Recently, I made the decision to stop eating meat. Although we already ate a lot of vegetarian and vegan food, on average we ate meat at least 2-3 times a week. Most of these meals were either quick dinners that didn’t need a lot of preparation or more involved dishes such as the Hainanese Chicken Rice recipe from a few weeks ago. The decision for me had been a long time coming and there are many reasons why I felt like I should eat less meat including concerns about the ethics of eating animals, the environmental impacts of cattle farming, the reportedly high levels of hormones in supermarket meat and that certain ick factor that comes with preparing a hunk of flesh. What finally made up my mind for me was seeing the recent Four Corners story about the abuse of Australian animals exported to Indonesian slaughterhouses.
Having visited an abattoir as part of a training program I went on a few years ago I knew that the standards in Australian slaughterhouses were much higher and I think what upset me more than anything about that program was seeing the fear in the eyes of the cattle waiting to be killed. The very next day I was listening to a radio interview with Dr Jeffrey Masson who has written books about the emotional life of animals and the ethics of eating meat. While I didn’t necessarily agree with everything he had to say, hearing this interview was one of those signs that people talk about, a moment in time where you realise that all signs are pointing to ‘yes’ and it was time to take the plunge. Granted there are many fabulous dishes I will no longer be able to enjoy but for me this decision feels right at the moment.
This brings me to this simple but delicious pasta dish. After a long day at the office I was in need of something quick, healthy and delicious. Haloumi has to be one of my most favourite cheeses and pumpkin is cheap and easy to come by at the moment. Paired together they are a marriage made in heaven in pasta, in a salad, on pizza, a puff pastry tart base…. In the interests of making this as quickly and with as little washing up as possible I actually cooked most of this on the sandwich press. I boiled the pasta in a saucepan and at the last minute threw the peas and mint in to cook together. Everything came together finally in the saucepan and had I been particularly lazy I probably could have eaten it straight out of the pot. I’ve made this a few times and in a few different ways, I’ve added onions, subbed out the pine nuts for walnuts and used parsley instead of arugula but I think I like this flavour combo best. This recipe serves one so double, triple or quadruple as you need.
- 1 cup dried pasta - Farfalle or Penne work well
- ⅓ packet of Haloumi cheese - cut into thick strips
- ½ small pumpkin - cut into thick strips
- ½ cup frozen peas
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- 1 lemon, halved
- a good handful of arugula (aka. rocket) - roughly chopped
- 1 tbspn pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 1 tbspn olive oil
- Sea salt & cracked black pepper
- Cook pasta according to packet directions - ie. large saucepan full of salted, boiling water.
- Add peas and mint to the cooking water a couple of minutes before the pasta has finished cooking. Drain and return to the saucepan.
- Add ½ tbpsn of oil, salt & pepper and pumpkin to a bowl and combine. Place on the sandwich press (or in a large saucepan) and cook for approx 8-9 minutes until cooked.
- Remove pumpkin from the press and add the haloumi. Squeeze half the lemon juice over the cheese and cook for a 1-2 minutes until brown and starting to melt.
- Cut the pumpkin and haloumi into bite sized chunks and add to the pasta.
- Add arugula, ½ tbspn olive oil, the juice of the other half of the lemon, pine nuts and stir well to combine. Check the seasoning and, if necessary, add a little more salt & pepper.
- Serve in a big bowl.