I am a little bit obsessed with vegetables at the moment, so forgive me for another flesh-free post. It’s all the lovely Sarah’s fault. She’s a vegetarian, a real vegetarian (rather than the ones who are actually ‘pescatarians’), and during the summer we went for lunch a) for the sheer pleasure of it and b) to talk about, ahem, my new business venture (more of that another day). And, despite the fact we went to a good gastropub, with interesting ideas for the omnivores amongst us, the non-flesh choices were lacklustre to say the least: some pasta dish and risotto (both the easiest and cheapest of vegetarian options). Which got us started on how, despite the fact that we keep being told to eat more vegetables, despite the likes of HFW’s veg book and Ottolenghi’s transformative writing and despite Bruno Loubet schmanzying up vegetables at the GrainStore, restaurant offerings for the non-omnivores are dismal.
In this marvellous city I live in, the food world has been changing rapidly and for the better over the last couple of years but, alas, most of the on-trend developments are meat-based (PittCue, MeatLiquor, Dirty Burger, ChickenShop, Tramshed, Burger and Lobster, LeCoq, Smokehouse…need I go on?). So I decided to up my investigation into the non-flesh world and try and post at least one recipe a week (okay, I realise that I don’t always manage even one…) which is properly vegetarian. This salad is adapted from the Comptoir Libanais book, which I recently borrowed off a friend and am now planning to own (Lebanese food is easily one of my favourites) and, appropriately, Sarah was the first person I made it for.
It is dead easy and so delicious. The amounts are very flexible; the numbers of pears required will depend on their size and if you only have 200g of halloumi the world won’t end. And the recipe uses cider vinegar, which I didn’t have, so I used white wine vinegar. Freshly-squeezed lemon juice would work too (you’ll probably need 2 lemons). They also peeled the pears which, I am sure you can guess, I didn’t. Not very wintry, I grant you, but neither is the weather: as I write this I am bathed in glorious sunshine; long may it last.
Halloumi, pear and rocket salad (adapted from the Comptoir Libanais book)
Serves 3 as a starter, 2 for lunch/(very) light dinner
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
white wine vinegar, 50ml
olive oil, 25ml plus a little extra for frying the cheese
clear honey, 1 tbsp
freshly ground black pepper (you’re unlikely to need salt because halloumi is very salty)
sesame seeds, 2 tsp
pears, 2 ripe ones (I used Conference)
rocket, about 100g (one of those supermarket bags would do it)
1. First make the dressing. Mix together the vinegar, oil, honey and sesame seeds, season with a little black pepper and put to one side.
2. Wash, top and tail the pears and chop into chunks or slices, removing the core as you go. Toss the pear pieces with the dressing.
3. Rinse and drain the rocket, if necessary, and put in a salad bowl or on a large plate.
4. Thinly slice the halloumi lengthways. Put a little olive oil into a frying or griddle pan, place on a medium heat and then put one slice of halloumi into the oil. When it starts to sizzle/colour, add the other slices (you may need to do this in batches because halloumi gives off a lot of liquid, so if you crowd the pan it will steam not fry) and fry until golden on both sides.
5. As soon as the halloumi is all cooked, lift the pears from the dressing (keep the dressing though) and toss gently with the rocket. Put the halloumi over the top of the pears and rocket, pour over the reserved dressing, add some more pepper if you like and serve.