Find out how to make Bury St Edmunds' The Northgate's most successful starter of the year so far
I love serving popular food combinations that people know and love, but adding a technique or twist to bring people’s attention back to what they are eating or to make them think ‘I’ve had duck and orange before but not like that!’
A few months ago, I shared my beetroot stuffed with goat’s curd recipe, this is a great example of taking a classic and giving it a shake. The beetroot elements of the dish were all prepared with coffee beans and espresso to add another dimension that really brings the food to life.
This month’s recipe has been on the menu at The Northgate for a good while now.
At first, I was sceptical about putting halloumi on the menu in the restaurant. It’s not normally a cheese you would have when eating out and I hadn’t seen it on many menus, but I was happily wrong – it has been the most successful starter this summer. I guess that comes to prove that people like what they know and simple cooking but with great ingredients treated well is the way forward.
When it came to working on and eating through a load of halloumi dish ideas I thought it was best kept summery, and there is nothing summerier than a tomato – I love those deep orange ones and the zingy yellow ones, I find them great to cook with and they look a bit more subtle than a big bright red one.
Tomato and cheese, delicious but not a very exciting starter really, it would have been easy to add a few croutons and some ripped basil leaves and drizzle over some grassy, almost green, extra virgin olive oil, but we thought we would have a bit more fun with it. One of my all-time favourite ingredients are fig leaves, they taste strong, but at the same time delicate. They are sweet and aromatic, but raw or too big they are bitter and inedible. I like to gently kiss them on the barbecue until the leaves lightly curl and start to smoulder – when you get it right, they smell like coconut.
For the halloumi dish, we steep those fig leaves straight off the barbeque in a lovely cider vinegar, then we use the sweet vinegar perfumed with our lightly-charred fig leaves to pickle some melon. It’s so delicious and finishes the dish beautifully.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s recipe and you give your own fig leaf vinegar a try.
Glazed Halloumi, Confit tomatoes and Pickled melon (Serves 2-3)
1 halloumi, opened and drained on some kitchen paper, cut into 2-3 slices
1 teaspoon of honey
1 sprig of thyme
In a heavy-based, preferably non-stick, pan, warm a teaspoon of vegetable oil, make sure your halloumi is dry and cook over a low heat turning every few minutes. Low and slow is the trick here for lovely soft and caramelised cheese. Once it’s beautiful and golden, brush on your honey and finish with some picked thyme leaves. Keep warm until ready to serve.
1 punnet of yellow tomatoes
1 clove garlic
100ml rapeseed oil
Peel of 1 lemon
½ punnet of orange tomatoes
Bring a medium-sized pot full of water seasoned with salt to a good boil, score the top of the yellow tomatoes, drop them in the boiling water and let boil for a few seconds, then strain off. Peel the skins off the tomatoes.
Warm up the oil with the garlic and the peel of the lemon, then add the peeled tomatoes. Put aside to come to room temperature to serve. Cut the orange tomatoes in half, lightly season and set aside.
½ melon (greenish honeydew)
300ml cider vinegar
2 small fig leaves
6 gooseberries cut in half(optional)
In a pot, bring your vinegar and sugar to the boil, add your fig leaf and leave to cool.
Peel your melon and slice finely into nice sheets, remove the fig leaves and pour your flavoured vinegar over the melon, add your gooseberries and reserve in the fridge.
The trick to this is to keep the temperature correct, so make sure you are using hot plates. Place the halloumi in the middle and generously share out the confit tomatoes, fill the gaps with your orange tomatoes and then drape over your pickled melon and a few pickled gooseberries!
Greig Young is head chef at The Northgate, Northgate Street, Bury St Edmunds (Call 01284 339604).