Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Halloumi and Spinach Curry with Couscous

This has been one of my favourite vegetarian recipes so far. It is simple (couscous), healthy (spinach), and delicious (halloumi).

I've never heard of halloumi until my housemate Yusuf promised to make me his best vegetarian dish. He made an amazing halloumi chili which sparked my interest in this particular type of cheese.

While visiting my family in Ostrava earlier this year, I looked for halloumi in the shops, but to no avail. Supermarkets don't sell them, stores specialised in Greek cuisine had gone bankrupt years ago (no surprise). This is something I miss in the Czech Republic - a variety of food stemming from the UK's multicultural society. Czechland is still too homogeneous for me, although this is changing (slowly). However, I do like Czech cuisine itself and I intend to blog some authentic recipes in the near future!

For those who don't know: halloumi is a cheese which does not melt under high temperatures. It is similar to paneer, but more salty and often infused with herbs. The other day I bought a chili flavoured pack of halloumi (since I am making an Indian dish anyway duh), but it was waaay too racy for my taste buds. I usually do nibble at it uncooked when I'm hungry and cooking is taking too long, but the flavour does not come out until heated. It works like mozzarella actually. I never understood why people eat raw mozzarella (e.g. in salads) since there's barely any taste to it. Although I may be buying shitty non-organic brands...

The truth is I have fallen in love with halloumi. I found a couple of related recipes, but Emily's Halloumi and Spinach Curry on Fuss Free Cooking is by far my favourite. I originally made it with brown rice according to her recipe, but after trying it with couscous I sticked to the latter (something about its texture). I also attempted to replace spinach with broccoli (this was my rather embarrassing let's-learn-to-love-broccoli phase), but spinach is indeed the better choice. Nothing against broccoli though, I am starting to see something in you. Kinda.

Halloumi and Spinach Curry with Couscous 

1 cup of couscous
2 - 3 onions
Frozen spinach
Coconut oil
Tomato puree
Garlic puree
Salt, black pepper, coriander, ground cumin, turmeric, chili

See original recipe for instructions, but first learn to cook couscous here!

1) Pour a cup of dry couscous into a pot.

I usually measure couscous in this neat, small cup from my broken flask! I like it.

2) Boil some water in an electric kettle and pour a little of it into the pot. The water level should be approx. 1 cm above the couscous. You do not need any flame to cook the couscous itself, just heat from the water. Season with a bit of salt and black pepper, stir, and quickly cover with a lid. If you end up with moist couscous after pouring too much water, place the pot on some heat and stir it while the moisture evaporates. (I find wet couscous a bit icky...) My friend Hana also melts some butter over her couscous if you're looking for extra flavours!

Naturally, most of our pots are missing their lids. 
3) Set pot aside and make the curry. It takes approx. 10 minutes for the couscous to cook.


I dislike plastic packets which make me spill couscous/rice/quinoa/whatever everywhere. So I nicked some empty sauce bottles off my housemates to use as containers. 
Yeah, I have a thing for recycling.
A funnel made from the top part of a plastic bottle. 

Chopping up halloumi

At first, I got worried, because it was hissing a lot (like popcorn) and releasing juices.
Is my halloumi melting? Did I break it somehow??
But after a while it started browning up. Lots of stirring needed here!

What do you think?

It looks marvelous, no?

Monday, 5 August 2013

Berrytown, UK

For the past week or so I have been trekking back and forth Coventry in search of a new home. My 11-month contract has finished and I need to find my first post-university accommodation. It has been a bit disheartening to see the unimpressed looks on landlords' faces as they learned I do not have a job at the moment. I understand their viewpoint completely. Their skepticism is a bit hurtful though.

I trekked to nearly all the booked houses, because... I love walking. Simple as that. The fresh air calms my mind. I like being surrounded by greenery and birdsong.

The other day, on my way to Earlsdon, I noticed a beautiful, succulent blackberry hanging in front of me over a fence. After inspecting it for flaws I looked beyond the plant to find many, many blackberry shrubs colonising the unkept land! From all that chaos burst beautiful ripe blackberries.

I returned with my camera.

Just hanging in there.

Some still need time.

Others need care.

Who would have thought to look for berries here?

Can you spot them?


... but protected by thorns.

A beauty... with a friend! I wish I had noticed the insect on the leaf at the time. 
They would have made a lovely picture. 

Who would have known Coventry was Berrytown? And why is nobody eating them? I know I'm coming for seconds.