Halloumi is a useful cheese to have in the fridge to give vegetarian dishes a salty hit and its firm texture means it stands up to frying or grilling, which brings out the flavour. But if you’d prefer to make this dish vegan, it works just as well without the halloumi. As well as adding peppery flavour to salads, watercress wilts into soups, stews and warm salads too, giving extra nutrients.
4 red peppers
2tbsp sunflower or light olive oil
1 small red onion, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 celery sticks, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped, grated or crushed
100g Puy-style lentils, rinsed in a sieve under cold water
1 bay leaf
¼tsp dried oregano
¼tsp ground cumin
¼tsp dried mint
1tbsp red wine vinegar
100g pitted black olives
1 pack (150-200g) halloumi, cut into 1-2cm-thick slices
Small glug of extra virgin olive oil
Small handful of chopped fresh mint and/or parsley, to garnish
Salt and pepper
Char and peel the peppers, heating the oil in a large saucepan while they’re cooking. Add the onion, carrot and celery, and fry on a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring now and then. If they look as if they might catch at any point, add a splash of water. Once softened, add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Add the lentils, bay leaf, oregano, cumin, mint and 300ml water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Keep an eye on the liquid towards the end and top up with a little extra water as needed. Almost all the liquid should have been absorbed by the end of cooking. Once done, remove from the heat if the peppers aren’t quite ready.
Roughly chop the peppers into strips and stir them into the lentils with the vinegar and olives. Remove the bay leaf and season to taste. Set aside while you fry the halloumi. Heat a dry non-stick frying pan, add the halloumi slices and fry for about 2 minutes on each side, until golden.
Gently warm the lentils if needed, then stir in the watercress and extra virgin olive oil and serve with the halloumi slices on top, scattered with the fresh herbs.
Variation: instead of halloumi, crumble over some feta or goat’s cheese