I am taking German classes at Pro-Log in Schonberg and it’s given me a chance to shop at the Turkish supermarkets. The one I visit the most is called Oz-Gida. I love wondering around the aisles and trying to work out what different things are. I enjoy the “foreign” atmosphere, where the gentlemen weighing the vegetables sport thick mustaches and the check out counter women sometimes wear a hijab. And everyone smiles big – I like that, it’s so Middle Eastern! When you check out, you receive plastic bags without having to pay for them. Although I have already become totally Germanized on that front and always bring my own bags.
The other day I bought some Halloumi, sweet onion and sumac. My Arabic grandmother used to make this chicken, onion and sumac dish that I will share with you one day – and it will blow your mind! As it’s warm out these days and I am eating way too much cake and bread, I opted to make a salad with my hoard.
Halloumi is a fantastic cheese for grilling because it has a higher melting point than most other cheeses meaning you can get thick tasty grill marks on the outside while the inside becomes tender (although doesn’t ever really melt or get stringy). Avoid eating it in its natural state however, you will just find it overly salty and rubbery. Grilled Halloumi is heaven on a plate when paired with sweet tomatoes. The dressing for this Arabic style salad has to have lemon and olive oil. Vinegar and mustard – just don’t feature in Middle Eastern Food. The finishing touch on this salad is a generous scattering of the mouth puckering spice, sumac.
1 packet halloumi (preferably goat’s and sheep milk), thickly sliced
2 small cucumbers (they have less water then the long ones you typically find in supermarkets wrapped in plastic), sliced in half lengthways and then into thick slices. Peel if waxed leave alone if not.
1 small head lettuce, shredded into bite sized pieces.
1 punnet of sweet cherry tomatoes or 2-3 larger tomatoes (if you can get your hands on some tasty ones, I still haven’t found a source here in Berlin)
1 tablespoon fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon of sumac
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper
1. Make the dressing by whisking the olive oil in to the lemon juice. Salt the tomatoes and cucumbers generously – when using lemon in the dressing you have to up the ante on the salt front.
2. Toss the lettuce in the dressing and make sure it’s well dressed. Add the sliced onions and cucumbers and toss again – don’t worry that you are ruffling up your lettuce.
3. Get your grill pan nice and hot. Use your finger to rub some olive oil onto both sides of the cheese. Place on to hot grill pan and flip over after about 30 seconds or so (or when you have achieved some nice grill marks)
3. On a flat plate pile the cucumber, lettuce mixture. Layer the tomatoes on top, followed by the grilled Haloumi.
4. Sprinkle the whole thing with sumac and then mint.
5. Enjoy with some grilled Arabic bread.