So as I mentioned at the end of last week, I’m now having to think very carefully about every penny I spend and ensure I stick to a very strict budget. I’m not someone who finds budgeting an easy process. I would happily spend my last penny on a penny sweet and I fear the rainy days because I’ve been appallingly disorganised my entire life attempting to save for them. It’s such an awful quality and I’m certainly not attempting to justify or qualify it but I just watch money disappear and then I look at the fridge/bookshelves and I realise where most of it goes!
With this in mind, I have planned out all of my meals for the next week and I am going to stick to them. I went on a seriously bargainacious trip to the most bargainacious of supermarkets (not the seriously bargainy german kind but bargainacious nonetheless!) and purchased all of the things that would tirelessly complement all of the things in my store cupboards and freezer. And if it’s any comfort, these are the few areas of my life where I am extremely rich. The last pathetic scrabble through the freezer revealed:
- one rabbit
- six pheasants
- two sides of smoked haddock
- a bag of ice for gin and tonics
- four bags of frozen peas
- a handful of scallops
- six prawns
- a boned and rolled turkey
- nine packets of black pudding
- four bags of cranberries
- three tubs of variously freezer-burned and flavoured ice creams
- one joint of ham
- seven individual goats’ cheese
- one bag of scones
- one pot of marscapone
- five pots of homemade soup – flavour indeterminate
- and a random assortment of breadcrumbs and loose peas.
This could be the freezer of kings. It’s certainly not a shabby selection and I’m not so proud as to not consume anything that isn’t a little burnt from its time shivering in there. Similarly I’ve been through my cupboards and I have more noodles than the local chinese supermarket, arborio rice coming out of every corner and couscous in industrial qualities. On top of this, I have pasta and eggs and a wide and beautiful range of herbs and my garden has even managed to grow some swiss chard this year!
So all of these items and I are going to create some wonderful thrifty dishes! Except perhaps the turkey which weighs about 3 kg and could feed a small Christmas army. I’m keeping that in my entertaining repertoire.
Last night, in the over excited manner of all new plans, I decided to utilise some of the items in my fridge. If you thought I stockpiled in the freezer, the fridge is an even more exciting place. At last count, we had over 30 jars of various things lurking in all corners. There’s more bacon than in a month of builders’ fry ups and one thing I have never been short of is cheese, courtesy of trips to my mum and shopping trips in her shop!
One of my favourite cheeses and somehow so much more appropriate to this time of year than its lactic friends is Halloumi. Traditionally Cypriot and made from a mixture of goat’s and cow’s milk, Delia made a national sensation of it in the nineties when she included it in her Summer programmes and book and shops sold out in minutes. It’s a texture and a flavour that’s unusual. Similar in saltiness to feta, it’s much creamier and far more fun. It has a far higher melting point than other cheese which is why it’s most often grilled or fried and we had it barbecued at a friend’s house the other week and that was delicious too.
One of my earliest memories of Mum’s dinner parties is of a Halloumi salad with a caper vinaigrette, I’d be very surprised if this wasn’t the recipe that Delia made famous in the same decade, and it opened up a whole new world of warm salads.
Last night, I whipped up a little halloumi salad as I wanted something quick but tasty. I used bacon and spring onions to add a crispy meatiness and the garlicky flavour that cuts through the saltiness of the cheese.
I made a dressing from mustard and honey and lots of lemon juice which I think it needs to break up the salty flavour. But as Delia once made one with capers, you could use so many things with the emphasis being on the acidic.
It was really too basic to write a recipe for but I shall because I’m kind like that:
Halloumi, Crispy Bacon and Spring Onion Salad
- Place a small frying pan over a low heat. Add the chopped bacon and fry lightly in olive oil until brown and crispy.
- While doing this, put the flour and salt & pepper in a small bowl. Coat the slices of halloumi and set to one side.
- At this point, make the dressing so that when your halloumi comes out of the frying pan, it hits the table while it’s still soft and delicious. I like to make a dressing in an old jam jar with a lid so you have a good shake action to really combine the ingredients. Add the olive oil, mustard, lemon juice, honey and a little chopped parsley. Vigorously shake the jar and leave to one side.
- Add the spring onions to the bacon and fry slowly and over a low heat until soft. Remove the bacon and onions from the pan and place the pan back on the heat.
- Shake off the excess flour and add the halloumi to the pan, turning regularly until the sides are golden with crispy brown corners.
- Break up a romaine or cos lettuce, toss this with the bacon and spring onions on to a plate and then layer up the slices of halloumi on top. Pour over the dressing.
Nice with a glass of crisp dry white wine or a bottle if I could afford it!