On my last visit to Little Italy in Five Dock I was fortunate to pick up a packet of Fregola Tostada. A regional artisan pasta native to Sardinia. Traditionally made by hand, coarse semolina is combined with water and rubbed together until the mixture forms small balls of pasta. These fragile, crumbly grains are sun-dried and toasted in a wood-fired oven, imparting a distinctive nutty flavour.
Fregola bears a very close resemblance to couscous, particularly the larger grains of Israeli couscous. When I first embarked on the 5-2 diet, couscous quickly became one of my favourite pantry ingredients. Combined with an endless array of lean protein, vegetable, herb, spice, nut and dried fruit, it is incredibly versatile and the mainstay of many delicious and satisfying fast day meals.
Quite some time ago I chanced upon a toasted fregola salad recipe made with salmon and asparagus in Real Living magazine. I bookmarked it and waited patiently for the perfect opportunity to recreate it at home. Here it is adapted to the fast day diet. At just 350 calories a serve, it’s light and refreshing with a wonderful combination of flavours and textures. Perfect fare for a balmy evening meal. Nutritious yet delicious, fregola will most definitely be joining my repertoire of favourite ingredients.
Toasted Fregola Salad With Hot-Smoked Salmon, Asparagus, Pine Nuts and Mint.
Adapted from Real Living Real Food
Makes 3 cups (350 calories per cup serve)
1 cup (150 g) toasted fregola (or substitute Israeli couscous prepared to packet instructions) (510 calories)
1 tablespoon pine nuts (58 calories)
extra virgin olive oil (120 calories)
juice and finely grated zest of 1 large lemon (24 calories)
150g hot-smoked salmon (315 calories)
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped roughly (2 calories)
1 bunch (6 medium sized spears) asparagus, woody ends removed (18 calories)
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
TOAST pine nuts in a dry pan over low-medium heat until golden. Set aside.
HALF FILL a large saucepan with water, add a pinch of salt and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.
ADD asparagus spears and quickly blanch for a minute or so. Remove the asparagus with kitchen tongs and plunge into a bowl of iced water. Drain and pat dry with paper towel. Set aside.
BRING the saucepan of water back to a rolling boil. Add fregola. Cook for 10 to 12 mins or until al dente (firm to the bite but not hard). Drain and refresh under cold running water.
PLACE cooked fregola into a large mixing bowl. Add olive oil, lemon juice and zest. Toss well to combine. Set aside to cool.
REMOVE the skin and any bones from the salmon, and dab with kitchen paper to remove any excess oil before flaking with a fork directly into the bowl of fregola.
ADD chopped mint and toasted nuts. Mix well to combine.
HEAT a griddle pan until smoking. Chargrill asparagus evenly for 2 to 3 mins. Remove from heat. Slice stalks into 1 cm pieces, leave tips whole. Add stalks to the fregola salad. Reserve the tips for garnish.
SEASON salad with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, adding extra lemon juice if required. Mix well to combine.
SERVE with a garnish of asparagus tips and a little shredded mint.