A little while ago I rediscovered fregola, a nutty semolina pasta from the Italian island of Sardinia. I made a delicious tomato and clam dish with background heat from Nduja, a spicy spreadable sausage from Calabria.
I enjoyed the texture contrasts created by roasting red onion wedges and courgette slices. Cooking the fregola in stock rather than water added an wonderful savoury edge. So I re-used those ideas in this vegetarian salad.
This is a salad that is far removed from the limp lettuce leaf. Also, lots of pasta salads are heavy on pasta and swimming in mayonnaise. Or soggy due to dressing overload.
This one is none of those. It is light on pasta and dressing with no mayonnaise in sight. Instead it gives a different burst of flavours and textures with every mouthful. It is equally wonderful eaten warm or cold, on it’s own or as a side dish to grilled or BBQ-ed chicken or fish. Perfect for the lunchbox the next day too.
If you can’t find fregola, you can use Israeli couscous, quinoa, spelt or frekeh. Goats curd adds a deliciously creamy touch, but it’s not always easy to get hold off. I used Ribblesdale from Yorkshire, which is stocked by Ocado. But it can be replaced by a good soft goats cheese, ricotta, feta or grilled halloumi.
Salad of Fregola with Courgette, Artichokes and Goats Curd (serves 2-3 DF RSF)
1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
1 courgette, thinly sliced
6-8 artichoke hearts (from a tin or a jar is fine), drained, rinsed and cut into wedges
1/2 tsp dried oregano
500 ml vegetable stock
180 gr fregola
a good handful or 2 of kale or spinach, ribs removed and roughly shredded
a handful of peas, frozen is fine
fresh parsley, finely chopped
fresh mint, finely chopped
1 avocado, sliced or diced
30 gr provolone picante or similar acidic firm cheese, finely diced
80 gr goats cheese curd
1 1/2 tbsp rapeseed oil
zest and juice of half a lemon
3 tbsp toasted pine nuts
Heat the oven to 200 C.
Liberally season 1 tbsp of the oil in a bowl. Add the dried oregano and toss the onion wedges and courgette slices through to coat. Roast in the oven until tender.
Cook the fregola in the stock as per the packet instructions. Drain.
Blanch or steam the kale and peas until tender. Drain and dry.
Toss the fregola with the vegetables and herbs. Add lemon zest. lemon juice and the remaining rapeseed oil. Stir through the diced cheese and half of the pine nuts
Top with avocado, blobs of goat’s curd and the remaining pine nuts. Garnish with a few more herbs before serving.