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Halloumi, orange, mint and avocado salad

Former MasterChef contestant Anthony McEntee’s summer salad series of delicious recipes – make sure you check out the first in the series, caramelised fennel, apple and bacon salad with lemon honey vinaigrette

When you love cooking, there are certain food memories that live with you always. They become symbols of your culinary adventure in life.

One such memory I have is of my first adventure overseas. I was in Melbourne, the culinary capital of Australia. After a night drinking I found myself in a very fancy Greek restaurant. Low lighting, harsh steel accents and tones of red upholstery made it look more like a futuristic nightclub than a Greek eatery, but it was cool and chic and looked like a good place to dine.

Being young, tipsy, and not that well informed of Greek cuisine the menu accommodated a word that was not yet known in my culinary dictionary: Halloumi. Described as a plate of grilled cheese I hastily ordered it and then waited expectantly for the Greek version of cheesy toast to make its way to the table.

When the food came out I was at first very alarmed. Before me I had a ten inch plate which was covered in one big piece of golden halloumi cheese. Drizzled with a bit of olive oil and oregano and…..nothing else. Cheese upon cheese upon cheese. Now to some this may seem inadequate, perhaps taking simplicity too far. But after a few bites I was no longer concerned.

It was just right. Golden on the outside, and delicately melting within, my gentle bites producing a delightful squeak as I gave way to its cheesiness. Since that day Halloumi has always had a place in my kitchen and still, to this day, I call it squeaky cheese.

Halloumi is a great addition to a salad and it works well with both sweet and savoury flavours. This dish pairs it’s creamy saltiness with the sweetness of orange and the punchiness of mint. Crispy croutons add texture and fill it out. It’s a vibrantly refreshing dish that screams summer.

Most artisan cheese producers are now producing their own Halloumi and supermarkets have a wide variety for you to choose from.

Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes

Serves 2

200g Hollumi
½ avocado, sliced.
50g rocket leaves
Bunch of mint
1 orange
2 slices white loaf bread (preferably ciabatta)
2Tbsp pine nuts.
¼ red onion

French Vinaigrette
½ tsp mustard
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2Tbsp olive oil

First prepare the dressing and other ingredients and then we can get on with some cooking.

To prepare the orange, peel the skin and then cut the orange into eight segments. Reserve one segment and then chop the remaining segments into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl.

Squeeze the reserved segment into a small bowl and then add the white wine vinegar and mustard and whisk together. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking constantly. Season with S&P and your dressing is now done.

Slice the red onion as thinly as you can and add to the bowl with the whole mint leaves, avocado, rocket and orange.
Now for the cooking. To make the croutons take a couple of slices of loaf bread and cut into 1cm cubes. Ciabatta bread works wonderfully but if you can’t get it any type of loaf bread will do.

In a small pan heat 1Tbsp olive oil and then add your bread. Toss through the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook on a medium heat for 5-8 minutes, shaking the pan frequently to get a nice, even golden colour on your croutons.

Once ready put to one side on paper towels.

Into the dry pan place 2 Tbsp pine nuts. Toast for a few minutes until golden, then remove.

Slice the Halloumi into 1cm thick slices. Put into the dry pan and cook on a low heat for around 5-8 minutes. Cook until the cheese has some give, turning to ensure all sides become nice and golden. Don’t worry, it won’t turn into goo.

Add the cooked ingredients to the bowl and then dress with the vinaigrette. Mix well, place on a serving dish and then top with your heavenly Halloumi.

Check out Anthony McEntee's blog for more fantastic recipes www.frescanz.blogspot.com. Stay tuned for another simple salad recipe next week – and his weekly MasterChef column, coming soon to Menus.co.nz.

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