Fall in love with kale (really!) with this halloumi kale salad with a pesto dressing. Massaged kale with roasted sweet potato, pan fried halloumi and drizzled in a lemony pesto is a match made in heaven! Gluten free and grain free.
This week I’m sharing a salad that’s anything but limp and flavourless. My halloumi kale salad with pesto is super satisfying and packed full of flavour – you’ve got the sweetness of roasted sweet potatoes, the savoury delight of halloumi and the herby, tangy bite of pesto. Basically, this is a salad with potatoes, pesto and cheese, so I’m pretty sure you’re gunna find something to love in here!
I was inspired to make a big, bright and beautiful salad after recently receiving some gorgeous new crockery from Maxwell & Williams. The gorgeous pebble coloured bowl pictured in this post is one of the items (specifically, this bowl is the shallow bowl in pebble from the Wayfarer collection). It’s the perfect size and style for plating up a shareable salad. I think it would also be perfect for elaborately plating up a single serve of something too, like slow cooked lamb shanks on a pile of creamy sweet potato mash, with lots of sauce. It would look so fancy stacked up in the middle of these bowls. Mmm. But I digress…
Let’s get back to this halloumi kale salad. It’s the ultimate way to enjoy this leafy green, which I know isn’t everyone’s favourite vegetable. But trust me, top anything with pan fried halloumi and a drizzle of pesto and you’ll get all the salad-loathing kale-haters on board.
How to massage kale
The trick to making this a really excellent salad is to give the kale a good massage, so it’s soft, easier to digest and laced with the flavours of olive oil, lemon and salt. Here’s how you do it:
- Wash your kale leaves, pat/shake dry and then tear the leaves into smaller pieces, discarding the thick inner stem.
- Place kale into a large bowl.
- Drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice (essential, the acid helps it break down) and a pinch of salt.
- Get your hands into the bowl! Literally, properly massage the kale with your fingertips. Do this for a few minutes until you feel the kale is softened and evenly coated with the ingredients.
- Voila, you are done. Now it’s ready to go in the salad.
If you don’t have lemon juice, you can use a dash of apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar instead. These will also provide the acid needed to help tenderise the kale leaves.
Massaging kale (as silly as it sounds) seriously transforms it. I am not a huge fan of plain old raw kale; unless it’s really tender young kale, it can be really rough and not that pleasant to chew on. But massaged…that’s a whole other story! As well as being delicious in this halloumi kale salad, massaged kale also makes a great addition to sandwiches and (my favourite) as a pizza topping! So yummy, and because the kale is massaged in olive oil it will keep a lovely texture and not dry out and get too burned up.
This salad is really nice served slightly warm, with the halloumi cheese freshly pan-fried and having that slightly melty, chewy texture. However, if you can’t finish it all at once, the leftovers will keep in the fridge for lunch the next day. Another option is to prepare all of the salad ingredients except the halloumi, and simply fry this up just before serving.
p.s. you can definitely just use a store-bought pesto in this salad! I love to make my own but sometimes I just grab a ready made one too. Sometimes life is just too busy! And if you have any leftover pesto, make this tasty Pesto Vegetable Frittata. So handy to make ahead and have in the fridge for speedy breakfast, lunches or dinners.
Halloumi Kale Salad with Pesto
- 5-6 large kale leaves about 1/3 - 1/2 small bunch kale
- 1 large sweet potato about 400 grams
- 100-125 grams halloumi about 1/2 small block
- 1 lemon
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp pesto - I used my lemon basil pesto, see recipe notes
- 1 tbsp pine nuts - OPTIONAL, for topping
- 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds - OPTIONAL, for topping
- salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 180 C. Rinse and scrub sweet potato and then cut into small chunks (about 2cm cubes). Place on a non-stick oven tray, drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and toss around to coat. Spread out evenly and roast for 45 minutes or until soft and slightly browning.
Wash the kale leaves and then tear into small pieces, discarding the thick inner stems. Place the leaves in a large bowl. Add 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, the juice of half of the lemon and a pinch of salt. Massage the leaves with your fingertips until the leaves soften.
Slice the halloumi into pieces about 5mm thick. Pan fry the halloumi in 1 tbsp olive oil, until golden brown on each side.
If using the pumpkin seeds and pine nuts, toast them in the oven (spread out on a small tray, no oil) for about 5 minutes or until slightly golden. Watch them carefully so they don't burn.
Make the pesto dressing by combining 2 tbsp pesto, 1 tbsp olive oil and the juice of the remaining half of the lemon.
Assemble the salad, layering in the kale leaves, sweet potato, halloumi, seeds/nut and finally finishing with the pesto dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately!
*I used my lemon basil pesto recipe for this salad. It's already quite a zesty, lemony-sharp pesto so it's quite punchy when combined with the extra lemon juice in this dressing. If you think it might be too tangy for you, simply omit the extra lemon juice from the dressing. You can use a little water to thin out the dressing instead.
*this recipe is also delicious with roast pumpkin substituted in for the sweet potato!
*please note, while I mention Maxwell & Williams in this post, this post is not sponsored by them. I was gifted some crockery and will be featuring it in my photos! All opinions expressed are my own.