Monday, 8 April 2013

Super salad: Chicken, halloumi, spinach and roasted peppers

This might just be the best salad I've ever made (and I've made my fair share).

Inspired by a starter at my Granddad's local Italian joint, this jumbo salad is packed with delicious ingredients: juicy chunks of pan-fried chicken, roasted strips of red and yellow pepper, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and - to top everything off - delicious slices of seared halloumi cheese...

The original version is accompanied by a yoghurt and herb dressing - a delicious and healthy alternative to creamier mayonnaise-based sauces - but I served my salad with two dressings, providing a home-made honey-mustard vinaigrette in addition to the yoghurt one.

To serve 4 (as a main course)

For the salad:
400g packet of uncooked chicken breast fillets
250g halloumi cheese
2 sweet peppers (red, orange or yellow)
Large bag fresh spinach leaves
Half a large cucumber, cut into small chunks
Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
Oil and butter (for cooking)

For the yoghurt dressing:
4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
Juice of half a lemon
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper

For the honey-mustard dressing:
1 tbsp good quality grain mustard
1 tsbp runny honey
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Pre-heat your oven to 200C. Deseed your peppers and slice into two halves. Place on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil, before cooking on a high shelf of the oven for around 25 minutes. When the peppers are done, take them out of the oven and remove the skins (if the peppers are ready, they should come off easily). Set aside to cool slightly, before slicing into small pieces.

Prepare the dressings: both are incredibly easy to make. For the yoghurt dressing, combine the Greek yoghurt with the lemon juice and the crushed garlic, stirring well, before seasoning with salt and freshly ground pepper. For the honey-mustard vinaigrette, whisk together mustard, honey, white wine vinegar and olive oil, and season to taste. Serve "on the side" to give your guests the choice of which they would prefer to use on their meal.

Heat a glug of oil and a pat of butter in a large pan over a high heat*. Slice the chicken fillets into strips (roughly 1-inch wide and 3 long) and cook until golden, frying in two batches if necessary. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Cut the halloumi into slices, around 1/2 an inch thick. Heat a dash of oil in a griddle pan over a high heat, and fry for a couple of minutes on each side (the aim is for an attractive griddled pattern), before slicing into strips.

The final step is to build your salad: start with a layer of fresh spinach leaves, before adding the halved cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, and cooked pepper pieces. Complete the colourful salad with the chicken and halloumi cheese and serve alongside the two dressings.
*The butter adds flavour, while the oil heats to a higher temperature and prevents the butter from burning