This salad is a medley of contrasts. Spicy fried bhaji, crisp fennel and apple, roasted sweet potatoes and chickpeas, bright greens and a lemony-sweet dressing. This is a showstopper dish, perfect for special occasions or dinner with friends.
Bhaji Salad has many steps- you need to make the bhaji, roast the sweet potatoes and chickpeas, make couscous and chop the veggies. But if you make extra couscous you can use it as a base for another meal later in the week, and it is easy to toast extra nuts and chickpeas to keep on hand for tossing on soups and salads. It takes a bit of time to pull all the parts together but it is a good template for making a full meal out of salad. A little roasted veg, a little fresh, a little salty, a little sweet, some grains for body and nuts for crunch. You can make all the parts ahead of time, so this is a good one to keep handy for when you want a meal for weekday lunches all week but still want something fresh and light.
The Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing relies on a bit of Mayo, which I always have in the house because it takes about 3 minutes to make and is incredibly useful for a variety of meals. You can check out my recipe here, or use store-bought if you have it on hand. You could also omit it if you like, it just makes for a creamier dressing. A teaspoon of ground chia seeds might be a decent substitute. The couscous will help absorb any extra dressing so you don’t need it to be too thick. The most important part is the sweetness and tanginess offered by the lemons, as they balance out the heavier flavours of the Bhaji, couscous, and chickpeas.
Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon vegan mayo
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds or swap for sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon vinegar any kind of light-coloured vinegar will do
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 small shallot finely minced or grated and rinsed with water
- 1/2 cup neutral-flavoured oil, such as sunflower or canola
- Whisk together all the ingredients except the oil until the sugar is dissolved.
- Then whisk in the oil gradually in a stead stream or one splash at a time, until thoroughly combined. Store in a jar in the fridge for 5 days.
Roasted Sweet Potato and Bhaji Salad with Fennel and Couscous
To Make Ahead
- 1 batch Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing
- 1 batch Spicy Carrot Bhaji
For The Salad
- 2 medium sweet potatoes peeled and chopped in 1-inch cubes
- 1 400 gram can of chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 cup couscous
- 2 teaspoons vegetable broth powder
- 1 medium head of fennel trimmed and chopped into 1/2-1 inch cubes
- 1 large crisp apple such as Gala or Mackintosh
- 4 cups arugula
- 4 cups baby kale or baby spinach
- 1/2 cup pecans preferably toasted
- extra poppy seeds or other seeds, if desired
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the chickpeas and sweet potatoes together on a large baking sheet with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, turning twice to be sure the potatoes and chickpeas get a bit of golden colour all over.
- Meanwhile, prepare the couscous according to package directions, adding the vegetable broth powder to the cooking water and adding additional salt to taste.
- While the potatoes and chickpeas are roasting, ensure the Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing and Spicy Carrot Bhaji are ready. If you have made the Bhaji ahead of time, you can add them to the oven right on top of the roasting pan for the last 5-10 minutes of their cooking time to reheat them.
- Prepare the salad. Toss the fennel, apple, arugula and baby kale or spinach in a large bowl with half the Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing.
- On each plate, spread 1/3-1/2 cup of couscous. Add some of the salad over top, then some of the sweet potatoes and chickpeas. Tear 1-2 Bhaji per plate into bites over the salad. Drizzle an additional spoonful of the dressing over top, then add some pecans and additional seeds if desired.
- Store the cooked ingredients in an airtight container in the fridge for a week, use the raw ingredients within 2 days.