Thursday, 19 April 2012

Halloumi Salad

Quite a few years ago, J and I had holiday flights that transited in Qatar. On the way back we had quite a few hours in Qatar airport, which was quite an experience as, at the time, the airport was undergoing a massive renovation project. The airport (at the time) was rather small with few shops and only a small handful of places to eat and drink (thankfully we had books to keep us occupied!). One shop offered a large selection of ice-cream and milkshake flavours, which appealed to us hugely as two hot and weary travellers. My milkshake choice was quickly narrowed down to strawberry (one of my favourite flavours) or date (something I had not tried in milkshake form but loved in the fruit form) and, with a long queue building up behind us, I chose strawberry. Whilst that milkshake was very nice, as I drank it I kept wondering what a date-flavoured milkshake would taste like, and harbouring slight regrets that I had not plumbed for the more adventurous choice. Those thoughts continued as we boarded our flight not long afterwards and then carried on into the following weeks, ultimately leading to me making a rather disastrous attempt at a date milkshake (dried dates blended with plain ice-cream and milk anyone…?). That incident challenged me to be more adventurous in my eating-and-drinking-out-consumption-choices and I resolved to try (with flexibility) from then on to choose the more adventurous option on a menu if there was one (except when gammon steaks are on offer, but that is a whole different love story). Whilst not always consistently applied, that resolve has lead to some delicious dish-tasting experiences that I might not have had otherwise.


One of those choices, in a pub one lunchtime last year, was a grilled halloumi salad – a choice influenced partly by a longstanding but unfulfilled desire to try halloumi (yes, I realise halloumi isn’t necessarily quite as ‘different’ as the story above might imply my choice should be, but we are talking a regular pub menu here not a gourmet dining experience).  This simple salad does not completely replicate that salad, but it comes close, and, along with some crusty bread (which didn’t make it into my photos as I ate it before then), makes for a very tasty and easy weekday meal. If you you’ve never tried halloumi before, I would encourage you to give it a go – it is a sheep and goat’s (and sometimes cow’s) milk cheese with a relatively high melting point, meaning that you can brown it and it will keep its shape. Please excuse the poor and weird light – I blame it firstly on the rapidly fading daylight and secondly on needing to use artificial light halfway through this process as a result of that rapidly fading daylight. This makes a large salad for one person.

What you’ll need:

A handful of mixed salad greens

About a quarter of a long cucumber, washed and diced

Half a red pepper, diced

5-7 cherry tomatoes, halved

About 10 black olives

3-4 slices of halloumi (about 1/2 cm thick – and don’t worry if they fall apart a bit – as you can see from the photos below, that happened to me too)

Extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed or diced small

Juice of half a lemon

Pinch dried oregano

Freshly ground pepper

Salt (optional – I preferred not to have any as the cheese is pretty salty already)

What to do:

1. Put the salad greens, diced cucumber and pepper, tomatoes and black olives into a bowl and set aside.






2. Heat up a generous glug of olive oil in a frying pan and then carefully place the slices of halloumi in the pan when the oil is hot.


3. Cook the halloumi in the hot oil for a couple of minutes until brown on the underside, and then flip over to brown on the other side (the second side will be quicker than the first).


4. When the halloumi has browned (not browned not blackened as I did), put it on some crumpled kitchen towel to drain whilst you make the dressing for the salad.


5. For the dressing, fry the crushed or diced garlic in the leftover hot oil in the pan for a couple of minutes until just starting to go a golden brown colour. Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice, oregano, pepper and (if using) salt to the pan and stir together.

IMG_1863 (Yes, this really was my best photo of the garlic *sighs and hangs head in shame and despair*)




6. Pour the dressing over the salad vegetables and toss together. Drizzle a bit more olive oil into the bowl, if it is needed.



7. Artistically arrange the salad and fried halloumi slices on a plate (or at least that’s what I’m telling myself I did…). Drizzle a tiny bit more olive oil over the top of the halloumi and enjoy!


Sunday, 15 April 2012

A Day in the Life of my PhD Corrections and Ice Cream Coffee


A Day in the Life of my PhD Corrections

1. Pray.

2. Open the 300-ish page book in French to the place I got up to last night.

3. Open my draft corrections Word document and Google Translate (no need to turn the computer on because I didn’t actually turn it off last night).

4. Start trying to read the French book and feel really proud when I get through two pages and only have to look up the meaning of five words.

5. The French suddenly dissolves into something completely unintelligible. Despair at lack of knowledge of French, despite having an O’level in French and more than three years of French scholarly article and book reading experience. Resort to typing whole paragraphs into Google Translate (and realise that over-reliance on Google Translate may account for lack of proficiency in French).

6. Think about the ice cream coffee planned for a lunchtime treat. How will I get through the next hour before it is 12 and I feel I can legitimately have a lunch break?

7. French suddenly starts to make sense again. Stop typing whole paragraphs into Google Translate and feel proud when manage to read five pages and only need to look up the meaning of a handful of words.

8. Regret leaving the French book for last and wish I’d started reading (and translating) it the day after my viva. Persist with reading the French (aided by Google Translate).

9. Hooray – it is LUNCHTIME! Make the delicious concoction below and take a 15 minute break to let the caffeine work its way through body before starting the above process again…

Ice Cream Coffee

I really wanted to call this coffee ice cream, but felt I couldn’t because that would imply that it is coffee ice-cream rather than coffee and ice cream. This is great for when you want a little pick-me-up that combines your next caffeine fix with a sweet treat. As you may be able to tell, my corrections are driving me slightly mad, but hopefully normal service will resume soon, when I’ve finished them and had some sleep… I should add that whilst I wish I had come up with the idea of pouring hot coffee over ice cream, I did not – I’ve seen it on at least one or two TV cookery shows, such as in an episode of Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals. The toasted hazelnuts, however, came directly from the desires of my tastebuds. And yes, the floor really is my preferred study location - it is much easier to spread out that way.

What you’ll need:

A shot of hot proper coffee

A couple of scoops of your favourite ice cream (I went for vanilla)

A handful of toasted hazelnuts

What to do:

1. Put the ice cream into a bowl (preferably one that is heat-resistant, to avoid any potential problems when you add the hot coffee).


2. Pour the coffee over the top of the ice cream.



3. Sprinkle the whole thing liberally with toasted hazelnuts.



4. Enjoy a moment of bliss before returning to PhD corrections (or whatever else you need a break from!)


Saturday, 14 April 2012

Hiking Photos

J went hiking with a friend yesterday, and very kindly agreed to take the little point and shoot camera and try get some pretty photos for the blog. Although heavy mist blocked the view for some of the day, the resulting photos were enough to rouse in me feelings of envy over their day in beautiful countryside (and look there’s still snow in them there hills!). Here is a small selection – my favourites are the pictures of the triplet lambs at the end…







Friday, 6 April 2012

Easter Reflection: Good Friday

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53: 4-5, ESV).

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate an empty tomb. We celebrate the joy of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. We celebrate new life in and through Christ. We celebrate forgiveness and God’s amazing love. For me, Good Friday is a day to remember all of those things. But it is also a day of remembering death and pain; of remembering the cost to God of my sinfulness; of a tomb that wasn’t empty but in which the body of Jesus was placed. It is a day of humbly realising my need for God and His grace. And a day of gratitude that He meets that need.

I hope you have a wonderful Easter weekend, filled, not only with special times with loved ones, but also with the peace and joy that comes from personally knowing the deeper meaning behind this holiday.


*Huge thanks again to my sister for letting me use another photo, also taken at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Easter Reflection: Fullness of Joy

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11, ESV).

Today I read a blog post written by a friend (have a read here), in which she notes that Christianity, as she knew it in the community within which she grew up, lacked joy. And it led me to wonder – as Christians, our lives should be characterised by joy – joy from being in relationship with and personally knowing God, joy in knowing His grace and forgiveness, joy from the knowledge that we are set free and the price has been paid for our sins. So why aren’t we more joy-filled? I think a lot of the answer has to do with guilt, which comes as we focus on our shortcomings, on how we fail, on the times when we mess up and fail to live the life we think we should live as Christians. When we let guilt rule our lives we become a lot like Peter, who started to sink when he focused on the wind (the problems) instead of Jesus, whilst walking on the water to Jesus (Matthew 14: 30). Yet Jesus came that we may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Yes, we mess up, but the wonderful thing, the joyful thing, the thing that is so worth celebrating at Easter and every other day of the year, is that through Jesus and His death and resurrection, we can have forgiveness and a clean slate. We can start again, and not just on our own, but with God’s help and the Holy Spirit to guide us. As we head towards Easter, I would encourage both you and myself to refocus our attention, not on our own human shortcomings but on God’s wonderful grace.


“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore”. (Psalm 16: 11, ESV).

*This post comes with huge thanks to my sister for letting me to share her photo, taken at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Piña Colada Mocktail and Cocktail


Despite having a great love of fruit in just about any form (raw, juiced, canned, frozen, sometimes, depending on the fruit, cooked), particularly exotic fruit, it was not until last year that I tasted the delight of the simple combination of coconut and pineapple juice mixed together. And I fell in love. The vague memory from childhood of an artificial, soft drink concoction going by the euphemistic name of piña colada had not prepared me at all for what this drink could taste like when made with real juice, and when I made that discovery it was only social pressure and not wanting to disgrace myself too much in front of a room mostly full of strangers, as well as an awareness that the inclusion of coconut probably meant that it had about four times as many calories as most other drinks, that prevented me from downing too many glasses. They were of the non-alcoholic variety so that didn’t have to factor into my calculation of the maximum number of glasses I could drink whilst still maintaining a semblance of non-greedy dignity. I don’t really know why it took me over six months to make my own version – most likely the fact that winter banished all thoughts of cold drinks from my mind, whilst the appearance of a sunny spring in the last month is having the opposite effect on me. In an ideal world, I would know something about mixology (like whether this should be shaken, stirred or something else) prior to sharing a cocktail recipe, and I should probably also include ice (which I don’t like as I hate tooth-freeze from drinks) in the recipe. So with apologies to any experts who may read this, here is my make-with-what-I-have-at-home version (including limited knowledge of how to make cocktails), without ice (but feel free to chuck some in with the pineapple juice), and a primary concern with the fact that I’m not really sure I like the word mocktail (which this will be if you ignore step 3 below and don’t add the rum). This makes between about 4 and 6 drinks, depending on the size of the glass you use when serving.


What you’ll need:

250 ml carton coconut cream

1 litre pineapple juice

White rum (optional if you want to turn this from a mocktail into a cocktail)

What to do:

1. Tip the coconut cream into a large jug.


2. Add the pineapple juice to the jug with the coconut cream and whisk together. If the coconut cream has separated, add the pineapple juice little by little, whisking slowly to bring the coconut milk back together. If you add the pineapple juice all in one go, it may look like the whole mixture has separated, but fear not and whisk on – all will come right. The separation looks particularly bad in my photo below because the coconut cream had separated, but I did not slowly mix in the pineapple juice as I should have done (and did do the next time I made this, but unfortunately did not get any photos…).




3. If you’re going for the cocktail rather than the mocktail, fill the coconut cream carton to between 1/4 and 1/2 full with white rum (as you may guess if you read this blog regularly, I’m much more into saving on washing up than accurate measurements) and whisk the rum with the coconut cream and pineapple juice in the jug.



4. Pour into a glass, decorate with a piece of pineapple, if you have one (which I did), add a straw or two to drink from, if you have them (which I did not), and go sit outside and enjoy a moment in the sunshine with a good book (or share with friends and/or your spouse, if you have to…).