Well, this is different. How many times do you get to say it’s really hot in London? Summer has found its confidence and is blazing away at a temperature that makes the thought of a pasta dinner just slightly uncomfortable. Thankfully, though, there’s haloumi – glorious haloumi – the delicious squeaky cheese that renders all who consume it instantly voluntary vegetarians.
Ok, so it feels like cheating to call this a recipe. But when it’s hot, the very last thing I feel like doing is cooking, so it’s gotta be simple: three ingredients (very Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) and there is zero chance of the oven going on. Slip it onto a plate, dress with balsamic or lemon juice, and slide out the door to enjoy the rest of the summer evening.
Simple haloumi salad
Half a 225g block of haloumi
Balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
Fry the haloumi over a medium heat until brown, turning once to fry the other side.
Arrange the spinach on a plate and slice the tomatoes. Top with the grilled haloumi and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
Let’s face it: everything in my fridge has seen better days.
How could I have let it come to this? Well, there’s a good reason for the very-unlike-me paucity of food in the tiny kitchen; I’m moving next week and I’m struggling to clear my cupboards to make things as simple as possible. That means the half-bags of pasta, cup of lentils, highly ambitious biryani mix, on-special kilo of chickpeas – it all has to go. I’ve been doing all sorts of odd culinary contortions (chicken bourgignon, anyone?) in an effort to use everything up.
So at the end of a determined month-long embargo on buying goods, my fridge is in a pretty sad state. What a creative and nutritional challenge!
Chop the haloumi into small chunks (rather than the slices used in a haloumi salad). Place in a non-stick frypan over medium-high heat. If your pan is properly non-stick, you won’t need oil.
Fry the haloumi until it begins to brown. This should take around 5 minutes. Make sure you flip the pieces so both sides get browned.
Meanwhile, slice the pointed pepper into slivers. Add them to the pan once the cheese is browned, then cover with the eggs.
I am not a great omelette-maker. That perfect omelette shape eludes me, especially since I don’t have a grill to finish the top. But I make up for this by not caring in the slightest what shape my omelette turns out to be. I wait until the edges of the omelette turn pale, meaning it’s safe to flip, then I flip it with two spatulas onto its other side and give it thirty seconds. Then I slide it onto the plate, attempting to fold it in half as I go.
The haloumi is really salty, so no seasoning is required. Serve with a drizzle of balsamic if you like, and a pile of pickled baby beetroot if it’s there just waiting to be used.
You know how it is over Christmas. There’s the huge leadup where you embrace the Christmas spirit and try to push people out of the way when you’re buying presents on Oxford St, then there are the alcohol-soaked Christmas parties, then (if your family is anything like my boyfriend’s) there are days and days of being fed turkey and ham and potatoes and chocolate biscuits until you feel you might as well hop into the oven and roast alongside the bird. Ain’t it glorious?
Then, inevitably, comes the period of self-recrimination where you realise that you maybe ate one or fifteen too many Roses. The new year begins. And so does the diet.
Salads are fantastic because they’re healthy, quick and no-fuss. The trouble is, when you’re eating a salad you always, always know about it. It goes from making you feel virtuous and elated at how good you’re being to your body to making you feel depressed and like you’d kill a small puppy for a plate of pasta. Trust me, I know.
The trick is to use fresh ingredients and keep it interesting. I am not a fan of bitter leaves, although I know lots of people who think they provide a nice contrast in a salad (actually, I’m not a fan of bitter flavours, full stop). But each to their own.
I confess that the inspiration for this salad came from a recent purchase of a non-stick frypan which is actually non-stick. I don’t know how I’ve been getting along without it. Do you know how liberating it is to cook without knowing you’ll need to soak the burnt pans overnight again? Really, if I’d known how ridiculously happy it would make me I would have spent the £2.99 a long time ago.
So I have been looking for things to fry (not easy with salads) and haloumi came to mind. Haloumi is a Cypriot cheese made from goat’s, sheep’s or cow’s milk, is salty to taste and firm in texture. I like it grilled, which creates a nice brown crust and softens the inside to a toothsome squidginess.
The bad news about haloumi is that if it goes cold, it takes on a rather rubbery texture (still tastes good though). Also, it is high in fat so if you’re concerned about that, try to watch the amount you’re using.
3-4 slices of haloumi
4 baby plum tomatoes
half an avocado
Place the haloumi into a non-stick frypan (no oil necessary) over a medium heat.
While the cheese is grilling, arrange the salad leaves on a plate. Slice the tomatoes and avocado and add to the salad.
Make sure you turn the cheese once or twice during cooking so both sides take on that browned look. When they’re done, place them onto the salad and finish with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.