Monday, January 11, 2010

Green Jelly Dreaming and Holiday Cooking

When I was about five years old, my family went on a weeks holiday to the Bethany Guest House in Healesville.  The photos show it was fairly basic accommodation, but at the time we thought it was fantastic. 

My memories of that holiday are pretty much limited to the stiff, green jelly they served every night in the dining room and my brother dressed up as a tree for the fancy dress party.  I have no memory of what I wore.   I think my brother won a prize but I could have imagined that.  He was an excellent looking tree.  I do remember that we had a good holiday. 

My Mum has had better holidays since then, but for years that was one of her favourites.  Why?  Well besides the fact there were about a hundred other kids there to keep the six of us out of her hair, the main reason was because she didn't have to cook!  Can you imagine - a week off from cooking for eight people every day,  it must have been heaven. She probably had enough time to read a book, or talk to my Dad or even DO NOTHING (oh frabjous, unheard of luxury).  Do you think she cared that the jelly was too stiff?  Me neither.

That's what holidays should be about - as little work as possible.  But unless you're lucky enough to have your own Bethany equivalent, somebody will still have to cook and if you have to cook you want something that's easy to make, tastes good and preferably doesn't heat up the kitchen too much.  I know that sounds a lot to ask but just because you're not working doesn't mean your food can take a holiday with you. 

Anyway, that's how I came up with the idea for this salad.  It ticks all of those boxes plus it's moderately good for you, just don't read the fat content on the haloumi packet and you will believe that.  It's enjoyed by all ages and suitable for vegetarians.   It has so many attributes it could almost write its own CV.  It tastes really good.

I have named it the Bethany Bounty Salad.  A stupid name I know as it contains no green jelly and it would never have been found in the dining room of an Australian guest house of that era.  It's my tribute to a happy memory.   Go ahead and make it and create your own holiday memories (tree costume optional).

Bethany Bounty Salad
3 (180g) packets of Haloumi Cheese
1-2 baby cos lettuce
6 potatoes, diced (peeled if needed but less work if you buy the already scrubbed ones)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 punnet cherry tomatoes halved
Chopped herbs, whatever you have.  I used parsley and basil.
Olive oil, salt and pepper

If you have your own favourite dressing use that.  I used the juice of half a lemon to about 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Seasoned with salt, pepper and about a quarter teaspoon of dijon mustard.  Mix and season accordingly.  Add more lemon or seasoning as required.

Wash and dry the lettuce and layer on a large platter or bowl.  Put the potatoes in a microwave proof bowl with the crushed garlic, some salt and one teaspoon of olive oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for about 8-9 minutes.  Check with a fork to see if they are tender.  When they are cooked, scatter them over the lettuce along with the halved cherry tomatoes.

Cut the haloumi any way you prefer and pat dry with paper towels.  I cut each block into four and then halved each block widthways so that I ended up with 24 squares.  Heat a large frypan on medium and add some olive oil.  You don't need a lot, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan and stop the cheese from sticking.  Fry cheese until golden on both sides.

Remove cheese from pan and place on top of other ingredients.  Pour dressing over and scatter herbs on top.  I usually add olives to this dish but didn't have any this time.  It is good with or without.  I have also added cooked spears of asparagus.  Add whatever you like - remember it's supposed to be working for you.

The amounts given in this recipe fed five people, including two teenagers so you may need to adjust the amounts to fit your own circumstances.

Follow with green jelly and icecream.