Aubergine, almond & sultana orzo salad with minted chicken & halloumi skewers

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Not your standard roast lamb, this was a feast prepared by my sister and I for Mother’s Day.

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We built a menu around our mum’s favourite caprese salad (made with a fresh pesto dressing and avocado slices) and ventured across the med towards Sicily and Greece for further inspiration.

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An aubergine orzo pasta salad with a saffron spiked dressing, plus buttered almonds, pine nuts and sultanas had roots in Sicilian cuisine, while our mint, garlic and yoghurt-marinated chicken & halloumi skewers had a Grecian influence. This recipe makes 6 large skewers – 1 skewer per person is generous.

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The orzo was light and tasty. If I’d not been making it for my mum, who dislikes both, I’d have added capers and parsley. I used olives and salad leaves instead in the recipe below but have listed my alternative suggestions too. The chicken skewers with halloumi were juicy and subtly minty – and served the extra purpose of providing a good deal of protein to a family who’d all been out running today. Good effort!

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You will need:

For the orzo salad

500g orzo pasta
2 Aubergines
1 tbspn olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves
Knob of butter
75g pine nuts
75g whole almonds
75g sultanas
1/2 red onion, sliced
Handful of pitted black olives or capers
2 tbspn extra Virgin olive oil
Just under 1 tbspn cider vinegar
Pinch of saffron
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt, pepper
Pinch of sugar
Handful of salad leaves or chopped parsley

For the chicken skewers

12 free range chicken thigh fillets, chopped into large chunks
200g Greek yoghurt
Small handful of fresh chopped mint, plus extra to serve
Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus extra to serve
1 garlic clove, crushed
225g halloumi, cubed
Salt, pepper

Method:

For the orzo salad

1 – Start by preheating your oven to 190 degrees
2 – Slice the aubergine into large slices (large ones halved) and toss with about 1 tbspn olive oil, the lemon zest, garlic and plenty of seasoning; pop in the oven to roast until completely soft and browned, turning a few times during cooking
3 – Meanwhile cook the orzo in salted boiling water; drain and rinse with cool water once al dente then set aside
4 – Now heat a knob of butter in a frying pan and add the nuts and sultanas; cook until just turning golden and sweet smelling then set aside
5 – In a large serving bowl toss together the cooled nuts, pasta, red onion and olives/capers
6 – When the aubergine is cooked leave to cool
7 – Make the dressing by combining the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, saffron, seasoning and sugar to taste and stir this into the pasta
8 – Toss in the the cooled aubergine and salad leaves/parsley just before serving

For the chicken skewers

1 – In a bowl mix together the yoghurt, mint, lemon juice, garlic and seasoning; mix the chicken into the yoghurt, cover the bowl with cling film and put in the fridge to marinade for 30-60 minutes
2 – When ready to cook, preheat the grill to 180 degrees and cut your halloumi into cubes
3 – Thread the chicken and halloumi onto metal (or soaked wooden) skewers- you’ll have a ratio of 2:1 chicken to halloumi so thread two pieces of chicken to every one piece of halloumi
4 – Place the skewers under the grill for around 15 minutes, turning frequently; once cooked serve with extra fresh mint and lemon juice on top

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