When the idea for this popped into my head, I could almost taste it. It’s such a fine tumble of contrasting flavours and textures, and the sourness comes from the mango or the tamarind: you can never be sure of a mango until you taste it, so hold fire on finishing the dressing until you’ve tried the mango – add a little honey if it is unripe and sour; leave it alone if it is edging towards sweet. This is great with pea shoots in place of rocket [Ed. note: rocket is arugula], coriander rather than mint, a red onion instead of the shallot, and by all means cast pomegranate seeds over the top. Play with it as you like.
by Mark Diancono
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Once shimmering, add the halloumi slices and fry until mottled golden on both sides. Lift out on to kitchen paper to drain.
Arrange the rocket in a large serving dish, lay the mango slices around fairly evenly spaced, and – tearing each slice in two as you go – dot the halloumi over the dish. Break the shallot slices into individual arcs and scatter them over the top. Use the tips of your fingers to agitate and gently disturb everything – you’re aiming to combine a little but mostly just introduce a degree of pleasing dishevelment.
Sprinkle both the shredded mint and pinch of Aleppo pepper over the top, and grind a little salt and pepper across the ensemble.
Finally, having tasted a little of the mango for ripeness, make up the spicy tamarind dressing, adding the honey if the mango is sour, or leaving it out if the mango is sweet. Dot the dressing over the dish and serve.
Spicy Tamarind Dressing
My friend Max’s mother was a lovely woman, who once delivered the most withering of gentle demolitions of a person she saw as having questionable taste: ‘Oh Maxwell, she’s the sort who thinks geese are swans.’ I think of that every time I use tamarind paste from a jar rather than making my own from a tamarind block; it’s a goose, but on a wet Wednesday in March when all you want to do is have a good meal and put your feet up, sometimes a goose will do.
Whenever you can manage it, use the tamarind block that comes with seed and all: it really is a swan. This dressing requires such a small amount but it is SO worth it, but if you’re in too much of a dash bringing everything together to fanny around using tamarind block for a dressing, paste from a jar will be fine.
Try this with the Halloumi, Mango, Shallot and Rocket Salad, on a crisp lettuce or even steamed sprouts: make it once and it’ll become a staple.
Makes comfortably enough for a salad for 4
Pound the garlic and ginger in a pestle and mortar with a little salt until it becomes a smoothish paste. Add the Aleppo pepper, coriander, tamarind paste and lemon juice and a little black pepper and stir well to combine. Add the oil and whisk into an emulsion. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed, and depending on what you are serving it with, whisk in the jaggery or honey if you’d like it a little sweeter.
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Recipe excerpted with permission from Sour by Mark Diacono, published by Quadrille November 2019, RRP $35.00 Hardcover.