This former peasant food is one of my favourite vegetables. This dish is ridiculously simple to make, yet utterly divine, and sure to be a winner at the table. Kids love it, due to the novelty of the cheese squeaking against their teeth (OK, adults find it amusing too!), and of course, it's a great way for them to get their veg...somehow, baked vegetables seem far more appealing to children than steamed ones! Do remember to remove the cocktail sticks, however, before serving to children!
Halloumi can be very salty, so I soak mine for a few hours before using. It doesn't remove all of the salt but it does lessen it. The nutritional values below are for pre-soaked halloumi, however.
Approximate nutritional values per person:
(Please note that these are based on the ingredients I use - your own may be slightly different)
For two people:
100g asparagus (if you can get really skinny asparagus, it's much easier to wrap up!)
175g light halloumi (soaked for a couple of hours)
1ml (20 squirts) spray olive oil
Dash of freshly cracked black pepper
4 cocktail sticks
1. Pre-heat the oven to around 180°C.
2. Wash and then trim off the bottom ends of the asparagus.
3. Spray approx. 10 squirts of oil into the dish you'll be using in the oven, arrange the asparagus in the dish, then squirt the rest of the oil over the spears. Sprinkle over a little cracked black pepper, and then bake in the oven for around 10 minutes.
4. Carefully cut the halloumi, lengthwise, into four slices. It will probably try to crumble, bend, tear, or otherwise do its best to be awkward but don't worry too much - just do the best you can!
5. Test the asparagus; when softened (but still al dente), remove the dish from the oven and spread the spears on a chopping board, in order to cool down a little.
6. Place the halloumi in the still-warm oven dish and place in the oven for around 3-5 minutes. You just want to soften it, not cook it!
7. When the cheese is soft, remove it from the dish (please use a fork or tongs...not fingers!) and lay out on the chopping board.
8. Place little bundles of asparagus on each slice of cheese, then very carefully, roll so that the halloumi forms a band around the middle of the asparagus spears. Please don't burn your fingers while doing this!
9. Secure each bundle with a cocktail stick, place all of the bundles in the oven dish, sprinkle with a little more black pepper (if desired), and then return to the oven for another 5-7 minutes, depending on how cooked you like your halloumi.
10. When done, carefully remove the cocktail sticks and serve the bundles (two each) with salads or vegetables of your choice.
The image above shows asparagus bundles served with green salad from my garden (complete with rocket flowers!), potato salad, and panzanella. Please click on the links for the recipes.