Crispy Halloumi & Warm Tabbouli Salad

This is a fabulously summery dish, full of fresh flavours. In case the title has you stumped, halloumi is a rich, salty cheese made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk. It has a very high melting point so you can fry or grill it, making it crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside – it’s wonderful. Tabbouli (also spelt tabbouleh) is a Middle-Eastern salad, the main ingredient of which is bulgur wheat, a grain slightly similar to couscous (but, I think, with a nicer texture). I had never tried either of these before I came across them in a Jamie Oliver recipe (which I have since modified a bit to suit myself), but I was instantly converted – so if you’re wavering, be bold and give them a try, because you might discover a new favourite. The combination of the rich cheese, griddled until it’s crispy, the warm, fresh flavours of the bulgur wheat salad, peppery rocket and garlic bread oozing butter is perfect for a balmy summer’s evening.

1 250g pack of halloumi (I usually go for the ‘light’ version, as the flavour’s no different and the concept of fried cheese is, after all, quite unhealthy enough!)
4-5 tablespoons of sesame seeds
100g bulgur wheat
6 large fresh tomatoes
2 spring onions
A generous handful of fresh parsley, and the same quantity of fresh mint
Lemon juice
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Garlic bread

Serves 2, with some left over for the next day.

The first thing to do is prepare the bulgur wheat – cover with water and boil for about ten minutes. While it’s bubbling away, slice the tomatoes into smallish chunks and scrape out the seeds (this is a bit fiddly, but if you don’t do it your salad will end up very soggy), and then slice the spring onions finely. Chop the fresh parsley and mint – you can show off your fancy knife skills, but I find it easiest to do this job with scissors! Once the bulgur wheat is soft, drain it and tip it into a large bowl. Dress it with a generous slug of olive oil, a good squeeze of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of salt and black pepper, stir well and leave it to soak up the liquid for a moment, before stirring in the rest of the fresh ingredients you’ve already prepared. Set to one side, but don’t put it in the fridge – this way, it will still be vaguely warm when you serve it, which really brings the flavours out.
If you are having garlic bread, now is probably the time to get it in the oven, depending on the cooking instructions.

Next, cut half of the block of halloumi into slices about half a centimetre thick (wrap up the rest and pop it in the fridge for later, if you can – my big brother Dan sometimes can’t resist eating most of it, and I’ve also been guilty of this on occasion). Spread the sesame seeds on a plate and press the slices of cheese down on top of them, on both sides, to coat with the seeds.

Pop a griddle pan on a medium heat with a splash of olive oil - if you don’t have a griddle pan, you can use a frying pan, but a griddle pan is worth investing in because firstly, it makes an exciting, professional-looking grill pattern on what you’re cooking, and secondly, it can be much healthier as the oil and fat collects between the ridges rather than transferring to your plate. Once the pan has gotten hot, carefully add the slices of halloumi. Keep an eye on them and turn them over once the underside has turned golden brown.

Finally, taste the bulgur wheat and add more seasoning if necessary. Serve up a generous spoonful with the toasted halloumi on top, a generous pile of rocket and a couple of pieces of garlic bread – delicious. The tabbouli will keep for a couple of days and the halloumi for about a week, so if you’re convinced, you can have it again!