A book worm and foodie, studying English Literature at the University of Glasgow, writing about food, books and travel while aspiring to be a writer.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Raving about a book and my 'Easy Weekday Halloumi Salad'

Hello there beautiful people.
This post is going to be one of those lovely posts that I feel is the start of my regular blogging again. Namely because A) all my university assignments are now in until exams; B) I really want to step up how much I'm writing, as I am beginning to aim towards bigger things and C) it's sunny outside and I woke up at half eight not feeling tired. Instead, as cheesy as it sounds, INSPIRED.

I will be putting a quick and easy recipe at the end of this blog, just of the dinner I made for myself last night. A lot (well, more than five) of you seemed to appreciate it last night on Instagram (thank you), but for now I am just feeling like chatting with you. Well, with this text box. ...myself? Hmm.

I wanted to throw in a book review. I feel like I don't do this enough seeing as the main aspect of my life is reading, so here we go.
I was on holiday last week and, since I handed in my last essay, I treated myself to a rare thing for a literature student. Reading a book that is not chosen for you. This one was recommended to me by my lovely mother, and I will admit at first I was a bit dubious. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about the 'don't judge a book by it's cover' thing, (as it is, this book has a lovely cover), but I don't normally tend to read non-fiction beyond the news. Bad, I know.
The book is called H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. Her accolades are many, including being a historian at Cambridge University, poet and illustrator. Already the back cover tells me this is a woman to be seriously admired. The book has been getting a lot of attention recently. You have no doubt seen it on one of the end sections of Waterstones, or seen one of Helen's retweets, from one of your more bird minded friends (or mothers), if you'll excuse the pun. Now, I am a big animal lover. The part of me who used to play with homemade bows and arrows in the woods behind my house, and has watched Harry Potter upwards of 300 times, LOVES the idea of owning owls, hawks, you name it. Helen herself compares the experience to that of having a daemon, as in Phillip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy, a bond that after reading the books I was obsessed with.

'Is my cat my daemon? Does he love me that much? Do I want a measly cat as a daemon? I'm choosing to ignore that he only follows me around like a soul mate when he's hungry, la la la.'

I even took an online test to find out what animal my daemon would be and got... a gibbon. I was less than impressed. But the fact is, beyond the part of me that lives in magical fiction, I never thought much of the actual reality of taking on something like training a hawk. I didn't think it would interest me in itself, let alone reading a book about it.
The book is beautifully, beautifully written. Helen makes her experience read like prose x 10, filled with poignant personal anecdotes and historical facts the likes of which only a historian would know. It reads in such a way as if you were having a really personal, detailed chat with a close friend.
She makes little processes, like... making a Hawk hood for example, incredibly exciting.
Her enthusiasm is palpable. You will want to do things you didn't even know about before, and do them WELL.
When you are reading it you are totally rooting for her and Mabel, her hawk, and everything they go through.
By the end of it, you feel like one of the friends she talks about throughout the book. I don't just admire Helen Macdonald anymore, I want to invite her round for dinner.

I am aware this is a rave, but am confident in my recommendation. Not only has everyone I have spoken to about it loved it, but it has some brilliant reviews from very high places. I may not judge a book by it's cover, but I do tend to judge it by it's reviews.
Definitely worth getting on the bandwagon with this one,  if you haven't already.
It will ignite your inner geek-child, always a good thing.

Anyway, that became a bit of a ramble, so to keep things short and sweet and end things in my usual, food obsessed way, I will tell you about the salad I had last night.
I'm trying to do meat-free mondays, a big hashtag on Instagram, don't you know. This week also happens to be national meet-free week, with chefs and bloggers putting beautiful veggie recipes up everywhere. This is my input, I suppose!

So here is my recipe for what I will call... 'Easy Weekday Halloumi Salad'.
This recipe will feed two, and is incredibly easy. I use a delicious Egyptian aromatic spice rub called 'dukkah', which my mum gave me and is readily available in health food shops, but if you don't have it salt and pepper will do!

You will need,

  • 1 block of halloumi cheese, sliced. I bought mine from Tesco, but feel free to use as much/little as you want. 
  • 1 red pepper, cut into thick chunks.
  • 1 sweet potato, chunked again. 
  • Half a butternut squash, cut into chunks. 
  • 1 red onion, cut into quarters. 
  • Fresh spinach, for the base of the salad. 
  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to season
  • Balsamic glaze, to finish. 
This recipe really couldn't be simpler, I made it for one last night and it was delicious and filling, as well as being incredibly healthy. It is made easier still by the fact that Tesco sell little bags of sweet potato and butternut squash, ready chunked! Lazy, but lovely, and useful if you're making it for one but don't want the responsibility of a whole squash on your hands, heaven forbid. 

  1. First, preheat your oven to 200C or 180Fan. Put all of your veg in a roasting tin, and toss in the olive oil, salt, pepper and dukkah. Any other spices you fancy can go in at this stage too, I know cumin would be delicious with this dish! 
  2. Roast the veg in the oven for half an hour, tossing halfway through. Check the potato and squash are soft through with a knife. 
  3. Lay out your bed of spinach on a plate, and top with your roasted vegetables. 
  4. In the same tin, lay out your slices of halloumi and put back in the oven. You can either leave your oven on fan, or swap over to grill, depending on how you want your halloumi cooked. I had mine on fan and grill combined. You want your halloumi to be golden brown on both sides, this won't take long at all! Perhaps five minutes.
  5. Finish off by topping the warm veg and spinach with the cheese, then drizzle with balsamic glaze or even just balsamic vinegar. Hummus would also make a delicious addition. 
Voila, dinner done. I cooked it for one, and because it is all roasted in the one tin there was very little washing up to do, yay! This makes a really filling, healthy, vegetarian weekday supper. Whilst it is a very simplistic recipe, it's one I think I will be cooking a lot from now on, tweaking and adding to it as I go! For instance, if you wanted to pad it out even more, roast a chicken breast on top of the veg. However, the halloumi is plenty filling on it's own.

So I'm off to my last Tuesday of second year (WHATWHEREHOWWHYAHHHFIUBE?!?!?!) feeling uplifted and healthy, and unrealistically calm about the fact I am nearly halfway through my university career.
I am going to put it down to the salad. 

Happy Tuesday everyone and if you go on to read 'H is for Hawk', which you definitely should, I hope you love it as much as I did! 

Lindsay  x 

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