Halloumi with Red Onion Relish and a Couscous Salad

17 January 2018

Helium with red onion relish and couscous salad

This all started because I went to Lebanon. Not just now, a few months ago. But while I was there, and sniffing around the local food scene, I came across mention of a quite common ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking, but a novelty to me, which was pomegranate molasses. I was immediately intrigued, and decided I needed to get some of this fascinating substance to get the measure of what it had to offer.

I get like that sometimes when I come across things I’ve not used before. Just like a kid faced with a shiny new toy. And there are a lot of things I’ve not used before. You’ll have to bear with me.

Anyway, I finally got some a week or two ago. Pomegranate molasses is a rich syrup produced by reducing down pomegranate juice until it goes thick and jammy. I’d assumed it would have a light fruit sweetness - the sort of thing that could be drizzled on a buttermilk pudding and apple & pomegranate crumble - but it actually has a complex balance of sweet and sour, which is why it is often used in savoury dishes. 

So this dish, although it is apparently about halloumi, and couscous salad - really I came to cook it because I was looking for an application for the pomegranate molasses. And in this, I was inspired by the similar dish published on Great British Chefs by the fabulous and quirky food writer Danny Kingston @FoodUrchin

This is a relatively quick and easy dish to cook. But when you take in mouthfuls that include the toasted, salty Halloumi, the pomegranate-rich red onion relish, and the refreshing, lemony and minty couscous salad - it all just works together flavour-wise and gives a pretty nice tasting, and relatively healthy, meal.

And if you’re trying to eat a little less meat, this is one of those dishes that is effortlessly meat free and you’d hardly even notice it.

Halloumi with Red Onion Relish and a Couscous Salad

This has been changed quite a bit from the original source of inspiration. Danny uses Bulgur wheat, I use couscous. He adds pomegranate seeds. I don’t. He marinates the halloumi with lemon juice and garlic, I just go with the pure toasted cheese. This version is quicker and is very tasty. If you want to explore that extra dimension of flavour, check out his version here.

Serves: 2

8 slices halloumi
1 tablespoon olive oil

Red onion relish

2 red onions, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 squeeze lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

Couscous salad

160g couscous
1 dash extra virgin olive oil
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cucumber, deseeded and sliced
2 spring onions, sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
1 handful fresh mint, chopped


Pour salted boiling water over the couscous and let it sit for 5 minutes to absorb. Set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan and, over a medium heat, gently fry the red onion until it softens without allowing it to brown. Add the red wine vinegar and cook until the vinegar has all evaporated. Then add the pomegranate molasses and cook for another 20 seconds or so until the onions have gone all jammy. Take off the heat, season with a little salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Mix in, and set aside.

Heat another frying pan with a medium high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil, and then fry the slices of halloumi, giving them a couple of minutes each side until they have got a nice level of colouring on each side. 

While those are frying, mix together the tomatoes, the cucumber, the spring onions and the couscous. Add a little extra virgin olive oil and the lemon juice and mix together. Stir in the herbs.

To serve, spoon some of the couscous salad onto the plate. Top with four slices of the halloumi and spoon a little of the red onion relish on top. Sprinkle a few more parsley or mint leaves over the top and serve.

Food waste notes

If you have halloumi left over, keep it in salted water in the fridge and it will keep reasonably well for a couple of weeks. It's so easy to grill or fry some up and add it onto another dish, or just to have it as a delicious salty snack, you shouldn't need to keep it for too long.

If you don't use all the lemon juice from your lemon, then squeeze out the rest and put it into a couple of ice cube squares to freeze.

The cucumber is trickier, since left alone it will only keep for a couple of days. You can extend this a bit longer by storing it is a sealed bag (as airtight as possible), or for up to a week by slicing it and submerging it in water. But don't keep it in the fridge - research has shown that cucumbers actually deteriorate faster in the fridge than they do at room temperature. Either way, you're going to have to use it pretty quickly - and this is one of those instances where you should plan ahead on how you're going to use it as part of your planning for this particular dish. 

A couple of easy ideas. If you were planning on having sandwiches for lunch the next day, or the day after, consider whether cucumber slices could be added to those sandwiches to give a little extra crunch. And, of course, you can add them to any other salads you might do. Failing that, then why not pickle the remainder. Put your remaining cucumber, thinly sliced, into a jar covered with a combo of vinegar (maybe half and half cider and white wine vinegar) and brown sugar (2 parts vinegar to 1 part sugar). Add any spices you'd like to have as part of that mix. Put this into a sterlised jar and store. Should keep in that form in the fridge for 3 weeks or so.