There’s something I find hard to resist about sitting down to a meal of tasty morsels, carefully selected and nestled into one another in your own personal dish. I’m thinking here of a Korean bibimbab, Japanese chirashi sushi (‘scattered’ sushi on a bed of rice), Indonesian nasi kuning, an Indian thali or indeed, a good ploughman’s lunch complete with chutney. I’m sure you can think of many other examples from other cuisines.

This recipe is my attempt to make a salad version of this kind of meal, partly to pay homage to some fond food memories that I haven’t known what to do with until now: a stunning chef’s salad at Manna, a vegetarian restaurant in Primrose Hill, London; a tasty and nourishing ‘salad bowl’ served with a fabulous sourdough at Suzanne’s Place, at Mogo on the NSW South Coast; and Perama’s yummy grilled haloumi and peppered figs.

At the risk of sounding like my mother, this isn’t really a recipe. Because this kind of meal tends of have little dishes within the main dish, I have included ‘recipes’ for these. The rest though, is a selection of ingredients that provide crunch, creaminess, saltiness, sweetness and tang. There’s lightness in the green salad elements, and substance in the potato and bean salads. It’s a good meal to serve when people are coming over because you can prepare most things beforehand, then you just need to grill the haloumi and assemble when you’re ready to eat. I highly recommend a tasty, solid sourdough and some butter to accompany the salad. If you’re serving this meal to non-vegetarians, some shaved spicy salami is a great addition.

salad-bowl.jpg

Salad bowl with haloumi and figs
(This makes enough for about 4 people, and quantities are approximate)

For the potato salad
900g new potatoes, halved and steamed
3 tbsp light sour cream
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 tsp whole grain mustard
1/4 tsp dijon mustard
salt
chives, finely chopped (optional)

For the bean salad
400g tin 4-bean mix
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Other components
300g green beans, trimmed and steamed until just cooked
2/3 cup semi-dried tomatoes
2/3 cup mixed olives (not pitted)
150g haloumi
1/2 cup moist dried figs*, stems removed and sliced thickly
1 head of soft lettuce (I used butter lettuce)
1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
1 ripe avocado
2/3 cup mixed sprouts

To make the potato salad: ensure potatoes are cool, and combine all other ingredients in a small bowl. Pour dressing over potatoes, mix and chill till needed.

To make the bean salad: drain and rinse well the beans, then combine with other ingredients. Chill until needed.

To assemble the salad: Start by cutting the haloumi into 1/2 cm slices, and dry-fry them in a non-stick pan until golden. While the haloumi’s cooking, assemble the rest of the salad. Set out individual plates for each person and arrange the potato salad, bean salad and other components. It doesn’t really matter how you arrange them (the picture shows just one example), just as long as the haloumi and figs are together.

Serve with sourdough bread.

* Since making the salad in this picture, I’ve discovered dried mission figs at the local organic food co-op. They have an intense purple-black colouring and semi-dried texture and work wonderfully with the haloumi, as well as being very pretty on the plate. I highly recommend them if you can find them, and I’m sure they’ll make further appearances in this blog – so stay posted.

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