again soggy couscous is grim, so open & drain the chickpeas first, and add them last when they are as dry as possible.
One block of feta, finely crumbled. For a main course salad I’d break it into slightly larger chunks.
One pomegranate. Cut it in half and dig out all the seeds, removing every last bit of white pith.
Half a bunch of flat leaf parsley. Chop this up very finely
A bunch of spring onions/scallions. Top and tail, and slice finely – including the greens.
A small packet of flaked almonds. Just dump ‘em in. Upon reflection unsalted pistachios would be great  too.
Lots of Maldon salt. Kosher or other sea salt is good too.
Lots of freshly ground black pepper

At the last minute I drizzled over a little grassy Greek olive oil to bind it together.  Normally I would add some finely sliced red chilis, but there were infants present, so I thought best not.

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