After a snap poll of Standard Issue staffers, we came to the conclusion everyone has a signature dish they’re willing to brag about. Veggie Ashley Davies dares anyone to better her halloumi salad.
I Make the Best… Halloumi salad
Fuller dish description. It’s really simple but quite divine. It’s a bit like a Greek salad but with halloumi instead of feta. (May I take this opportunity to beg people who say “feta cheese” to just call it “feta”. Do you say “penis condom”? No, you do not. Do you say “feet shoes”? No. Do you say “underarm deodorant”? OK, bad example. But you get my drift.)
When did you first make it? I’ve been a pious veggie for about 12 years but my mouth misses meat like Garfunkel misses Simon. There are plenty of flavours to distract one’s tastebuds from the absence of flesh, but there’s nothing quite like that steaky resistance on the tooth – that carnivorous chew.
Halloumi is a close second. Halloumi is my meat. I’ve been experimenting with it for years, and chanced upon this combination a couple of years ago.
I often make it as a side dish for omnivorous lunch or dinner guests. Some meat eaters expect veggie food to taste like herb-flavoured discount cat litter, so I’ve always benefited from those low expectations.
Veggie pals like it because it’s healthy enough (yay – multicoloured salad!) but also indulgent enough (yay – fried cheese!).
How often do you make it? Once or twice a month. It used to be much more frequent but I can quite easily eat a whole packet of halloumi on my own and that’s a slippery slope. Before you know it you’re in a bath of melted Camembert, drinking custard from a Toby jug.
Is this the only thing you make well? I don’t have a massive repertoire but – and forgive me for tootin’ me soup-horn – I am the best non-professional soupstress I know.
A packet of halloumi (You can buy low-cal stuff now but it’s not as good, and doesn’t develop as satisfying a crispiness when fried.)
A couple of tomatoes
Half a cucumber
A couple of fat spring onions
Fresh basil (Or any fresh herbs that look pretty – or indeed none. I don’t care.)
Dressing – olive oil or rapeseed oil, balsamic vinegar (White’s best because it doesn’t discolour the salad.)
Make your salad backwards: getting the dressing just right then adding to it seems to make it taste better.
Pop some oil, vinegar and salt and pepper into a salad bowl, fiddling with quantities till it tastes good. Then add the chopped spring onions and leave them to marinate for a few minutes. Chop the cucumber and tomatoes quite small, then add them too.
Stir it all up and leave for a bit for the flavours to get jiggy with each other. Tomato is so much nicer when it’s not so cold.
Cube the halloumi into little thumbnail-sized pieces, then stir-fry over medium-to-high heat using any kind of non-virgin oil. At this point, you may sing: “It’s stir-fry-fry / hush hush / eye-to-eye” (to the tune of Kajagoogoo’s Too Shy).
When the cubes are crispy and brown on the outside, throw them into the salad, give it a mix, and squeeze a little fresh lemon over it. Then smell your lemony fingers, sigh happily, sprinkle some torn basil on top and sing: “Halloumiiiii halloumi / Halloumiiiii halloumi / Halloumiiiii halloumi / I’m the same boy I used to be” (to the tune of Steve Winwood’s Valerie. Please, not to Eric Prydz’ Call on Me – it’s rude).
Find out what our other contributors make best of all here.
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Ashley Davies is an Edinburgh-based writer and editor and the human behind animal satire website thelabreport.co.uk.