Blackened Halloumi Tacos with Mango Salsa

Easy Veggie Tacos worth Taco-ing about…
Blackened Halloumi Tacos with Mango Salsa - The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff Food Bloggers

I’ve been pining hard for Florida the past couple of weeks. I don’t know whether it was the sudden blast of warm weather, or the whole Lockdown “who the hell knows when you’ll be able to leave your own home let alone the country” situation… but I’ve been aching for warm waves, sunset pizzas on the beach, thunder storms, outlet malls (remember shopping?)… even the mosquitos (I’d happily offer up my legs in an all you can eat offer in exchange for just ONE day in The Keys). But most of all I’ve been pining for the food. When I was out there last August, I ate really well – from fast food to fresh fish (the best in the world – especially down south), as well as some of the best Cali-Mex Fish Tacos I’ve ever tasted – loaded with cheese, aoli, fresh avocado, slaw and fruity salsa. Hot weather, poolside food at its finest – and the Blackened Mahi Mahi Tacos that I chowed down on in the Florida Keys? Oh baby. I dream about them.

If you break those down to their basic ingredients then on the face of it they’re actually not that hard to replicate; tortillas – got ’em, cheese – arguably better here, avocados – always one in my fruit bowl, and salsa – well that’s easy. The trouble is that it’s near impossible to get your hands on Mahi Mahi (the meaty but soft fish otherwise known as Dorado) here in the UK – and even if you did, it’d never be of the “catch of the day” quality you’d get in a tropical climate because it’ll have been frozen in transit (and honestly, fresh cod just does not cut it as a substitute – I’ve tried).

Last week, the Fish Taco cravings got a little bit out of control and I started hunting around for something else to substitute in for the Blackened Mahi Mahi (Blackened is the term for the special blend of spices that season the fish before it’s cooked). I landed on Halloumi (I’ve always got a frozen stash for dinner times when I can’t decide what to cook and end up whipping up a quick Halloumi Hash) – and d’you know what? It wasn’t a bad sub at all – in fact, it was pretty damn good. It was soft and chewy – just like Mahi Mahi – and took on the flavour of the “Blackened” seasoning really well, crisping up around the edges in the pan. Along with a sweet and crunchy Mango and Red Pepper Salsa – as well as all the other added extras you’d expect in fresh Tacos – they were quite possibly the best Veggie Tacos I’ve ever tasted – and definitely the best I’ve ever made. Full of fresh ingredients and pretty easy to make, they’re perfect cold or hot – and are even better with a side of crispy Tequila Fries.

…Now I just need a swimming pool.

Blackened Halloumi Tacos with Mango Salsa - Easy Veggie Tacos - The Cardiff Cwtch - Welsh Food Bloggers

Blackened Halloumi Tacos with Mango Salsa

makes 8
Ingredients
  • 2 Blocks of Halloumi (about 500g)
  • 1 Red Pepper
  • 250g Fresh Mango
  • 1 ripe Avocado, roughly chopped
  • Pickled Red Cabbage
  • 150g strong cheddar, grated (I really like Red Dragon’s Vintage Cheddar)
  • 8 Soft Tortilla Wraps
  • Half a Lime
  • Handful of fresh Coriander, chopped

For the “Blackened” Seasoning/Marinade:

  • 1tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp Onion Granules
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Chipotle Chilli Paste
  • 1 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil

To Serve:

  • Sour Cream
  • Hot Sauce (I love Cholula)
  • Fries (if you want to get fancy, brush them with lime juice and tequila before cooking ๐Ÿ˜‰)
Blackened Halloumi Tacos with Mango Salsa - The Cardiff Cwtch - Lockdown Lunches
Method
  1. First, make the marinade by mixing together the smoked paprika, onion granules, garlic powder, chipotle chilli paste, oregano and olive oil in a bowl. While the Halloumi is still in its packet, pop it into a bowl and pour over boiling water from the kettle – allowing it to sit for twenty minutes. This will soften the Halloumi and improve the texture. Once ready, slice the Halloumi lengthways to make long “flakes” (like fish), then stir them into the marinade. Leave to rest for ten minutes.
  2. Next, prepare the Mango Salsa. Dice the red pepper and the mango into small chunks, and then combine in a bowl with some fresh coriander and the juice of half a lime.
  3. Prep your Taco Filling Station: warm your Tortilla Wraps, grate your cheddar, chop your avocado, and have your mango salsa, sour cream and pickled red cabbage close to hand.
  4. Pour the marinaded Halloumi into a shallow frying pan (along with any dregs), then fry on a medium heat for around 10 minutes. The Halloumi should go a little crispy around the edges, but maintain its soft and chewy texture.
  5. Next, assemble your Tacos! Generously fill each one with slices of Blackened Halloumi, mango salsa, avocado, sour cream, cheese and pickled cabbage.
  6. Serve with fries and plenty of hot sauce. ๐Ÿ™‚
Blackened Halloumi Tacos with Mango Salsa - Veggie Mahi Mahi Tacos Dupe - The Cardiff Cwtch

Have a great week! ๐ŸŒฎ๐ŸŒฎ๐ŸŒฎ

6 Lockdown Meal Planning Tips and Tricks

How to survive on one supermarket trip per week, spend less and waste less
6 Lockdown Meal Planning Tips and Tricks - Halloumi Hash - The Cardiff Cwtch

If you’re going to pick one thing out of the Coronavirus Pandemic that’s affecting all of us in some way, it’s got to be food. The way we shop for, cook and eat food has completely changed in the past month; we’re not eating out anymore since all our favourite restaurants and cafes have either closed or shifted to delivery only, we’re all heading to the supermarket far less (or maybe even not at all), and we’re cooking from scratch more than ever before. We’re also wasting a lot more food. After all the panic buying a couple of weeks ago – as people rushed to stock their fridges and kitchen cupboards ahead of lockdown – local councils and collection crews have seen up to a 30% increase in food waste (everything, from unopened packs of chicken to bread and speckled bananas). That’s bonkers! Especially considering a lot of us are still struggling to get basic items like eggs, flour and pasta in our local supermarkets.

While most of us are familiar with the process of a weekly shop – we’re probably not used to not being able to “pop back” to the supermarket for a couple of extras or fresh items that we’ve forgotten… or a pack of jam doughnuts on a whim (*sigh* the struggle is real). Lockdown food shopping and cooking for many of us (including all the extra food needed for working from home lunches) is a tricky thing to get your head around – and if you’ve never tried it before, then I really can’t recommend Meal Planning enough.

I started Meal Planning myself a couple of years ago when I suddenly realised how much money I was spending on food every week, and how much of that food I was throwing out. I was Queen of the Soggy Cucumbers and half-eaten Sour Cream; I’d head to the supermarket three times a week without a plan and then I’d usually come home with stuff that I already had in the fridge anyway. Enough was enough; I was sick of coming up with meals last minute, I was sick of living in the supermarket and I was sick of throwing out food (quite literally once or twice – rotten potatoes are seriously janky, yo). So I started meal planning and it’s honestly been a game changer – I’m spending far less time and money in the supermarket (I go once a week and spend roughly the same amount every time), and I’m wasting far less food because every item is planned out. It’s a system that works for me every week of the year, but it’s suited even better to Lockdown conditions when you’re only supposed to head to the supermarket once a week. If you’ve planned exactly what you’re going to eat every day of the week ahead, it means a quick and seamless supermarket trip, fuss free meal times and zero food waste.

If you want to give it a go yourself then I wrote a whole post about How to Start Meal Planning, but for Six Lockdown Meal Planning Tips to get you started, just hit scroll. ๐Ÿ™‚

6 Lockdown Meal Planning Tips and Tricks - How to spend less, cook more and waste less food - The Cardiff Cwtch

Write a Supermarket-Friendly List

Right now I’m shopping for two households, which has the potential to make for very long, very painful supermarket sessions. To make the process as quick and as painless as possible I have to pretty much attack it like a full on military operation – and writing a Supermarket Friendly Shopping List is top of the game plan. I want to be able to breeze through the supermarket, hitting all the aisles individually – and only once.

  • Target Use by Date: When I sit down to write my weekly shopping list, the very first thing I write right at the top – before I even get to adding milk or eggs – is what the date is going to be in seven days time. I want to be able to hunt out the best possible use by date on the products I add to my trolley to make sure nothing goes off during the week ahead – meaning no desperate follow-up dashes to the supermarket, and no wasted food.
  • Location List: Have you ever shopped at an unfamiliar supermarket and had a meltdown in one of the aisles because, “Argh! Everything’s in a different place!!!”? Yeah, same. You probably know your usual supermarket like the back of your hand – you’ll know exactly where to find everything, from cheese to ground cinnamon – as well as how you usually move from aisle to aisle. So write a list with that in mind! I write mine in the order I shop – that way I don’t have to ping pong back and forth from aisle to aisle.

Double-up to Leave Plenty of Leftovers for Lunches

The current lock-down situation is made for those who cook from scratch. If that’s you, then you’ve probably got an arsenal of home cooked recipes up your sleeve and are well-rehearsed in double-ing up meals to serve you for leftovers and lunches throughout the week. Slipping in some easy, from scratch meals into your weekly meal plan is the way to go, now more than ever. For a start, it’s cheaper, and often healthier – but also, now that we’re all working from home we’re hitting up the home fridge at lunch time as well as dinner time, so having some leftovers going spare goes a long way. Chilli, Pasta and Curry all make for brilliant leftovers – especially vegetarian versions – and some favourite “double-up” recipes in my personal arsenal include:

Support Your Local Cafes and Restaurants by Ordering In

Before Coronavirus there were some weeks where I’d factor in a night for a Takeaway or a Meal Out. Obviously a trip to my local pub for a curry (I LOVE a pub curry, mate) or to a restaurant in town is now off limits for the forseeable – but a takeaway is still most definitely an option. Lots of our much loved local businesses are still slogging on through these strange times by offering delivery options – so why not support them, give yourself the night off from cooking and order something in?

(*If you live in Cardiff then this brilliant website has up to date information on local restaurants and businesses that are currently delivering food in and around the city.)

Factor in a “Dog’s Dinner” Dish for Day Seven

Dog’s Dinner, Hodge Podge, whatever you like to call it – everyone’s got a recipe for using up any leftover veg and meat hanging around in their fridge. I like to factor one in to my weekly meal plan for day seven (the day before I start over and head to the supermarket again), just to clear out my fridge and cut down on food waste. I’ve usually got at least a pepper, some mushrooms, tomatoes and some salad leaves left – and so my absolute favourite Dog’s Dinner dish to use them all up is Halloumi Hash. Halloumi freezes really well (and thaws out quickly) so I’ve always got a handful of blocks at the bottom of the freezer – and then I just fry it up with some potatoes (even better if I’ve got a few left over from a roast), leftover veg, paprika and olive oil. To finish it off, I top it with either a fried or a poached egg. Yum!

Use Leftover Roast Meat Strategically

If you’re a big fan of a good old fashioned roast dinner – or just roasted meat in general – then start working it into your weekly meal plan to save from buying extra meat and to give your midweek meals an easy glow-up. Roasted meats can be reheated safely once (some say twice, but after having severe food poisoning once myself I’d personally rather not risk it!) within three days of first cooking them. I like to use leftover roast chicken to make curries and jazz up stir fries and noodle dishes, and leftover pork roast is absolutely perfect to throw into Ramen and Pho.

Keep your Pantry and Freezer Stocked with Versatile Ingredients

Obviously don’t start panic-buying an apocalypse-ready trolley-full of tins and freezer food (most supermarkets are restricting shoppers to three items per person now anyway) – but strategically picking up some long-lasting food items and ingredients that can be used to create easy meals from scratch makes weekly meals so much easier – even out of a lockdown situation. I’m really lucky, I’ve got a makeshift pantry of shelves out in the garage where I store up tins of beans, chick peas, tinned tomatoes, chutneys, rice and pasta – all items that can be used to make a quick meal in a pinch. I also keep my freezer stocked with chicken dippers (try my Cheat’s Mango Chicken, and my Honey Sesame Chicken – both made using chicken dippers!), Halloumi (great in stir fries and curries instead of meat), as well as lots of frozen vegetables and herbs. My kitchen cupboards are also stocked up with spices, sauces and meal kits (I LOVE the Blue Dragon ones) – so if I can’t make it to the supermarket for my weekly shop and have to hang on a few more days – then I’ve got plenty to make something out of nothing.

Let me know your favourite Dog’s Dinner/Hodge Podge recipes below – I could use a few new ones to try! Have a great week! โค๏ธŽ

Easy Leek and Mushroom Risotto

Lockdown Lunches = SORTED
Easy Leek and Mushroom Risotto - The Cardiff Cwtch - Lockdown Lunches

What are you eating for lunch these days – now that popping out of the office for a Pret baguette or a cheeky Nandos is off the cards? Are you skipping off to the kitchen and raiding the cupboards excited to get cooking, or dragging your ass from your sofa office despairing over the fact that you’ve actually got to make something to eat and “Oh my God, I can’t be arsed, but I can’t have beans on toast for the third day in a row…”? (I mean, if you can even get your hands on a tin of beans because when I was in Tesco last Tuesday the only tins I could get my hands on were reduced salt and sugar spaghetti hoops, and I don’t think I’ve reached those levels of desperation just yet…).

I’ve been in the swing of working at home and sorting myself out for lunch for a few years now, and even though I sometimes go a bit green when my husband comes home and lightly informs me that he walked to Cardiff Market and got takeaway Thai Food for lunch – I actually really enjoy lunchtimes at home. I always work best when I stick to a routine – and stopping to have lunch is massive part of that routine, breaking up my morning session and afternoon one. But it can take a bit of time to go from “What am I going to eat that doesn’t involve toast?” to simulating the all choices you’d normally get heading out of the office to your favourite coffee shop relying on just your own kitchen cupboards and fridge freezer.

Obviously I have days where spaghetti hoops on toast for lunch is literally heaven, but because I Meal Plan (which I’d totally recommend now more than ever since we’re all ideally restricting how often we pop to the supermarket), I tend to factor in a few dinners each week that’ll supply me with some leftovers for lunch. I make Halloumi Hash from any potatoes and vegetables I’ve got leftover from roast dinners, a dollop of my Ultimate Veggie Chilli can be eaten on toast with some fresh avocado, and you just can’t go wrong with leftover veggie pastas and risottos that can be nuked in the microwave and brought back to life with some fresh leaves (…and PLENTY of cheese).

I’ve had trouble making risotto in the past (they’re either too gloopy or not creamy enough), but I think I’ve cracked it with this very Easy Leek and Mushroom Risotto. Bulk it out with leftover veg if you’ve got any, and then enjoy it all week. It’s also easy to bring back that fresh, creamy texture once you’ve microwaved by stirring in a little bit of butter (or cream, if you’ve got it). ๐Ÿ™‚

Easy Leek and Mushroom Risotto - The Cardiff Cwtch - Lockdown Lunches - Lunchtime Recipes

Easy Leek and Mushroom Risotto

serves 2
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 250g mushrooms (use whichever type you fancy)
  • 1l chicken stock (switch to vegetable stock if you want to make the risotto 100% veggie)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 a tin of butter beans
  • handful of spinach leaves
  • 300g arborio rice
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • 50ml single cream
  • lots of parmesan to serve
  • salt and pepper to season
Easy Leek and Mushroom Risotto - The Cardiff Cwtch - Lockdown Lunches - Meal Planning
Method
  1. First up, pour the oil into a deep frying pan and warm on a medium high heat. Throw in the minced garlic and sliced leek, and fry for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Slice up your mushrooms, then throw them incooking until they’re nice and soft. Add the butter beans and spinach.
  2. Add the risotto rice and stir it around the pan for a couple of minutes – ensuring every grain becomes coated in the oil and appears slightly translucent. Pour in the wine and leave the rice to soak it up.
  3. Next, turn down the heat to a simmer and gradually add the stock – a small amount at a time, stirring frequently until the rice drinks it up. Keep going until all the stock has been added, and the rice is soft and creamy.
  4. Finally, stir in the cream, season and serve with plenty of grated parmesan cheese. ๐Ÿ™‚

Have a lovely week! Let me know what your favourite working from home lunchtime meal is below! ๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ‘‡