Have I talked about halloumi on this blog before? Have I written a love letter to halloumi like it so deserves? If you haven’t heard of it, halloumi is a cheese from Cyprus – a salty, semi-hard, deliciously fry-able treat. I would eat halloumi with every meal if I could. Frequently in London, halloumi is served alongside a delicious breakfast fry up. Recently, however, we decided to incorporate it into our lunch. Here’s how you can do the same.
Salads are frequently misunderstood. They should not boring collections of dry greens thrown onto a plate, served in the name of “health”. A salad should be a celebration of all of the delicious things our planet can give to us, adaptable to the season and served with hot or cold toppings, using whatever you want to eat to make it enjoyable for you. American understandings of salads are big bowls, filled to the brim with Caesar dressing. I am challenging you to try something new.
First of all, a simple French classic salad dressing. Do you want to be more chic in your salad eating? Then incorporate this on your next bed of spinach. I was taught this recipe many times throughout my time living in France. All it takes are three simple ingredients: olive oil, dijon mustard, red or white vinegar (sometimes I use balsamic vinaigrette if I haven’t got the others in). You want to use a 3:1:1 ratio; so, 3 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp mustard, 1 Tbsp vinegar. I would recommend using a good mustard, such as Maille, to get an even better flavour – certainly DO NoT USE French’s yellow mustard. It would turn out disgusting. All you do is give it a good shake in a jam jar, or a whisk if you aren’t like me (i.e. you don’t hoard jam jars), and voilà. Dressing. Add, to your liking, crushed garlic, salt and pepper.
This salad, like all, would be enhanced with such a dressing, but it does not require it. I used what was on hand in the fridge – a fresh vine tomato, cucumber, spring greens, and halloumi then combined it with some bulgur that has been sitting in the back of the pantry begging to be used. We incorporated some of my fresh basil growing on the windowsill, and hummus as well as some mixed seeds to top. But the opportunities are endless!
As with all Mediterranean inspired salads, pomegranate seeds and mint would be delicious toppings to add. Some long roasted falling apart bell peppers would be great. Honey, walnuts, and lemon juice would enhance the halloumi. You have the control over your salad ! I want you to love salad as much as I do. Your base can be rocket (arugula), or spinach, or a variety of mixed greens.
The halloumi must be grilled in order to get that full crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside salty depth of flavour. We cut four or five slices from our block of halloumi. All it needs is a couple of minutes in the frying pan (no oil necessary) on quite a high heat. Cook it evenly on both sides – until marbled golden brown. Then dice your slices into smaller pieces.
In America, the most similar cheese to halloumi might be cheese curds. Halloumi sells quite expensively in the US – around $11 a pound when here in London it is much, much more affordable (around half of that price). A hint would be to go look in the shops in a neighborhood with a high Greek or Mediterranean population. Legend has it that Trader Joe’s will have it in stock in the summer months…
Your next step is to assemble the salad. I put the greens first, and in a circle around the perimeter of the bowl added the finely diced cucumber and tomato. The halloumi went over the top of this, followed by some torn basil leaves. Finally, in the centre, I added a healthy spoonful or two of bulgur. On top – your choice – was hummus and balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil, and finally a handful of seeds.
This is so straightforward and so open to interpretation that I will not write a proper recipe for you here. Instead I will challenge you, as I said ! Take on a halloumi salad, incorporate bulgur and pomegranate, try something new ! And then write to me, tell me what worked and what didn’t as well as what I should try next.