Breaded halloumi, pomegranate and green lentil salad

Thick slices of halloumi encased in crunchy panko breadcrumbs are scattered with sweet yet tart pomegranate seeds. The taste and texture of these two main players contrast each other perfectly. Served with warm, earthy green lentils, this colourful autumnal salad is packed with a wealth of fine flavours.

Pomegranate. A fruit I’ve never bought in its raw form. I’ve encountered it in juices and in cocktails, but I’ve never prepared one myself. The inspiration for this dish came from Petek, a Turkish restaurant in Finsbury Park I went to recently where I had a starter of halloumi scattered with pomegranate seeds.

Pomegranates are a superfood. They add a lot of nutritional value to your diet containing vitamins, iron and a good source of fibre. And the ruby red seeds are so vibrant, they inject a lovely colour on to your plate of food.

I’ve wanted to make breaded halloumi for some time now, and when I came across Sita’s Simply Delicious recipe for panko halloumi sticks, I was so intrigued by the use of yogurt as a binding agent rather than egg, that I got my hands on some panko breadcrumbs stat.

Panko breadcrumbs are Japanese-style breadcrumbs. They’re bigger than standard breadcrumbs and are lighter in flavour. They seem to be en vogue in the food world at the moment, as they keep cropping up in recipes I come across, not just for Asian dishes such as katsu curries but also in fishcakes and other veggie dishes. I got mine in Sainsbury’s.

Ingredients

  • 250g pack of halloumi
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 60g panko breadcrumbs
  • 5 tbsp natural yogurt
  • 30-50g plain flour
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • A handful of mixed salad leaves
  • 6 or so slices of cucumber
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, chopped into quarters
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g green lentils
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 small red onion
  • Plenty of seasoning

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves 2

Method

  1. Slice the halloumi block in half lengthways. Then slice each half into three lengthways, so you have six chunky pieces.
  2. Heat the oven to gas mark 8.
  3. Get three small to medium sized bowls or tupperware and add flour to one, yogurt to the second and the panko breadcrumbs and dried parsley to the third. Give the breadcrumbs and parsley container a bit of a shake so the parsley is dispersed evenly throughout the breadcrumbs. Line them up in this order as your production line.
  4. Get a baking tray ready to pop the halloumi onto once you’ve breaded it.
  5. Now here’s the fun part. Take your first slice of halloumi and dip it into the flour, making sure to coat all sides thoroughly. Repeat the process for the yogurt, making sure you get a healthy amount on all sides so there’s enough moisture for the breadcrumbs to stick to. Lastly, coat the halloumi slice in the breadcrumbs, again making sure you coat all sides thoroughly, and pop the slice onto the baking tray. Repeat this process for the other halloumi slices.
  6. When you’ve breaded all of your halloumi, put the baking tray in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, prepare the lentil salad. Cut the onion and pepper into thick slices lengthways.
  8. Pour the olive oil into a frying pan and put on a medium to high heat. Add the pepper and onion and fry for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  9. After 10 minutes of the halloumi being in the oven, flip the slices over so they cook on both sides evenly.
  10. When the pepper and onion have cooked, reduce the heat and pour in the lentils and dried basil. Season well and mix together. Cook for 5 minutes.
  11. Check on the halloumi slices. If they’ve browned up nicely, then they’re ready to serve. But I found that they were a bit reluctant to brown up. If this is the case for you, then put them under the grill on a high heat for a further 5 minutes to get that lovely golden colour.
  12. Slice the pomegranate in half and scoop the seeds out into a bowl using a fork.
  13. Place the salad leaves, cucumber and tomato together on the side of the plate or bowl. Add the lentil mixture to the other side and arrange the halloumi slices on top. Scatter over the pomegranate seeds and garnish with a bit of fresh basil if you’ve got it.

Tip: If you fancy a bit of something extra to dip your halloumi slices into, pour a little bit of sweet chilli sauce on the side and thoroughly enjoy.

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Feta and ratatouille crumble

Sweet and succulent Mediterranean vegetables layered with salty, crumbly feta cheese are topped with a cheesy, soft crumble to bring you comfort and warmth on a cold and dreary autumnal evening.

I love ratatouille. Originating from Nice in France, it’s a traditional stewed vegetable dish made up of many of my favourite veggies. It’s so colourful, so healthy, and oh so tasty. I think it’s highly underrated.

My first memory of trying ratatouille was as a teenager. In the summer holidays, I often went round my friend Jade’s house and we’d eat whatever we could find in the kitchen cupboards; cold baked beans (still a fond snack to this day), pasta, soup and the like. But by far the most memorable was tinned ratatouille. Never once had I come across this creation. This rich, tomatoey vegetable goodness. We’d warm it up and eat it on its own while watching music channels. I always remember it being absolutely delicious, even out of a tin.

This version I’ve put together is a little on the naughty side; incorporating cheese and butter into the mix. But with four different vegetables, the good outweighs the bad.

Ingredients

  • 1½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 courgette, chopped into small cubes
  • 1 aubergine, chopped into small cubes
  • 2 peppers: I used green and orange, chopped into small chunks
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 80g feta
  • 120g plain flour
  • 65g butter, softened
  • 10g cheddar, grated
  • Handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
  • Plenty of seasoning

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes to an hour
Serves 3 with a side dish (or 2 greedy people)

Method

  1. Put a large frying pan on a medium heat and pour in the olive oil.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the aubergine and sprinkle over a teaspoon or so of salt to help it cook. Cook for three minutes or so.
  4. Tip in the peppers and cook for another couple of minutes.
  5. Drain the chopped tomatoes in a sieve to get rid of the watery liquid.
  6. Pour the tomatoes into the frying pan along with the courgette and basil and stir well. Lower the heat very slightly and leave to cook for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables soften.
  7. Turn the oven on to gas mark 5.
  8. While you’re waiting for the vegetables to cook, make the crumble. Pour the flour into a deep bowl. Chop the butter up until small chunks and tip it into the bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour for a few minutes, until they form a breadcrumb consistency.
  9. Tip the cheese into the bowl, add plenty of seasoning and mix the cheese in with the breadcrumbs.
  10. When the vegetables have softened, pour them into a medium sized baking dish and evenly disperse them along the bottom of the dish. Season well. Crumble over the feta cheese and top with the breadcrumb mix, making sure the cheese and breadcrumbs cover the ratatouille evenly.
  11. Put in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the crumble has browned on top.
  12. Serve with a side of vegetables, like sweetcorn or broccoli.

This recipe was inspired by Plum Kitchen’s ratatouille and goat’s cheese crumble

Beetroot, chickpea and butter bean curry

As we start to wave goodbye to the summer for another year, we can take some solace in the fact that we’ve got all the hearty and comforting foods that will keep us warm and happy this autumn to look forward to. And to kick things off is this beetroot, chickpea and butter bean curry.

Beetroot is a great source of iron and antioxidants, and has been said to help lower blood pressure by health professionals. Chickpeas and butter beans provide protein and several vitamins and minerals so this combination is really good for you.

Fresh beetroot is a vegetable I rarely buy (I’ve now bought it twice). I tend to opt for the vacuum packed pickled stuff as it’s so easy to add to salads. But I was keen to get my hands dirty (literally; they were bright purple afterwards) and make something a bit different.

And what better way to incorporate beetroot into your food cupboard than by making it the basis for a curry?

I love curry. It’s so versatile and it opens up a world of opportunity for vegans and vegetarians. You can pretty much add any vegetable to a curry. Let’s just take a moment to be thankful for curry.

The earthy softness of the beetroot in contrast to the firm chickpeas and butter beans bring great texture to this curry. The spices, ground almonds and tomatoes work together well to make a rich and flavoursome sauce. And let’s not forget to mention its beautifully bold magenta colouring.

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Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 300g beetroot (peeled weight), thickly sliced
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • ¾ tsp crushed chillies
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 200g chopped tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp rogan josh curry paste
  • 85g chickpeas
  • 85g butter beans
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds
  • 300ml water
  • 4 tbsp natural yogurt (and extra to serve)

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: Serves 2

Method

1.    Put a large pan (that you have a lid for) on a medium heat and pour in the oil.
2.    Stir in the onions and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until soft.
3.    Tip in the mustard seeds and cook for a minute to toast them up. Stir through the curry paste and cook for a further 3 minutes.
4.    Add the beetroot to the pan and stir in with the spicy onion mix, then add the chilli flakes, tomatoes and water.
5.    Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6.    Half way through cooking, give the curry another stir and then add the chickpeas and butter beans. Cook for a further 15 minutes, or until the beetroot has softened.
8.    Remove the lid and give the curry another good stir, then turn up the heat and cook for a final 5 minutes, until the sauce is thick.
9.    Take off the heat, then stir through the almonds, yogurt and some seasoning. Top with yogurt and serve with brown rice, naan bread and mango chutney if you fancy.

This recipe is based on BBC Good Food’s creamy beetroot curry.

Prawn, mangetout and baby courgette satay noodles

This is a fabulously fresh fishy noodle dish stir-fried in a smooth and rich satay sauce. Featuring succulent shrimps, crisp mangetout and sweet and juicy strips of baby courgette, this meal is inspired by the delicious flavours of Southeast Asia.

Prawn, mange tout and baby courgette satay noodles

Made with wholemeal noodles and low fat coconut milk, not only is this stir-fry healthy; it’s packed with protein, is quick and simple to make and ticks off a couple of your five-a-day with its gorgeous green veggies.

As featured in The Guardian’s Readers’ recipe swap.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 wholemeal noodle portions
  • 75g cooked and peeled prawns
  • 100g mangetout
  • 125g baby courgettes, cut into quarters lengthways

For the satay sauce:

  • 2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 200ml reduced fat coconut milk
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp chopped ginger
  • A dash of rice wine
  • 3 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves 2

Method

  1. Put a large frying pan or work on a medium heat and pour in the sunflower oil. Add the sliced onion and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring regularly, until it begins to soften.
  2. Meanwhile, make the paste: put all of the satay sauce ingredients – except for the coconut milk – into a measuring jug, or another high-edged container and whiz together using a hand blender. This may take a little while because the peanut butter is thick and sticky. After a minute or so of blending, the mixture should form a thick paste.
  3. When the onion has softened, stir in the paste and fry for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the coconut milk and stir frequently for a few minutes, until the paste has mixed in well and the milk turns a light orange colour. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Boil the kettle and place the two wholemeal noodle nests into some tupperware.  Pour over the boiling water and use a fork to break up the noodles a bit. Leave to soften in the tupperware.
  6. After you’ve left the sauce to simmer for a couple of minutes, add the mange tout and courgettes and leave to cook for the remaining 10 minutes.
  7. Defrost the prawns by pour cold water over them for a minute or so, until they feel soft.
  8. Add the prawns to the pan and stir in with the sauce.
  9. Once softened, drain the noodles and add to the pan. Stir them in so they’re evenly dispersed with the veggies and prawns.
  10. Serve in large bowls with a side of crushed peanuts and a wedge of lemon or lime.