12/11/2014

Halloumi and Aubergine Bake

Okay, so that title doesn’t sound exactly thrilling, but just wait ‘til you taste the dish. Since I’ve started taking it to work, at least 5 people have also started making it, plus more than a few outside of work too. There is something about that mix of cheese, fruit, spices and herbs that just becomes an addition.

Most of you will know about my adaptation of a classic Cypriot Easter pastry called a flaouna, which I morphed into Halloumi pie. If you don’t, go here. Or listen to me bang on abut how much I love these parcels of salty cheese, fresh mint and sweet fruit, all held together by a tender pastry.

They are only made at Easter, and only made in Cyprus. I have spoken about them to mainland Greeks before, and they just shrug at me.

Flaounes have been made in Cyprus for decades, and are served as a celebratory food for the breaking of the Lenten fast. They are traditionally prepared on the Good Friday for consumption on Easter Sunday by Orthodox Christians. They are eaten in place of bread on Easter Sunday, and continue to be made and eaten for the weeks following.

These are THE taste of Easter. You usually have to cook by committee if any other family members are around, because everyone will have their own ideas about how these should be made.

A lot of you will also know about my love for aubergines. That much maligned – and oft poorly cooked – vegetable, that can be as silky and comforting as any chicken soup, or as spiced and punchy as one of The Rib Man’s sauces. Yes, I go on about them a lot. That’s because, so often, people do not cook them right at all, and thus their reputation for being unpalatable carries on.

I just wanted to take two of my favourite things in the world, both tastes of my childhood, and bring them together. Work lunches can be boring, but this makes them incredibly enjoyable.

So. This is my entry for the Destinology “Reimagine a Classic” competition. A re-imagining of a classic Cypriot pastry, that really only Cypriots will know, and taking that and turning it into a very delicious and easy lunch for these carb conscious days.

Please note that YOU DO NOT NEED TO ADD SALT TO THIS.

Topping

1 x pack of halloumi, grated*

1 x 250g pack grated mature cheddar

1 small bunch fresh mint, finely chopped

Large handful of sultanas

4 small eggs

1 tsp dried mint

1/2 level tsp ground cinnamon

Base

1 large aubergine, cut into thick slices (enough to cover the base of the dish)

olive oil, the good stuff, as it’s a main flavour

Lay the aubergine slices on the bottom of a deep sided casserole dish. One that you know you can safely get baked cheese off of again. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Brush – or if you’re me, drizzle -  very generously with oil, and bake or grill until golden on one side.

Turn them and bake them until they are soft all the way through.

While they are baking, mix all of the ingredients for the topping together. I used 4 small eggs, but you may only need 3 depending on your eggs. Just enough to hold the cheeses together, there need be no extra eggy liquid in there.

I started with 2, and added more as I went.

Pour on the topping, and cover them. The cheese will spread out.

I baked it at 170C Fan which should be a Moderate oven / 325F / 160C / Gas 3/4.

You want the edges all browned and bubbly and the middle set. I cook mine til the edges are quite dark.

Serve when it’s stopped being volcanic.

(You can use peppers, or courgettes too. Just make sure they are well cooked.)

 

*I use Cypressa brand, as it’s the most consistent, in both texture and salt levels.

Ingredients

Ingredients close up

Baked aubergines

Finished bake

Slice