Beetroot fritters with haloumi and avacado

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Last week I spent an extended weekend at my mum’s place. Where the streets are wide enough for two cars to drive at once. Where the nearest good coffee shop is a town away. And where at night, instead of a sporadic parade of sozzled hipsters shouting bullshit into the smog-smudged city sky, you can hear the sleepy static of the ocean.

On my last morning there we took a walk along the beach and up the headland, where new developments are springing forth like monstrous, angular mushrooms between $10,000 outsourced palm trees. Despite the designer mansions and half-finished holiday homes monopolising the landscape, it’s still a welcome escape from the city. Newtown, I like you plenty, but you are cramped and noisy and the windows of your terraces tend not to have fly-screens.

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We ate these fritters after our morning walk, with good plunger coffee. I know, I know: more beetroot, more haloumi. But they were there when I arrived. And who am I kidding? Who cares? This is breakfast food with colours. All of them. Well, magenta and green and cream-yellow rusted with golden brown. But that’s an impressive palette for breakfast in my books – my books being filled hand-scrawled lists of the stupidest things I’ve ever had to google (for work or fiction) and sketches of horses’ faces.

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Ingredients:

about 3 small/2 large beetroot, grated
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cumin
2tsp ground coriander
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
oil for frying
100g haloumi
1 avocado
juice of 1/4 of a lime
1 tbsp Spanish onion
pinch salt

Directions:

Grate beetroots into a bowl. Add flour, baking powder and spices and stir it all around until the dry things cover the beets. Stir in eggs, then add milk. Heat some oil in a pan. Spoon about 1.5 tbsp of beetroot mixture into pan per fritter. Cook in batches until done, adding oil when needed and flipping each fritter when the bottom side is slightly browned. In between fritters, mash avocado and combine with lime juice, onion and salt. When fritters are done cook haloumi in slices until each side is lightly golden. Stack haloumi on top of fritters and add a dollop of salsa on top. Eat immediately, with a giant coffee.

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Baked haloumi and peach salad

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Sometimes everything falls apart in your hands, like so much vegan chocolate cake. (Not that I’m being disparaging about vegans or vegan food, it’s just my mum made me a vegan chocolate cake for my birthday and it was amazing, but cru-u-mbly). Then again, sometimes you only think things have fallen apart, when really, had you thought things through, you would have realised what you already knew: it is impossible to ruin haloumi cheese. Initially I set out on a quest for baked fetta with sweet slices of summer peaches. But how to make that into a meal? Perhaps the container of messaged kale taking up 1/4 of my fridge space would be the answer. And I could switch the fetta for haloumi – haloumi being firmer, more ready to survive a good tossing.

I should have known from the start that baking haloumi was risky business, but I threw it in a dish with sliced white peaches and some red onion anyway. Deciding that kale was a little overwhelming on its own, I mixed one cup of kale with two cups of mixed salad greens and awaited my tray of baking fruit and cheese.

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It all came out a bit of a mess, purple juices bubbling towards the haloumi side of the dish leaving the border cheese pale, deformed and clinging together. Nevermind though, the cheese on the edge of the pan was nicely golden and the salad turned out tasty enough, thanks to the indestructible deliciousness of cheese in general.

If I had my time again there are a few things I would change. Firstly, despite desperately wanting to reduce the amount of washing up anyone has to do, the peaches and the cheese need separate dishes. Secondly, I’d change the kind of leaf to a few simple handfuls of baby spinach, which is softer and subtler than kale, but nicer wilted than mixed salad leaves. Finally, I’d add some hazelnuts to the mix, just to give the salad some semblance of structural integrity. As an alternative you could leave the peaches fresh and just pan fry the haloumi, maybe adding some mint to the salad. I’m sure this version would be just as nice, especially in the heat we’ve been having. All in all I’m sure I’ll make this again, just a little differently. Which is good, because it means I’m learning, even if it’s stuff I thought I already knew.
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Ingredients:

4 peaches
1/4 Spanish onion
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
pepper
100g haloumi cheese
3 cups baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup whole hazelnuts
handful of mint (optional – but of course everything is)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 200 degree Celsius. Slice haloumi into bite-sized pieces and arrange sparsely on tray or baking dish. Put in oven. Slice peaches into thin wedges and onion into cemi-circles. Add to second baking dish with vinegar and a good grind of pepper. Put second dish in oven. Leave trays in over for 15mins or until haloumi is golden on top. In the meantime add spinach leaves to salad bowl. When cheese and peaches are cooked, leave to cool for ten minutes. Finally add warm ingredients to salad bowl, finish with hazelnuts and mint if you want it.