I’ve been really enjoying Rick Stein’s latest series – Venice to Istanbul. Probably largely because the journey begins and ends in two of my favourite cities but also because of Stein’s easy watchability; his mix of culinary and history and literature, as well as the gorgeous photography bringing the wonderful locations into your sitting room. I couldn’t therefore resist buying the book which accompanies the series and it’s full of recipes I want to try out. Tonight it was Halloumi Saganaki.
I’d invited Jonathan and Lyndsey to lunch but supper was better for them, and also better at their home so baby Freddie could go to bed as normal in his own cot and leave us adults to relax and enjoy a good meal and wine. This cooking to take food with me has become a bit of a feature since Freddie’s birth six months ago and so I’ve become quite expert at packing up food to be transported. I’ve even joked I should start a home catering business, delivering meals to people. But that might be a step too far for me. Let’s leave it that I’m happy doing it for the family. However, I’ve also had to adapt to baby friendly meal planning; meals that not only transport happily but wait happily until baby’s asleep and all is quiet. That means that a lot of Greek meals have featured, mainly consisting of moussaka as a core dish. Moussaka is one of our favourite dishes and not only will it sit without spoiling in a low oven for ages, it’s also better if left to rest for a bit once out of the oven. The Greeks tend to eat warm food rather than hot; this is much healthier – eating food that’s very hot isn’t good for the digestion. I like to put a few things on the table and we just tuck in when ready to eat. I often make Dakos but today decided to try out Rick Stein’s Halloumi dish.
It’s taken me a while to like halloumi. It can be horribly tasteless and rubbery. The key is in the quick cooking but also buying good quality cheese. I usually keep it quite simple so was intrigued by this ‘Saganaki’ way of dipping the halloumi slices in egg, then semolina and frying in olive oil; finishing off with some warm honey over the top and sesame seeds. We left the cooking until the last minute. Baby was asleep, we sat and sipped Cava and ate some Greek olives while the moussaka cooled a little, now nicely brown on top. I’d got everything for the halloumi prepared, ready to go when we wanted to eat.
As you see, most things came from Waitrose. This halloumi is particularly good. There was fine semolina and sesame seeds. Stein uses black sesame seeds but I couldn’t find those anywhere and decided to dry roast ordinary ones in a pan to give them a nuttier taste. The halloumi was sliced thickly; the semolina and sesame seeds laid out ready; 1 egg beaten.
Jonathan meanwhile put together a salad, including some wonderful tasty tomatoes he’d grown in the garden.
We heated some olive oil in a pan big enough to take all the slices. Then I dipped each slice of halloumi in the egg, then in the semolina, and put into the hot oil.
With Jonathan helping we could even get some action shots. Once the underside of the cheese slices was nicely browned, I flipped them over.
It’s just a couple of minutes cooking on each side, so very quick. And we wanted to eat them hot, hence waiting until ready to eat. Once nicely browned, I transferred to a warm plate.
I’d warmed some honey – I’d even gone to Liquid Gold Cave to buy authentic Greek-Cretan honey – and spooned this over the top.
Then I scattered over the roasted sesame seeds, a little dried oregano and black pepper.
We loved it. It was wonderful and such a different but brilliant way to serve halloumi. The slight saltiness of the cheese was beautifully balanced with the sweetness of the honey; the egg and semolina coating gave a nice crunch to the outside; the oregano added a freshness. I can see this becoming a firm family favourite – along with the moussaka!