Cous Cous with Cilantro Pesto & Halloumi

Cous Cous Salad

One of the hazards of working home, alone, in your pajamas, is that you lose track of time. With M away on a work trip this week, my days were punctuated with a cup of morning espresso, yogurt and granola (if I was good), or a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast. Then I would dive into the big black hole of writing, emailing, Twittering, writing, writing and more writing, until mid-afternoon when hunger pangs reminded me that I had forgotten about lunch. An afternoon snack would ensue – some fresh tomatoes, or figs, or grapes for a much-needed sugar boost, and, if I’m particularly sleepy, a cup of earl grey. And then it would be time to start thinking about dinner, a thought process best undertaken with a glass of good red wine and Alexander Ebert on the sound system.

I’m not exactly proud of missing lunch with such (terrifying) frequency, but sometimes when you’re in the ‘flow’, deep in the trenches of digging out and articulating the essence of that idea, that story, it’s just not possible to tear yourself away from the screen and go, “See you later!” to the thought process that took, oh, just over an hour for you to get there.

Writing. I have a love-hate relationship with it, filled with too many pockets of procrastination. What about you?

Cilantro Walnut Pesto

Speaking about procrastination, one of Seth Godin’s recent posts about wasting time was music to my ears. Did you know that wasting time is a key part of our lives? The question, then, is whether you do it productively.

It sheds a whole new light on those hours spent flipping through the latest issue of Gourmet Traveller or Bon Appetit when they arrive in the mail. Or putting important things like the laundry on hold while researching recipe ideas for the loads of Gravenstein apples that we’re blessed with from our tree. This recipe for a cous cous salad is the fruit of a time-wasting afternoon leafing through Romney Steele’s latest cookbook, Plum Gorgeous. It’s beautifully photographed by the ever-talented Sara Remington and the recipes are simple, refreshing springboards for the home cook’s experimentation. The original recipe features kumquats and toasted cous cous tossed in a light vinaigrette. Since I had a big bunch of cilantro sitting around feeling rather dejected about themselves, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to turn them into pesto and use it here, substituting our tomatoes for kumquats. The slices of salty, tangy Halloumi cheese tie everything together for a light, simple meal – the perfect dish to make up for those lunches I missed this week.


Cous Cous Salad with Cilantro Pesto and Halloumi

Inspired by Plum Gorgeous / Serves 2

You’ll have a fair bit of cilantro pesto leftover, which is a happy problem. We like to toss it in our pastas, serve it with fish, and lately, using it in Heidi’s summer squash gratin recipe.


  • 1 ounce/ 28 grams walnuts
  • 3 ounces (1-2 bunches) cilantro, stems trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • ½ cup/ 120 ml olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces/ 113 grams Halloumi cheese, sliced
  • ½ cup cous cous
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 8 ounces/ 225 grams fresh tomatoes, sliced into quarters or eighths
  • A few mint leaves, for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 300F/ 150C. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and toast for 10 minutes, until the pieces turn beige. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a food processor, combine the chopped cilantro, toasted walnuts, garlic cloves, lemon juice and some of the olive oil. Process until you get a thick green paste. Turn the mixture out into a medium bowl and stir in the parmesan and the rest of the olive oil. Season to taste with salt. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Heat some olive oil in a non-stick pan, then fry the Halloumi slices until both sides start to crisp and turn golden brown. Set aside.
  4. Place the cous cous in a bowl or a saucepan, add the freshly boiled water, cover and let it sit for 10 minutes before stirring and fluffing the grains.
  5. When ready to serve, add about two tablespoons of the pesto to the cous cous, mixing well. Portion the cous cous on each plate, then top with the slices of Halloumi and tomatoes. Garnish with a few mint leaves and a squeeze of lemon if you like. You could also set out the ingredients separately for people to help themselves.

Cous Cous Salad

This salad is part of this month’s Let’s Lunch theme of cold entrees. Before you go, check out my fellow lunchers’ posts below. And if you’d like to join us, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag #Letslunch — or, post a comment below.

Cheryl‘s Spicy Sichuan Sesame Noodles at A Tiger In The Kitchen

Cathy‘s Jasmine Tea-Poached Shrimp Summer Rolls at Showfood Chef

Eleanor‘s Cold Noodles with Stir-Fried Vegetables, Hoisin Pork & Spicy Shrimp at Be A Wok Star

Linda‘s Gazpacho Rolls Gone Wrong at Free Range Cookies

Lisa‘s Byron Sprout Salad with Chargrilled Chicken at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Mai‘s Strawberry Soup at Cooking in The Fruit Bowl

Maria‘s Croque Monsieur with Bechamel at Maria’s Good Things

Rebecca‘s Cold Roasted Lamb with Mustard & Rosemary at Grongar Blog

Victor‘s Seafood Napoleon at The Taste of Oregon


  1. It’s uncanny how you’ve hit on so many of my favorite things in a single post: 1) halloumi 2) Plum Gorgeous (try the olallieberry pie, if you can still find any wayward berries) 3) procrastination.

    Also, I like lunch. (That’s #4.)

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  3. I work from home writing as well and have the exact same tendencies. The hardest part is certain things that take a lot of time but don’t produce concrete results can feel like wasting time. Though I try to have structure in my day, I can only write when the mojo is working. I tend to get in a groove and miss lunch or completely lose track of time. While it’s important to get things done, your mind needs down time to get the creative juices flowing. I’m off to read Seth’s blog- thanks for the great post!

  4. Wow so gorgeous and fresh, love the cous cous! I think the procrastination (at reasonable levels) is also part of the thinking process – a lot of thoughts stew in the back of our minds while we are doing something else, and to a point I think that’s a good thing….

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  6. Oh, I have the exact same problems including the eating a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast – seriously. Love couscous and this recipe is a great way to focus on making it and having it in the refrigerator for a better choice. Love those pics, as always!

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  9. omg absolutely stunning photos! The recipe looks delish too. I’m a big fan of cous cous, halloumi and pesto.

    Totally agree on the writing – a few productive bursts with the rest of the time spent on procrastination (and, in my case, denial). I’ve become very good at the guitar in the time I’ve spent trying to write…

  10. Ousi

    looks delicious, will try to make it tonight. I was so scared halloumi wouldn’t exist in the states anymore because it’s one of my fave snacks. can’t wait to be back in SF soon!

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