For a food blogger I talk alot about the weather, I know. I can’t help it, I am Irish and it’s a national occupation. Be happy that I am not talking about the state of the roads! The weather determines so much of what I cook so it’s an important reference. Really! Right now I’m switched to Winter mode again as the weather took a turn for the worse again on Monday. On Tuesday night I was looking out of our window and watching the tall poplars swaying over and back, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was November! And it’s raining today. Prior to all this misery, however, we had a lovely weekend and made the most of the near-summery weather with a barbecue at a friends house. They have a beautiful big garden at the edge of North London with a gazebo and pond, it’s as far removed from my Kilburn 1-bed flat as I could get!
These gatherings involve large volumes of food as a number of us are enthusiastic cooks and this time we ended up with several types of sausage, lamb, a savoury tart that I had brought from Popina in the farmers market, 3 salads, halloumi, potatoes & savoury rice. It was all so delicious. We had tomato, mint & parmesan; watercress, pear and chevre and beetroot, chevre, thyme and toasted sunflower seeds and finished it all with a lovely homemade apple & rhubarb tart. I made the beetroot, chevre, thyme and toasted sunflower seed salad so can donate that recipe along with the halloumi.
Halloumi! One of my favourite cheeses. It hails from Cyprus and is usually a combination of goat’s and sheep’s milk or sometimes either. Often with more industrialised cheeses cow’s milk is added to reduce costs. I avoid this one for a number of reasons, the main ones being that it affects the grilling properties and the taste and I shouldn’t really be eating cow’s milk cheese anyway as it makes me ill. Even if you can have cow’s milk I would encourage you to get one without cow’s milk as it really does taste better and they don’t hold their shape as well on the BBQ for a start! Often the cow’s milk one is saltier too, although halloumi is quite a salty cheese anyway. I think of it as comparing Danish feta with Greek feta, there’s a big difference in taste and texture and you see the same with halloumi. It’s great served with lime, mint and watermelon. I believe it’s quite traditional to have it with watermelon in Cyprus. I love to have it with a lentil salad, it’s a very wholesome flavourful dish. This time we kept it really simple, cut it into 1-inch thick slices and grilled it on both sides on the barbecue and squeezed lime juice over when it’s nice and charred.
As for the beetroot, chevre and toasted sunflower seed salad, I would normally use walnuts but didn’t have any so I toasted the sunflower seeds in a dry frying pan until they went a darker brown. Be sure toss them regularly as they might burn. It only takes a couple of minutes at most. Sprinkle a little chilli powder/flakes on them when done. Slice boiled beetroot and arrange a layer on your serving plate, crumble the chevre on top, dress with fresh lemon juice and a splash of olive oil. Season and finish with sunflower seeds and a sprinkling of thyme.
The other salads were really very simple too, great flavour combinations with light lemon and olive oil dressings (1 part lemon juice to 3 parts olive oil + seasoning). Tomato, mint & parmesan sliced good tomatoes with finelyu sliced red onion, mint & liberal quantities of parmesan. Watercress, pear and chevre – just what it says lightly dressed. Make sure the pears are ripe. There is alot of goats cheese, I know, we had a whole log to use! Yum.