Halloumi, tomato and lemon soup from Forest chef Plabita Florence. Photo / Supplied

Chef Comforts: How To Make Forest Restaurant's Go-To Halloumi Soup

Chef Plabita Florence shares her favourite halloumi, lemon and tomato soup recipe

This halloumi, lemon and tomato soup a tasty and warming dish, a great way to use up any sad veges you might have lying about, and entirely made with standard supermarket ingredients which is key at the moment. The bright and tangy soup plays well with the saltiness of the halloumi.

Hot tip: Always make too much — this freezes well or is really good the next day for breakfast with a poached egg! — Plabita Florence, chef-owner of Forest 

Serves approx. 4 

Olive oil
1 onion, diced into rough 1cm pieces
8 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 tomatoes, diced into large pieces
1 tin crushed tomatoes
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp canned chipotle peppers, minced up
2 tsp smoked paprika
A mixture of whatever veges you like — I used 1 large potato, 1 large kumara, 2 carrots, a big bunch of limp kale that needing using
4 lemons
Salt and pepper
1 block of halloumi

1. Start by getting a pot nice and hot, go in with a good glug of olive oil, followed by the onion and garlic. Add a sprinkle of salt, give everything a quick stir and leave it for a few minutes to build up a nice brown caramelisation on the bottom of the pot. This is going to help build flavour for your stock.

2. Add the fresh tomatoes, tinned tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, chipotle, and smoked paprika, and mix, making sure to scrape up all that caramelisation and incorporate it.

3. Plop in your veges! Obviously, if you’re using root veges you’re going to want to put them in first as they’ll need longer to cook, if you’re adding greens or broccoli or cauliflower you’ll want to put them in closer to the end to retain a bit of texture.

4. Top up with water to generously cover your veges, squeeze in 2 lemons and add the squeezed out lemon halves to the soup as well. You’ll remove these before eating but they’ll add a subtle zestiness and bitterness which I really like.

5. Add plenty of salt and pepper and whatever herbs you have – I like bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, oregano for this. Any or all of these will be perfect. At this point you want to taste your soup and make sure the seasoning is just right, this will flavour your veges as they cook and the tastier the soup, the tastier everything will become. We’re looking for a good balance of salty, smoky, hot, and sour. Don’t be afraid to adjust any of these levels to your taste. Let it simmer for a while.

6. Once the veges are soft, cut up a block of halloumi into small cubes and fry them off in a hot pan, then put into a medium heat oven for a few minutes to become melty. I added my kale to the soup at this stage too. Take soup off the heat, add the gooey halloumi, and the other 2 lemons' worth of juice and mix everything through. Remove the lemons halves and bay leaves, and you’re ready to eat!

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