Although I’m getting married later this year to a real, live, human person*, I would have to say that cheese is probably one of my Top 5 True Loves. By virtue of generally supplying me with cheese, and putting up with my awful puns, Isla is at the top of the list, but it’s a close thing:
- My crazy huge family
- My plain crazy friends
- Sauvignon Blanc
This is subject to change (like when a friend hands me a really nice bottle of wine and suddenly they’re neck and neck in the polls), but it’s generally accurate at any given time.
And speaking of Sauvignon Blanc, this recipe goes really well with a glass (or 10) of the stuff, or indeed most crisp white wines that sit on the drier end of the scale. As with any firm, salty cheese, halloumi can stand up to a battering, so it’s pretty easy to pair with any alcoholic drink — just go easy on the overly sweet cocktails.
When I first came across the recipe from which this stemmed, there wasn’t any halloumi (audible gasps from my rapt audience) — oh no, my friends. It contained king prawns. This, for someone whose partner looks askance at the very mention of shellfish, was not ideal.
She’s beauty, she’s grace, I’ll stuff her in my face. Maybe I shouldn’t have gendered the cheese, but it’s done now. Let’s move on.
(The magic words appear here… ONE-POT)
Lemony Halloumi & Asparagus Pasta (Vegetarian)
Preparation time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins
Large frying pan with lid; spatula or wooden spoon; chopping board and a miniature saw***; microwaveable bowl and clingfilm; kitchen paper; some good shoes, so that you can run away from the angry Italians.
- 240g pasta (penne, fusilli, whatever tickles your pickle – using the tricolore stuff makes it look extra fancy)
- 225g block light halloumi
- 150-200g asparagus (roughly 5 spears per person)
- 2 large shallots
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 4 tbsp half-fat crème fraîche
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 pack of fresh chives (roughly 10-15g)
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 250ml boiled water (you may need slightly more or less than this; you want to cover your pasta, but only just, and you don’t want the sauce to be too “wet” – you can add more water part-way through cooking if needed)
- Salt & pepper
- Cooking spray/splash of oil
- Get that pan on a medium-high heat and mist generously with cooking spray, or add oil if using. Get your kettle on too, since one-pot cooking waits for no woman. Drain your halloumi and pat dry, then cube the cheese, making each piece roughly 1x1cm so that they brown off quickly and fairly evenly. You can also prep your vegetables at this point; finely dice the shallots, garlic and chives, making sure to keep the chives separate from the other ingredients.
- Prepare the asparagus. If you’ve got asparagus tips, just give them a rinse and pop them in a microwaveable bowl, cover with clingfilm and stab a hole in the top for steam to escape. You’ll blast these for a couple of minutes just before serving, so set aside for now. If you’ve got full spears, remove the woody stalks by taking the spears between both hands and bending them gently until they snap; they’ll snap at the most tender part, meaning you get perfect asparagus every time. NEAT-O.
- Time to get on with the cheese. Once your pan’s hot, get the halloumi in there and fry away, turning every so often to ensure even browning. This should take around 5 minutes or so as long as your pan is hot. Once All the pieces are lovely and golden, take out of the pan and put on some kitchen paper to drain. Turn the heat down to medium and add the shallots, along with a little salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Once the shallots are softened, add in the garlic and pour in the pasta. Stir again then crumble over the stock cube and cover with hot water – put the lid on and cook for 7-10 minutes, or until pasta is done to your liking. Halfway through this time, you’ll need to do two things: firstly, put the halloumi back into the pan. Secondly, whack your asparagus in the microwave for 1 or 2 minutes until just tender and still very green.
- Take off the heat and spoon in the crème fraîche. Stir in lemon juice and the chives, and divide the pasta between four bowls, topping with the spears of asparagus. Serve with garlic bread and a glass of dry white wine for the full experience.
This is a light pasta dish that is strangely moreish and decadent for having mainly half-fat and wholewheat ingredients. The garlic bread and wine probably balance that out, on reflection…
You can add any number of things to this dish: some frozen peas or spinach chucked in towards the end and stirred through; shredded rotisserie chicken for the carnivores among us; even add the aforementioned king prawns if that’s what floats your boat. However you hash it, this is a really tasty and quick dinner, and once I am able to eat proper food once more I am very much looking forward to eating this again.
Thank you and goodnight.
*I’m getting married! Jeez. Oh man. Someone agreed to this.
***I am, of course, joking. Please use a kitchen knife. After my stepsister received her brand new saw for Christmas and ended up cutting the veg with it, I have seen the havoc it can cause. She, of course, was delighted.