Think beyond lettuce and cucumber to elevate your summer salad game. Roasted chickpeas, eggplant and smoky, honey-crisped halloumi will become your go-to main course salad for warm days and cool evenings.
This is my kind of salad. Hearty, a bit salty, a lot tangy; verging on bad for you. But I’ve got a wee story for you first. If you want to get straight to the recipe, shuffle on down to the bottom. :-)My girl Rachel, just home from uni, yesterday declared that she has been craving halloumi. So, while she is unpacking all of her stuff, I am tapping away on this prescient post about halloumi salad when I should be making it for her.
This year, whilst studying her little heart out for a History of Art honours degree at the University of St Andrews, Rachel has discovered that she loves cooking. And I couldn’t be prouder. She even has her own Instagram dedicated to healthy, budget cooking. Nearly every day she shares real life posts (ie not fancied up or propped to high heaven) about how she has turns inexpensive foods into craveable, nutritious food.
The secret’s in the sauce! Sometimes a cheeky stir-fry is what you need, especially if you’ve got a couple random ingredients hanging about. The combination of spices when cooking the chicken here is bomb, and IMO made the dish. ✅✅ 🍗Defrosted 3 chicken thighs and cut them into small pieces. Began frying with a good amount of oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat. – Once browned, add sweet vinegar and some cooking wine to bubble with the chicken juices into a sauce. – Add garlic granules, paprika, ginger powder, a little brown sugar and s&p. Stir well and it’ll smell awesome! – Add fresh egg noodles and combine thoroughly. (I used tongs to grab and lift everything) – Finish with soy sauce. 🥗 Veggies! Shredded onion, 3 garlic cloves and half a red chilli and sautéed in a wok til soft. Added half a thinly sliced red cabbage and softened gently. Then grated fresh ginger and fennel sliced thinly. Finish with s&p. Interstingly, the cabbage gained a mustardy taste which I loved! And the chicken remained tender and juicy. Super fun to make and satisfying – enjoy! 👏
I really didn’t see that coming!
For years and years she has been very happy eating my food; complimenting me nearly every meal; asking for seconds. As she made the leap from living with us, and the full catering I provided, to university and fending for herself I was, however, a bit concerned. Not about the academic stuff. I knew that wouldn’t be an issue. But I weirdly worried that I had spoiled her. I was concerned that she might only be interested in the eating part, not the planning and cooking part.
When she was very small, more to keep an eye on her than anything, I would put pots, bowls, flour, lentils, pasta etc on the floor, and do the real cooking around her. She was messy, but I loved seeing her cute ‘concentration face’ of pursed red lips and focused eyes; and her tumble of blonde curls that strayed into the various pastes she made (and hardened like concrete!). She knew what she made wasn’t edible. Tasting raw flour or pasta is not the best. But this didn’t put her off getting stuck in.
Over the years she progressed from novice “raw chef” to standing on a stool, mini apron wrapped around her little body, pushing chopped vegetables into separate containers for a stir fry. And, a little older, she would stand on the same stool, my own apron tied double around her, shuffling onions around as they slowly sauteed in olive oil. From that step we would maybe make soup, a pasta sauce, or push the golden onions into bread dough for a glorious foccacia. Any number of things. I would talk to her about the Maillard reaction, the five tastes (yep, she knew about umami at the age of 5), and why tomatoes are better at room temperature than cold. Usually while we both danced to the radio.
She loved to be at the centre of the action. In fact, unlike many of her peers, she didn’t watch much television, preferring to hang out with me in the kitchen while Bob the Builder built without her. Over the years she became confident and creative in the kitchen, never using a recipe, just seeming to be able to put foods together that became more than the sum of their parts. A highlight was her spicy peanut butter and spring onion pasta: it is honestly delicious.
And then the inevitable happened. She preferred to sit and make music playlists, text her friends, watch episodes of Friends. I would ask for a hand in the kitchen, to which she always said okay. But it was reluctant. A few prods and reminders and she would come into the kitchen, stay for a few minutes and then wander away. Back to her phone, or her laptop. To be fair, it was often back to her schoolwork. I didn’t nag. Much. I am not a nagger. She would wash up the dishes without any fuss, and put things away from the dishwasher. I couldn’t really complain.
But I was secretly a tad concerned that this person that I was helping to bring up would join the many who weren’t interested in cooking. Not bothered at looking after themselves at the most fundamental level. Would she spend her university days, when you need your brain to be razor-sharp, eating salty, fatty takeaways, zero-nutrient Pot Noodles, pizza, plastic-cartoned foods pinged in the microwave?
A well-stocked cupboard and fridge = a happy Rach. 🙋🏼♀️ Making sure you have a few canned, jarred, dried, and long shelf-life goods means you always have a meal to rely on. Last week I wanted to keep it simple and use the 30p passata I had from Aldi to make my own tasty pasta sauce! Homemade guarantees no-added sugar, unlike some store bought sauces. This batch lasted me about 5 days and was banginggg in each portion. 🍅 In a non-stick pan… – onion, garlic, celery (finely diced) plenty olive oil, tomato pureé and soften up. – small chopped red chilli. – diced courgette, a little white wine, dried herbs, stir well. – 1 carton of passata (sieved tomatoes), stir well & simmer for 30 mins. 😍 – in this time, I boiled @the_tofurky_company Italian vegan sausages as batch to add to the sauce throughout the week. – reduced-price brussel sprouts roasted with plenty olive oil and s&p, turned halfway through. (200 degrees, 30 mins-ish) 😋 You’ll find for the sauce, a medium to low heat for 30 mins or more (stir kinda often) will bring out the tomatoes’ natural sweetness and create a wonderful sticky consistency! So delicious. Served with Liberto black soya bean fettuccine (once drained, keep a little water in the pan & stir to prevent clumping). Healthy rich delicious dinner – yum! 🍅 ••’easy pastasauce’ story highlight••
Reader, she did not. This girl, the one I used to step around as she earnestly stirred dried lentils with a wooden spoon to make a “dolly dinner”, cooks a real breakfast, lunch and dinner. Everyday. For breakfast it is often oats and peanut butter with fruit. Sometimes eggs with stir-fried greens and kimchi (chip off the old chopping block). For lunch she mixes up leftover roasted veg with cooked grains and a dressing, then eats it out of a little box on the library steps. Dinner is often jointly-made with her boyfriend Dan, a hearty meal full of protein and vegetables. And wine sometimes, too. Although she makes bloggers’ recipes (and reports back to me!), she more frequently wings it.
But she’s not really winging it, is she? She knows what she’s doing. She’s been learning and doing all her whole life. But I didn’t always realise it at the time. And, I think, nor did she. Not until she was away from my mothering instincts of making sure everyone is well-fed and well-nourished could Rachel have the chance to flourish and do her own nourishing.
Reading her Instagram posts (@rachelsappetite_) is like talking with her: passionate, knowledgeable, warm and kind. If I was caught on camera while reading her posts you would see a huge smile on my face. I couldn’t be prouder. Or more surprised. This self-professed art nerd has become a food nerd, like me.
And we still dance in the kitchen.
Now, I really must go make this for her. See you next time. Why not go play and dance in the kitchen yourself?
Thanks for indulging me. Now, here’s that recipe. And yes, I did make her some before I am sharing it with you right now. We enjoyed it in the garden. She will be doing the washing up. 😉
Warm Chickpea Salad with Honey-Crisped Halloumi
Exact quantities aren’t needed for this so just adjust to the amounts of any of the following that you have. And of course, use any beans that you wish. xx
1 tbsp olive oil + 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil (+)
1 medium eggplant, cubed (about 250g)
240g cooked chickpeas (contents of one can of chickpeas), rinsed and patted dry (I peel off the skins, but that’s because I can’t digest them)
2 stalks of rosemary (don’t chop)
1.5 tbsp cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 tbsp good honey
rounded 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
80-100g halloumi cheese, chopped or crumbled
Big handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
Small palmful of mint leaves, chopped
Fresh black pepper
Optional (nor shown): sharp green leaves such as watercress, frisee or rocket leaves; radish slices; lemon wedges
Preheat the oven to 180C fan/200C/400F.
Toss the chickpeas in one-third tbsp of the 1 tbsp of olive oil and toss the remaining 2/3 tbsp with the cubed eggplant. Lay the eggplant on one end of a baking tray and place in the oven to roast for 12 minutes. After this time add the chickpeas to the hot tray and continue for another 10 minutes or so.
While the eggplant and chickpeas are in the oven, mix together the vinegar, honey and smoked paprika. Set aside.
In a medium-hot skillet, dry fry the halloumi crumbs. Turn the bits with a wooden spatula to colour evenly – about four minutes. Pour over half of the vinegar-honey mix and let it sizzle up, get sticky and absorb. Push the halloumi onto a plate and set aside.
Now add a 1/2 teaspoon (or more) of the oil to the same pan and fry the rosemary stalks until the leaves are crisped but not at all burnt. Use tongs to pick them up and place onto a paper towel.
To assemble the salad, put the cooked eggplant, chickpeas, tomatoes and halloumi crumbs into a serving bowl. Crumble over the rosemary leaves. Whisk up the remaining 1.5 tsp oil with the remaining vinegar-honey mix. Taste it and adjust to your liking, remembering that the roasted veg and halloumi are plenty fatty (I added more for the images that you see). Pour it over the other ingredients and turn to coat. Sprinkle over the mint and serve over sharp raw greens if you wish. Eat warm on its own, or with good bread or cooked grains.
RIPE FOR PINNING!