I have a recurring dream. A warm Spring evening, a quiet beach, clear blue sea, a deckchair, plenty of fresh ice cold water and a cocktail. Nothing big really. Just a little peace and quiet. J says “in your dreams” and he’s right: the image will stay there though – at least for the time being. Of course the scene would not be complete without something good to eat.
Recreating the dream is difficult, especially when you’re living in a one bedroom flat miles away from the water, but cooking an easy lunch takes no more than thirty minutes. I tend to eat this sort of meal when I am alone, but lately I have been making this quite frequently. There are loads of good things to say about a salad: one, you can include/exclude any ingredient you like; two, you don’t really need to go to the shops for one specific item, and three, you can easily increase the quantities according to the number of people you want to feed. At this point you will probably protest: does one really have halloumi as a stand-by? Not usually no, but I must admit I do buy it often. As well as its salty taste, it doesn’t melt in a hot pan. Don’t think about adding it to a pizza instead of mozzarella then, but it found a place here, and it is certainly well-deserved.
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 2 cups cold water
- around 1 teaspoon turmeric (optional, but I love the colour)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 4 spring onions, roughly chopped
- ¼ teaspoon garam masala (optional)
- 6 chestnut mushrooms, roughly sliced
- 100g fresh spinach, washed and left whole
- pinch of salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 2-3 large vine tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 150g Cypriot halloumi, cubed
- juice of half a small lemon
Wash the rice underneath cold running water until the water is clear. (Another option would be to put the rice in a pan and add around a tablespoon of vegetable oil and let the rice heat up while stirring it. Then you can add the water as usual.) Place the rice in a pan, cover it with the cold water, add the turmeric, put it on the hob on medium heat. When it starts to bubble away, decrease the heat to minimum (if using a gas cooker) and let it absorb all the water till it is tender. If using an electric cooker like me, switch off the ring on which you are cooking the rice, and let the rice cook by absorption.
Heat a large shallow pan, pour in the olive oil, and tip in the garlic, spring onions and garam masala. You can substitute this with mixed spice if you wish. After a couple of minutes add the chesnut mushrooms and spinach, salt and pepper, and cover the pan to let the spinach wilt. I don’t like to cook the mushrooms too much, but this is totally up to you. When the spinach has drastically decreased in volume, add the tomatoes and the halloumi. Stir everything together and switch the heat off.
When the rice is completely cooked, fluff it with a fork. Add it to the salad mixture, give everything a good mix, add the lemon juice, taste and add more seasoning if necessary. Serve either immediately, or take it with you to the beach, or to the garden with a book and a glass of white…It’s your choice.
If you want to bulk up the recipe, you could add cooked chickpeas to the lot.