When I was a child, my younger sister was the meat-lover of the family. She loved a classic Sunday roast lamb and mint sauce and would always shun the fish fingers or pizza on the child’s menu and push for a steak instead. Which is why the rest of us were absolutely astounded when, as a teenager, her love for animals won out over her love for meat and she announced that she was becoming a vegetarian. This lasted for seven years until finally the smell of bacon cooking became too much to bear and she joined the ranks of the carnivores once again.
As for me, I have a bit of a take-it-or-leave-it attitude towards meat. As a single person, I ate mostly vegetarian and fish-based meals with a little splash of meat here and there. But enter Mr. Scrummy, carnivore extraordinaire, and all that changed very quickly. I do attempt to sneak in some vegetarian meals, however, which sometimes goes down alright and sometimes doesn’t. I recently served up a veggie pasta, for instance, which was subjected to suspicious scrutiny followed by this declaration: ‘Isn’t there some chicken missing from this?’ Certainly when he cooks it’s steak, pork chops or a chicken stir-fry. Man-food if ever there was!
Now to me this minty halloumi & sundried tomato salad is proof, if you needed it, that some dishes just do not need meat. As I created it in my mind, it included a few slices of prosciutto and in fact I bought some to include but ended up peeling them off the salad as it just seemed so completely unnecessary. If you’ve ever tried halloumi cheese (a Cypriot cheese made with a mixture of sheep’s, goat’s & sometimes cow’s milk for anyone who’s interested), you’ll know that you buy it in a sort of log-shaped roll flecked with mint (it was apparently traditionally wrapped in mint leaves to preserve it, according to Mr. Wikipedia). It’s packaged in a little brine like mozzarella balls are, so you dry it off, slice it into one-centimetre or so thick slices and fry it on each side for a few minutes until crispy. The finished result is dense, milky, salty, warm of course and … now this is the best part, in my opinion … a little crispy. All this makes it feel very substantial, which is why I would say that it’s a great alternative to meat.
So this is how this salad was born. I spotted a nice fresh-looking bag of spinach at the supermarket which I decided to coat in a honey-balsamic dressing and arrange first on my two plates.
I then fried my halloumi slices, arranged them over the spinach and scattered on some chopped sundried tomatoes – a perfect contrast to the salty, milky cheese. I finished my salad off with spoonfuls of Greek yoghurt mixed with mint and a little lemon, a sprinkle of paprika and a few sprigs of mint scattered all over the salad for an extra minty ‘kick’ but also a final decorative touch. I served the salad with my usual toasted Greek pitta bread, but any bread or even a little couscous or quinoa would go well.
Conclusion? For me, this salad is definitely a keeper. I love the mixture of tart, salty, fresh and sweet flavours, and hope you do too if you try it!
So which meals do you make that you feel just don’t need meat? And where do you fall on the meat appreciation scale? Do you find yourself feeling disappointed and wondering where the meat is if you’re served a veggie meal or are you as happy to eat vegetarian as you are meat-based meals? Or maybe you’re a vegetarian, vegan or paleo-only guy or gal? Whichever, feel free to invite me over for dinner because I’d happily accept. Don’t worry, vegetarians, I’ll leave Mr. Scrummy at home.
Serves: Serves 2 as a light meal or 4 as an appetizer
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ⅓ cup/80ml olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
- 2 tablespoons chopped mint
- 2 good squeezes fresh lemon juice
- about 3.5 ounces/100 grams fresh spinach, washed & chopped
- 1 ‘log’ of halloumi cheese, cut into 1-cm wide slices (8.8 ounces/250 grams)
- 4 to 5 sundried tomatoes, chopped
- a few sprigs of fresh mint & a sprinkle of paprika, hot or regular
- a slice of lemon & toasted pitta bread
- First of all, make the honey-balsamic dressing by whisking together the three ingredients. Toss 3 or 4 tablespoons of it with the washed spinach in a bowl, then turn it out onto two plates.
- Now prepare your minty yoghurt by stirring the mint and lemon into the yoghurt. Set aside.
- Heat up a large skillet/frying pan or griddle pan and dry fry the halloumi slices for a few minutes on each side or until nicely browned. Then arrange them in an overlapping line down the centre of your spinach.
- Sprinkle the sundried tomatoes over the salad along with the mint sprigs. Quickly dot the salad with spoonfuls of the minty yoghurt and sprinkle with a couple of pinches of paprika. Serve while the halloumi is still warm with a slice of lemon for squeezing over the cheese and some toasted pitta bread if you like. Then enjoy!
Store any remaining dressing and yoghurt covered in the fridge to use over the following few days.
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