eat out your insides until you feel like an empty, emotionally
incontinent shell. And then, when it finally lets up, and your psyche
begins to accept nourishment again and to heal itself, they (your
insides) don’t grow back quite the same as before. You don’t see life
through the same lens. You are changed, as if some
pranksters broke into your brain while you were asleep and moved all the
I’m not saying that’s a bad thing though.
The most awful periods in your life — while horridly, seeringly traumatic, seemingly endless and life draining — always have something to
teach, or bring into focus.
I guess you can tell I’ve had a
rough few months. Six, to be exact. The Guinea Pig too. I won’t go into detail, suffice to say that I haven’t felt like cooking, which is always a bad omen — a proverbial dead canary.
So my being seized by a fierce desire to make these couscous cakes on the
Wednesday Chef’s blog was a sign that the old Robyn is still banging around in there, somewhere.
gathering ingredients for the cakes, thinking I’d like to have them with
a salad, and possibly some kind of lamb deal. I think the recipe was
Ottolenghi-based, so I’d have to stick to a Middle Eastern theme... A
sharp tomato and onion salad seemed like the thing. I found this recipe on my iPhone while trawling the isles at Pick n Pay. Cumin! Of course! A
tom and onion salad with parsley and cumin sounded perfect.
bought coriander though, because I prefer it, and I had some
pomegranates at home from a recent visit to my folks in Calitzdorp, so
those were definitely going in. By now I was getting inordinately
excited about this salad.
Back home, I put on Frank Sinatra
Duets (so very cheesy, so perfect to cook to), poured a glass of wine, and spent the next two hours in the kitchen... Not because that’s how long the meal took to make, but because I
wasn’t in any hurry. I was enjoying myself. I was getting drunk.
Guinea Pig only arrived home at 9pm, which was perfect timing, and we
feasted like starving peasants. The cakes were nice but frankly a little
bland (though I admittedly did not follow the recipe to the t). I’d
bought some lamb frikkadels (meatballs) from Woolworths, which were
surprisingly lovely — savoury and lamb-y — but the salad... Oh my hat,
that salad was out of this world. Crunchy, tart, sweet, salty, fresh...
Towards the end, the Guinea Pig and I were just spooning it into our
mouths right from the salad bowl. (And, after that, I lifted the bowl
and drank the dressing, a thin stream escaping down the side of my neck —
it might have been vaguely erotic, if it wasn’t salad dressing/I were
I made that salad three consecutive days in a row, and
I’m still pining for it. But I’m out of pomegranates, and although I
know the salad would still be lovely without, there’s something about
those sweet little rubies that makes it. If you ever needed an excuse to
splurge on pomegranates, this is it. (This is another one.)
even though we’re going into winter, I feel a bit like spring. I can
sense life returning to the parts of me that fell dormant in recent
months, and I feel pathetically, irrationally grateful to this salad.
Pomegranate, tomato & onion salad
are not all that important in this salad, really, as long as there’s
enough dressing. Most shop-bought tomatoes are pretty awful, though, but
I find a trick that makes them immeasurably tastier is
to chop them up and scatter some salt over them. Allow them to sweat for
about 10—20 minutes, then drain the liquid. It really intensifies their
8 medium tomatoes, chopped, salted & drained
2 small (or 1 large) red onions, chopped
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
1 bunch coriander, finely chopped
Juice of one lemon
1 tbsp cumin, ground
Sea salt, to taste
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Combine the tomato, onion, pomegranate seeds and coriander in a salad bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together the lemon juice, cumin, salt and olive oil.
3. Add dressing to salad, toss to coat, devour.