I used not to like halloumi; I found it often too rubbery. But my family love it so much it’s become a favourite on the barbecue and I’ve slowly come round. And when I discovered a wonderful Cyprus halloumi cheese in Waitrose (yes, Waitrose again, but I promise they don’t pay me!), I decided that not only did I now like it – I love it!
A pack was sitting in my fridge and despite its long ‘use by’ date, I don’t like to keep things like this hanging around too long so I decided with summer in the air and my appetite for light and fresh alive, I’d do something with it tonight. An obvious place to seek ideas was in Tonia’s Greek Kitchen. Tonia Buxton is from Cyprus and she gave me this lovely book at the Greek Masterclass back in April. Her Warm Halloumi & Peach Salad was just what I was looking for. Though, as I do, I changed things around a bit. I used flat-leaf parsley and some oregano from my garden instead of coriander; I added some olive oil to the dressing and I sprinkled over the herbs at the end rather than put them in the dressing, plus a few toasted pine nuts. But I’d never have ended up with the gorgeous plate of warm salad I had for supper without Tonia’s inspiration!
First of all I made the dressing. I had to improvise a bit here for one serving but basically a good glug of extra virgin olive oil (Kalamata oil, even!) and a nice dash of red wine vinegar, some chopped fresh red chilli, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus a teaspoon of runny honey. I shook it all together in a jar – checked the taste – and put aside while I got on with the rest. I dry roasted a handful of pine nuts in a pan and put aside; I chopped some parsley and oregano and put aside.
Then I sliced some of the halloumi into 1cm slices – 5 seemed enough for one; 1peach into half and then each half into 5 slices. I cut a head of chicory – keeping the root intact – into quarter lengthways. I chopped 2 spring onions into 2cm lengths. Now I was all set to go. I think it’s important with a salad like this to have everything prepared before you start any of the cooking. I also put a plate in the oven to get hot – and I do mean quite warm. I thought this was the best way of keeping the salad warm while I cooked each component without having to actually put them in the oven, which might spoil them. First I heated some olive oil in a pan and cooked the halloumi until nicely browned. Then I put it on the hot plate, which I took from the oven at the last minute.
Now I added the chicory and spring onions to the pan. I turned them frequently and once they were brown and the chicory wilting a bit, I laid them on top of the halloumi.
Now I put the peach slices in the pan (I needed to add a little more olive oil). I browned them, turning very carefully from time to time. Then I added them to the salad.
Next I gave the dressing another good shaking and poured it over the salad. I sprinkled over the fresh chopped herbs and toasted pine nuts. I served it with a nice crusty baguette from Paul bakery.
It was a wonderful salad. I like warm salads sometimes; they’re still fresh and summery but the warmth of some ingredients can add another dimension, a different depth of flavour. Here there were gorgeous contrasts of flavours and textures: the salty halloumi balanced by the sweet caramelised peaches; the sweetness of the honey with the heat of the chilli in the dressing; the bitter and still slightly crunchy chicory. It was a little bit of gastronomic heaven!
But my evening had another delight. Now, I’m not really much of a cocktail or G&T girl – especially mid week! – and only drink them occasionally but late morning the doorbell rang and the postman handed over a large box. A gift from Chivas Brothers for going to the event on Monday night. There was a recipe with all the ingredients for a Three Citrus Gin & Tonic and even a glass and cocktail spoon.
Well, how could I not make myself a G&T?
What a great way to relax in my garden before supper. The air was still warm from the heat of the day; sounds of people from other gardens, birds in the trees, carried across to where I sat, sipping away at my special treat. To be followed by a really special and gorgeous salad. Oh I do like summer!