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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Halloumi, asparagus and thyme roasted potato salad

I first tried halloumi cheese about ten years ago. One of my very talented friends, the wonderful Charlotte, put on a dinner party for a group of us for her birthday; a very civilised thing to do at the age of 17. As soon as I tried it, I loved it and have never looked back.

Halloumi is a Cypriot cheese made from sheep and goat’s milk. Its texture is like no other cheese. It’s chewy and squeaks against your teeth as you bite into eat, which may sound a bit odd, but is so satisfying. It tastes super salty and is simply delicious.

Of the many cheeses I appreciate, halloumi has got to win the award for being the fun cheese, because it’s usually served as a vegetarian option at events like summer barbecues and in American-style diners where indulgence is encouraged.

I wouldn’t advise eating this cheese raw, it’s very much a food that should be cooked, either by frying, grilling, barbecuing or baking it. It’s really versatile and can be used in a wide range of dishes, especially fresh, warm salads.

I put this halloumi, asparagus and potato salad together with ingredients I had in the fridge. I hadn’t initially intended to include potatoes, but I had some spuds that really needed using up (at the point where they were sprouting) and thought they would add an earthy and filling base to the meal.

Halloumi, asparagus and potato saladThe mixed salad leaves add a lovely crisp crunch and the silky smooth baked asparagus spears compliment the salty halloumi delightfully. The honey and mustard salad dressing adds some moisture to the dish and contrasts well with the salty cheese.

This is a really fresh dish that can be served as a light dinner or a hearty lunchtime treat.

Ingredients

  • 1½ tbsp sunflower oil
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 200g pack of halloumi
  • 250g asparagus
  • 4 small to medium white potatoes
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 4 large handfuls of salad leaves – I used a Sainsbury’s watercress, rocket and spinach salad bag
  • Plenty of sea salt and cracked black pepper

For the dressing

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp wholegrain mustard

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Serves 2

Method

1. Half-fill a medium saucepan with cold water, add a sprinkle of salt and bring it to the boil.
2. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes, give them a rinse and then chop them up – to about half the size of a standard roast potato. When the water is boiling, carefully lower the potato slices into the pan and boil gently for 5-10 minutes, until they begin to soften, but don’t let them cook to the point of becoming fluffy.
3. As the potatoes are cooking, put the oven on to gas mark 6. Pour the sunflower oil into a large baking try and sprinkle over the dried thyme. Place in the oven to heat up.
4. Drain the potatoes in a colander and shake off any excess water. Take the baking tray out of the oven and tip the potatoes into the tray, distributing them evenly. Use a wooden spoon to cover the potatoes in the thyme and oil, then season well and put in the oven for 30 minutes, turning them over with the wooden spoon half way through so they crisp up on all sides.
5. While the potatoes are cooking, chop the woody ends off the asparagus spears and then chop each of the spears in half. After 30 minutes, take the baking tray out of the oven and make some room for the asparagus spears, so they are only one layer deep. Coat them in the oil from the pan and pop the tray back in the oven for 15 minutes.
6. Next, chop the halloumi block lengthways into six chunky slices.
7. Put a large frying pan on a medium heat and drizzle in the ½ tbsp olive oil. Add each of the halloumi slices to the pan and fry for 10 minutes or so, turning every few minutes so they turn a golden brown on both sides.
8. While the halloumi is cooking, mix together all of the salad dressing ingredients in a jug.
9. Check on the potatoes and asparagus. When the potatoes have crisped up and the asparagus has softened, they’re ready to serve.
10. Lay the salad leaves in the bottom of large pasta bowls or plates and scatter over the potato slices. Place the bottom slices of the asparagus on top, and then lay the tips over the top of them in the other direction, so they make a sort of asparagus noughts and crosses shape. Place the halloumi slices on top and drizzle over the salad dressing.

Feta, courgette and chickpea salad

Cooked courgette ribbons, soft and succulent mushrooms, firm and filling chickpeas, and crunchy red onion make a tasty and healthy base for this warm salad. Cooked with a touch of cumin and topped with crumbly feta cheese, this dish makes a perfect light lunch. And, you can have it on the table within 15 minutes.

Feta, courgette and chickpea saladThis salad is a bit of a melting pot of cuisines. It came about from bits and bobs I had left in the fridge and cupboard.

Courgettes and mushrooms are two of my favourite vegetables. Their flavours are subtle yet satisfying and they’re incredibly versatile. They can be used in everything from curries to salads, on top of pizzas or in dips. They work well in this salad as they are soft and juicy.

The chickpeas and cumin bring exotic, Middle Eastern flavours and the richness of the feta cheese finishes the dish off delightfully.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 4 mushrooms, cut into quarters
  • ½ red onion, roughly sliced
  • ½ courgette, thinly sliced lengthways
  • 150g chickpeas
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 30g feta
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves one

Method

1. Put a large frying pan on a medium to high heat and pour in the sunflower oil.

2. Add the mushrooms and courgette and fry for two to three minutes. Mix in the onion and fry for another couple of minutes, until the onion begins to soften (but not too much; it’s better with a bit of bite).

3. Pour in the chickpeas and scatter over the cumin. Cook for another three to five minutes, stirring throughout.

4. Serve the mixture in a pasta bowl or on a plate. Crumble over the feta and season well.