I really enjoy salads as a starter – and also a really good opportunity to get creative. To date, I have cobbled together: A Watercress and Pomegranate Salad; Smoked Mackerel, Blueberry, and Fennel Salad; Flambéed Pear, Blue Camembert and Walnut Salad; and finally my version of the classic Salade Niçoise .
I have made many salads since, but nothing more effort thank throwing some raw ingredients together and whipping up a simple vinaigrette. They taste great- don’t get me wrong, but I was really looking out for another opportunity to create something which would be good enough to serve guests as a starter – something different, a little unexpected, and ‘designed’ – the idea that each ingredient has a distinct purpose, and each adds a little extra boost of flavour or texture. This got me thinking… how about a starter with cheese as the primary ingredient?
The first time I tried Halloumi – (the semi-hard, unripened brined cheese made traditionally from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk) was when studying at Cardiff University. A good few years ago. A Cypriot friend I made there gave me a block of Halloumi cheese as a gift, and rather naively I ate it like a normal cheese and thought it was a tad chewy, salty and not exactly for me. I was, foolishly, underwhelmed. 8 years later, I happened to go to Cyprus and stayed a week in Nicosia with Petros who was my classmate during my MA degree. I was introduced once again to Halloumi, and this time – it was a revelation – it arrived grilled and warm and served very simply with some salad leaves and lemon wedges. It was simple, yet delicious. Since then, I will gladly pick up a block whenever I see it in the cheese aisle. And, I have not repeated my original mistake.
I do enjoy strong flavour contrasts. In a similar way that the saltiness of Parma ham goes so well with melon, or even gammon with pineapple, I wanted to find a sweet counterpart that would really complement grilled Halloumi cheese. After some rummaging in the bottom of my fridge, I found a ripe mango and decided to get a little creative. This recipe is very quick and simple to put together, and one I will return to whenever the opportunity arises. My Grilled Halloumi, Chicory and Mango salad also contains rocket, spinach, lightly toasted pine nuts, red onion, lime, and, optionally, a little Parma ham. I am sure it is possible to ‘go large’ and have it as a main dish instead.
- 1 x 225 g block Halloumi Cheese
- bag baby spinach leaves
- bag rocket
- 1 chicory, trimmed and cut into thin vertical batons
- ½ red onion, cut into thin wedges
- 25g toasted pine nuts
- 1 /4 ripe mango, peeled, stoned and but into small cubes
- 3 slices Parma ham (optional) trimmed, rolled tight, and each cut into 4 mini rolls
- 1 x red chilli, deseeded and sliced.
- Remaining ¾ of ripe mango, coarsely chopped
- juice of 1 large lime, freshly squeezed
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- Preheat grill to a medium-high setting.
- Unwrap the Halloumi cheese and carefully slice into 12 slices. Place on a baking tray lined with thick kitchen foil. Grill for about 3-4 minutes, until the top of Halloumi turns a golden brown, then turn over using a pair of tongs and repeat. Remove, and wrap in a clean sheet of foil to keep warm.
- Next, time to assemble the salad itself. On a medium-sized plate, layer a small handful of spinach leaves followed by rocket leaves. Next, add the red onion wedges, sprinkle with pine nuts, and scatter the small mango cubes.
- Then, scatter the chicory batons on top. Delicately place the Parma ham swirls (if using) on top.
- Carefully slice the Halloumi into sharp wedges, and evenly place around the base of the salad with the sharp tip pointing upwards.
- Finally, drizzle the salsa over salad and add ½ tbsp in the corner of the plate to dip Halloumi cheese into.
- Place the red chilli in the mini-bowl of a food processor, and blitz. Then add the mango, lime lime juice and sugar for 30-45 seconds oruntil the texture is thick and smooth.
- Pour into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.