Quite a few years ago, J and I had holiday flights that transited in Qatar. On the way back we had quite a few hours in Qatar airport, which was quite an experience as, at the time, the airport was undergoing a massive renovation project. The airport (at the time) was rather small with few shops and only a small handful of places to eat and drink (thankfully we had books to keep us occupied!). One shop offered a large selection of ice-cream and milkshake flavours, which appealed to us hugely as two hot and weary travellers. My milkshake choice was quickly narrowed down to strawberry (one of my favourite flavours) or date (something I had not tried in milkshake form but loved in the fruit form) and, with a long queue building up behind us, I chose strawberry. Whilst that milkshake was very nice, as I drank it I kept wondering what a date-flavoured milkshake would taste like, and harbouring slight regrets that I had not plumbed for the more adventurous choice. Those thoughts continued as we boarded our flight not long afterwards and then carried on into the following weeks, ultimately leading to me making a rather disastrous attempt at a date milkshake (dried dates blended with plain ice-cream and milk anyone…?). That incident challenged me to be more adventurous in my eating-and-drinking-out-consumption-choices and I resolved to try (with flexibility) from then on to choose the more adventurous option on a menu if there was one (except when gammon steaks are on offer, but that is a whole different love story). Whilst not always consistently applied, that resolve has lead to some delicious dish-tasting experiences that I might not have had otherwise.
One of those choices, in a pub one lunchtime last year, was a grilled halloumi salad – a choice influenced partly by a longstanding but unfulfilled desire to try halloumi (yes, I realise halloumi isn’t necessarily quite as ‘different’ as the story above might imply my choice should be, but we are talking a regular pub menu here not a gourmet dining experience). This simple salad does not completely replicate that salad, but it comes close, and, along with some crusty bread (which didn’t make it into my photos as I ate it before then), makes for a very tasty and easy weekday meal. If you you’ve never tried halloumi before, I would encourage you to give it a go – it is a sheep and goat’s (and sometimes cow’s) milk cheese with a relatively high melting point, meaning that you can brown it and it will keep its shape. Please excuse the poor and weird light – I blame it firstly on the rapidly fading daylight and secondly on needing to use artificial light halfway through this process as a result of that rapidly fading daylight. This makes a large salad for one person.
What you’ll need:
A handful of mixed salad greens
About a quarter of a long cucumber, washed and diced
Half a red pepper, diced
5-7 cherry tomatoes, halved
About 10 black olives
3-4 slices of halloumi (about 1/2 cm thick – and don’t worry if they fall apart a bit – as you can see from the photos below, that happened to me too)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed or diced small
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch dried oregano
Freshly ground pepper
Salt (optional – I preferred not to have any as the cheese is pretty salty already)
What to do:
1. Put the salad greens, diced cucumber and pepper, tomatoes and black olives into a bowl and set aside.
2. Heat up a generous glug of olive oil in a frying pan and then carefully place the slices of halloumi in the pan when the oil is hot.
3. Cook the halloumi in the hot oil for a couple of minutes until brown on the underside, and then flip over to brown on the other side (the second side will be quicker than the first).
4. When the halloumi has browned (not browned not blackened as I did), put it on some crumpled kitchen towel to drain whilst you make the dressing for the salad.
5. For the dressing, fry the crushed or diced garlic in the leftover hot oil in the pan for a couple of minutes until just starting to go a golden brown colour. Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice, oregano, pepper and (if using) salt to the pan and stir together.
6. Pour the dressing over the salad vegetables and toss together. Drizzle a bit more olive oil into the bowl, if it is needed.
7. Artistically arrange the salad and fried halloumi slices on a plate (or at least that’s what I’m telling myself I did…). Drizzle a tiny bit more olive oil over the top of the halloumi and enjoy!