During both of my pregnancies, I began to experience a little of what husband dearest must experience endure most days:
MAJOR meat cravings.
I’ve written before about the hubby’s love of red meat in my post Spinach and salmon pizza, and only once ‘with child’ did I really understand the allure of a great big hunk of flesh on my plate. Before pregnancy, a mainly vegetarian diet kept me pretty happy, with the occasional fish dish and meat based meal to add a bit of diversity to our meal schedule. Poor hubby used to complain that he needed more protein. “But what about the pulses, the cheese, the nuts?” I would cry.
Poor hubby would sob silently into his puy lentils, mourning the presence of a satisfying steak or burger. I dismissed his cries as over-indulgent gluttony, and happily maintained the clichéd stereotype that women like delicate veggie or legume based meals, enforcing my preferences on my meat starved husband,
But boy, when pregnant, (almost the minute those two magic lines appeared) did I want the biggest burgers, the juiciest steaks, the thickest rashers of bacon sandwiched between soft bread, dripping in butter and tomato sauce.
The lentils just didn’t cut it. I had turned committed carnivore overnight.
A proper, substantial chunk of red meat was the only way to satisfy my yearning for iron and protein. My empathy levels skyrocketed and to hubby’s delight, red meat became a frequent feature of our meal schedule.
Nowadays, even though my lust for flesh has subsidised somewhat, I still try to satiate dear hubby’s meat cravings as much as possible. But we all know that not only is red meat not the most economic of ingredients , it’s also not the healthiest of things to be eating, day in day out.
Halloumi is one of the nearest things I can get to as acceptable meat substitute for my carnivorous husband. And the fact that it’s less than £2 for the entire pack certainly ameliorates itself to his frugal tendencies. It may never replace a juicy steak in hubby’s affections, but it is deemed ‘substantial’ enough to be a pleasant meat alternative. And with the addition of the cashews in this recipe, there’s really a double dose of protein to ensure nobody’s really missing the muscle building good stuff.
The marinade for the halloumi is of course, optional (and you can buy pre-flavoured packets of halloumi) but I think it’s a really great way to inject as much flavour as possible to the cheese. Just don’t add salt, as halloumi is already very salty. The couscous salad is simultaneously warming and fresh, with a heady middle eastern vibe (I’ve been reading a lot of Ottolenghi’s books recently, dontcha know ).
Be careful when frying the halloumi to oil the pan well, and not to turn it too soon, and premature flipping will mean you lose the majestic caramelised crust which makes this cheese such an appealing meat alternative.
You could of course replace the salad with a heftier side if you prefer. Predictably, hubby would prefer chips or some other clichéd ‘male’ accompaniment (sorry, but we adhere horribly to gender stereotypes in our household when it comes to food),but I think the nuttiness of the couscous makes it substantial enough to be a worthy accompaniment. And, come on, it’s called ‘giant’ couscous, which has to give it a bit of kudos, right?
So enjoy this meat free feast; hopefully your wallet, your health, and your significant other will thank you.
Marinated halloumi with herby couscous salad (serves two)
For the halloumi
2 tablespoons of garlic oil
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp dried mint
For the salad
80g giant (or ‘Israeli’) couscous (found in most supermarkets)
Small head of broccoli
100g heritage tomatoes (cherry will be fine if you can’t source heritage)
one spring onion, chopped finely
50g cashew nuts, lightly toasted
Large handful fresh mint, chopped
Large handful fresh coriander, chopped
For the dressing
2 tablespoons natural yogurt
juice and zest of one lemon
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped and crushed
1 tsp za’atar
1/2 tsp cumin
Slice the halloumi into 1 inch wide pieces and place in a shallow bowl. Mix the garlic oil, dried mint, lemon juice, and black pepper and pour over the halloumi. Put in the fridge to marinate for at least 12 hours.
About half an hour before you want to eat, cook the couscous according to packet instructions, adding the broccoli to the pan for the last two minutes. Rinse under cold water and place in a large bowl with a teaspoon of olive oil (prevents the couscous sticking).
Add the sliced tomatoes, as well as the broccoli and spring onions to the couscous. Mix together the natural yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, za’atar, cumin and a pinch of salt. Pour the mixture in the bowl and get your hands in to mix everything up so veggies and couscous are evenly coated.
Heat a frying or skillet pan with a little oil until the oil is shimmering. Fry the marinated halloumi (patted dry) on each side until there’s a beautiful caramelised crust, being careful not to crowd the pan. Set to one side.
Add the toasted cashews, fresh mint coriander to the couscous just before serving, and top with the halloumi. Any leftover dressing can be drizzled on top.