Halloumi pitta sandwiches

You can’t see it, but there’s halloumi in this [too] ambitious sandwich.
These sandwiches are impossible to eat without making a mess, but they’re really delicious. The first time my partner made them, I requested we had them again the next day! πŸ˜‹

We normally make them as rolls, using tortilla wraps, but today I was feeling innovative and went for pitta breads.

Ingredients

  • Halloumi cheese
  • Cucumber
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce (romaine)
  • Mint leaves
  • Pitta bread or tortilla wraps or similar
  • Olive oil
  • Optional: olives for extra juiciness

Preparation

Slice the halloumi and fry it in a pan until it takes some colour. Initially it might be quite watery, the colour will start showing up once the water evaporates. Then leave aside.

In parallel, have a veggie washing and slicing party. It should eventually look like this, ready to be assembled in your bread or tortilla:

Captain Obvious says: If you’re using pitta breads, you’ll have to slice them open before you put the ingredients in ✌🏻

Place the flattest ingredients first: cucumber, halloumi. Then the rest.

Add a little olive oil, and they’re ready to be eaten!

This is such a great combination of amazing flavours. Also, I will use this opportunity to say that halloumi cheese is one of the best things in Earth 🌟🌍🌟 … possibly one of humankind’s greatest achievements too!

Carrot and potato soup

Yesterday evening I was feeling quite tired and in want of a comforting dinner, but I didn’t feel like walking to the shops once I was home. I scoured the kitchen cupboards and there was this bunch of potatoes whispering “boil us… boil us…”

And so I did!

Ingredients

  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Butter or olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Preparation

This is tearfully simple to prepare and cook, which is great when your brain is exhausted.

  1. Either peel the potatoes or wash the skin thoroughly (I sometimes leave the skin in, specially if the potatoes are newer and have no “eyes” πŸ‘€)
  2. Same with the carrots
  3. Cut everything into small cubes or slices, the smaller the faster they will cook
  4. Put them on a pot
  5. Add water, a centimeter or two above the “cover everything with water” level
  6. Cover with a lid
  7. Turn the heat on high, and bring to a boil
  8. When it starts boiling, bring the heat down to medium-low, and let it simmer (maybe also turn on your extractor fan or everything will get very steamy)
  9. How long? it depends on the amounts and the sizes of the cubes! But about 30 minutes. You might need to add extra water if it runs dry–you want a soup, not just boiled vegetables.Β  And you should also test them from time to time; try smashing a cube with a spoon against the pot. If it is soft or breaks down easily, it’s time to turn the heat off!
  10. Depending on your texture preferences, you can mash the vegetables directly in the pot if you have a mashing accessory, or maybe blend it with a blender. Or you can do nothing if things are mushy enough!
  11. Serve on a deep bowl or dish. Add olive oil or butter, salt and pepper. (I’m blatantly stealing my partner’s trick of adding a lot of pepper as it brings a lot of heat to the tongue without adding chilli).
  12. Enjoy!

Other ideas

This method is great to finish off any old vegetables you have lying around. Onions? Beans? Sweet potatoes? Celery? Leek? It’s all good: peel, slice and add to the pot!

It’s also very easy to make a big batch, so you can have dinner for two days (or two people). I haven’t tried freezing this, though.

Some background (the “origin story”)

This totally brings me back to my childhood: we’d have a dish of boiled vegetables as the starter for dinner, then maybe some deli meats and bread, or an omelette, or fish, or something lightweight like that. We call this dish “bollit” in Valencian, or “hervido” in Spanish, which means… boiled!

Although back then we would boil the vegetables without dicing them, so you would get a whole potato in your dish! This also took longer to cook, specially if you didn’t use a pressure cooker. My grandparents didn’t—they seemed to always use the same small weathered pot, and they had to start cooking their bollit every day at 18h for it to be in time for dinner.

If you happened to show up at their home at 20h, you would both get welcomed by an intense smell of boiled onions, and also severely admonished for visiting them so late! πŸ˜‚

“AΓ―oli” from Maille

I don’t know what caught my attention first: the diaeresis or the weird spelling. And then… basil? pepper? πŸ€”

If this is supposed to be allioli, it looked like whoever designed this had never had actual allioli, and had just been vaguely told about it by someone who had heard from someone else about a story a friend told them about the time they had this when they attended a barbecue in their holidays in Barcelona.

UPDATE: I have been told that “the English borrowed the French word” (here’s a whole lot of spellings and explanations about them).

So what is the problem with this? Allioli literally means “garlic and oil” in Catalan. (All = garlic, i = and, oli = oil). I have never seen anyone ever use anything other than olive oil to make this, and that is what you would think you’d find in this jar. But this is what you will find instead:

Rapeseed Oil (63%), Spirit Vinegar, Free Range egg Yolk (5.4%), Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Water, Garlic (2.2%), Salt, Dijon Mustard (1.5%) (Water, Brown Mustard Seeds, Spirit Vinegar, Salt, Preservative (Potassium Metabisulphite), Acid (Citric Acid)), Garlic Powder, Modified Maize Starch, Acids (Citric Acid, Lactic Acid), Black Pepper (0.3%), Maize Starch, Flavourings, Thickeners (Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum), Basil (0.05%), Colour (Carotenes)

I want to point out that rapeseed (!) oil is 63% of this, and Garlic a mere 2.2%. There’s more egg than garlic. There’s almost as much mustard as there’s garlic. By those parameters, this should be called eggoli!

In their defense (and I’m being extremely forgiving), binding garlic with oil is incredibly difficult. There are all sorts of esoteric advice and superstitions that people swear will result in that most priced of outcomes: a thick allioli that won’t fall if you tip the mortar upside down.

For example: using just a mortar and pestle (NO blender), or adding the oil without looking at the mortar (needs two people for this). So if you want to package this and get it to have some shelf life, evidently something has to be added. But… all of that? Gross.

Let’s try another line of defense: maybe they’re a French maker and they’re doing this the French way, but I refuse to accept the French would accept this grossness. NOPE.

  • Grossness level: 7/10. If you serve this to me, I will probably not talk to you in a long time.
  • Offense amount: I’d say I feel more repulsed than offended.
  • Would I give it a go? No way.

Chickpea salad

I was feeling really lazy today so I decided to use a can of chickpeas instead of cooking lentils to prepare tomorrow’s lunch box. I feel that chickpeas go really well with cumin seeds.

Preparation time

I’d say 15 minutes. This is super easy to toss together as the ingredients don’t need much preparation; it’s just a matter of washing and slicing.

Ingredients

  • Chickpeas (obviously); you can make about 2 salads with one 400 g tin
  • Salad leaves – any type you like, although I prefer a crunchy sweet romaine for this
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Sweet red pepper (raw)
  • Olives
  • Feta cheese
  • Cumin seeds ~about half a teaspoon
  • Pine nuts
  • The best olive oil you can find
  • Salt
  • Pepper

of course, feel free to add or remove whatever you like or dislike… this is a salad, not a cake! For example, remove the feta cheese if you want to make this vegan.

Preparation

  1. Wash and shake the water off the ingredients
  2. Slice lettuce in manageable sizes but don’t go too thin or it becomes too bland
  3. Slice the tomatoes in half (if they’re cherry), or a bite sized portion if they’re bigger
  4. Slice cucumber, red pepper…
  5. Add olives and feta to taste
  6. If you have mortar and pestle, you could smash the cumin seeds a bit as that opens up the flavour, otherwise I often don’t even bother and just add them as they are. Be careful to not to add too many or you’ll end up annoyed by their “crunchiness”
  7. Sprinkle with pine nuts if that’s your thing
  8. Generously add olive oil
  9. And add salt and pepper to taste
  10. Mix everything nicely!

Note: If you’re preparing this for the next day, don’t add the oil yet, or it will make everything mushy. Wait until when you’re actually going to eat the salad to then add the olive oil.

Other options

This also goes nicely with some sliced parsley, if you have it handy.

Also, if your partner is on a business trip (like mine) and you really want some kick in your taste buds, you could [sort of finely] slice a garlic clove and mix it with the salad at the time you add the olive oil. You might need to add a touch more salt to make the garlic really stand out.

It really makes the whole experience quite… intense. I really like the combination of cumin seeds, olive oil and chickpeas with the garlic.

I only do this when I’m home alone, and I’d never bring a garlic salad to the office out of respect for my coworkers. Who knows, someone might be a vampire and my post-salad breath would knock them out! πŸ˜‚

Who wants to ingest garlic pills to boost your immunity when you can just eat a garlic clove? πŸ”₯😜πŸ”₯

Chamborado

This is quite a heavy breakfast, so I don’t recommend you go for this if you’re expecting to have a substantial lunch afterwards. But now that it’s a bit colder, this is the kind of comforting chocolatey thing I look forward to on Sunday mornings πŸ™‚

Ingredients:

  • 140 g round rice (paella, ‘bomba’ or risotto rice should work)
  • 100 g dark chocolate
  • 30 g sugar
  • any milk you like – I used coconut milk, or just water if you’re feeling spartan
  • some exotic fruit like mango or papaya to balance the sweetness, at room temperature
  • maybe other decorations like desiccated coconut
  • if you’re very fancy, maybe edible flowers? I have no idea where to get these. Maybe a couple mint leaves would be nice too πŸ€”

Preparation

  1. Prepare the chocolate: with a big knife, cut it into shavings so it’s easier to melt later. Leave aside.
  2. Prepare the fruit, if it’s not already pre-sliced, do peel and cut the mango in squares and leave aside.
  3. On a pot, put 280 ml of milk to start with, and bring to a boil
  4. When it starts boiling, add the rice, and reduce the heat so it doesn’t evaporate super quickly. Put a lid on, leave to cook and occasionally stir to avoid it getting stuck to the bottom.
  5. When it starts looking like almost all the liquid has been absorbed, you need to start adding extra water in small quantities. I suggest you use warm water as it won’t stop the process that much. Add spoonfuls of water and stir. You don’t want the rice to be overcooked, but you don’t want it raw either. So try a grain from time to time. A risotto spoon is very helpful to gently massage the rice and bring out the starch.
  6. Once the rice has released lots of its starch and it’s looking creamy, add the sugar too, stir, and see if it’s sweet enough, then correct by adding more if you want more of a kick (although take into account whether the chocolate you add later has sugar as well).
  7. In parallel, put the chocolate shavings to melt in another pot, preferably using a bain marie to avoid burning it. Or you can wait until later and just mix everything together. (I used a bain marie).
  8. When the rice is nicely cooked, and the grains don’t have a hard core anymore, add the chocolate (it should be nicely melted by now!). Or add the shavings, but bring the heat to the lowest so you don’t burn the rice. Keep gently stirring until it’s all mixed in.
  9. Serve on a deep dish or bowl. Add the fruits and any decoration you want. You could add a splash of milk to have some contrast.
  10. … and eat it! It’s very nice when warm, and the fruit provides some fresh contrast against the chocolate richness.

If you use coconut milk like I did, this is fully vegan, although it’s not very dense and so when adding the final splash it just looks very watery.

This is inspired on a recipe from Symmetry Breakfast’s book, but since I’m a rice snob I decided to ignore his rice amounts and proportions (also he doesn’t go in such detail about how to cook the rice as I went—you can tell that I have high rice standards 😏). I also reduced the amount of sugar, but he was suggesting using tablea, which I had no way to source in a timely manner.

My version was a bit drier and less creamy that I expected. I should I have added way more milk or water. Oh well, I guess I can always repeat this!

Also: Apologies if you’re Filipino and this version is insulting to you πŸ’πŸ»