Xanthan-Free Zone

Real food, incidentally gluten-free.

Archive for Spring Onions

Quick Halloumi Curry with Tomatoes and Spring Onions

Halloumi is one of the great cheese of the world, and when I found a cheap, bulk source of it, I couldn’t wait to make Indian paneer curries with halloumi. Paneer is a cottage cheese which you can make by boiling milk and then adding acid (lemon or vinegar), draining and compressing it. My local supermarket stocks paneer but it’s very expensive and also I find it quite dry and chalky. What I usually do is buy ricotta, cut it into small pieces, coat it in a small amount of oil and bake in a moderate oven about half an hour.

But halloumi is much nicer – chewy, salty, flavoursome. Mine was a little too salty, but I just took it out of its brine and soaked it in plain water in the fridge for a few hours and that leached enough salt out. It can also leach out in the curry if it’s cooked for a bit, so it’s good to remember not to add salt.

This is another one adapted from Raghavan Iyer’s book. It makes use of a homemade spice mix which might seem troublesome but is really what makes it a cut above the rest. It’s the only part that’s not so quick, but once you’ve made it you can keep it and use it for other recipes.

Serves about four.

250g halloumi (pre-soak your halloumi in plain water for a few hours or overnight if very salty)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cummin seeds
250g finely chopped spring onions, including green tops (about 1 bunch)
250g nice ripe tomatoes
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1/4 tsp ground tumeric
2 fresh chillies
1 tsp Balti masala 

Balti masala spice mix:
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cardamon seeds
1/2 tsp nigella/kalonji seeds
3 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat and fry the spices for 1-2 minutes. Pay a lot of attention and be very careful not to burn them. The mustard seeds should start popping, the fennel should get brown-tinged and the coriander and cumin should get even browner. They should also smell overwhelmingly fantastic. I fried mine one at a time, so I could grind them separately in a mortar and pestle, which is easier because of the different sizes and hardnesses of the spices. Toasted spices, I found, are much easier to grind, and grinding the toasted cinnamon sticks and bay leaves is pretty fun. If you have a spice grinder or appropriate blender/food processor, you can use that. In any case, Raghavan recommends letting the spices cool before you grind them.

Making the curry

Slice the halloumi and fry in a little oil on medium-high heat until browned on both sides. Or you can cook it under the griller. Then slice into bite-sized pieces.

Combine all ingredients except oil and cumin in a bowl. Then heat oil in a wok or large frying pan, and fry the cumin seeds for 10 seconds, before chucking in everything else. Stir fry over a moderate heat until the spring onion greens have all collapsed and everything is well-combined. Then serve!