discovering manouri

manouri is a greek semi-soft fresh cheese produced from the drained whey that is left over after making feta. i have been trying to track it down since i made the ottolenghi chargrilled asparagus, courgette and manouri salad but had to use halloumi in its place.

as ever, i was rescued by the wonderful green valley on upper berkeley street, w1h 5qe. manouri is very different from halloumi – it doesn’t have same rubbery, squeaky characteristics, being softer and reminding me more of paneer in terms of (lack of) taste and texture. like halloumi it fries and grills very well and is very long-lasting. it was a nice change to halloumi and i will definitely use it again and next time will try marinating or coating it with spices before frying.

this pea, asparagus and straw mushroom salad with manouri is my contribution to the well-seasoned cook’s legume love affair.

pea, asparagus and straw mushroom salad with manouri (serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main)

250g manouri

olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1bunch of asparagus, trimmed

200g fresh peas, podded

chinese straw mushrooms – i used a large handful, you could also use oyster mushrooms

100ml white wine (or stock)

juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon chopped mint

1 tablespoon chopped basil

slice the manouri cheese into 5mm slices. pat it dry. heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick frying pan. when the oil is hot, fry the cheese slices until they are golden on each side - they take 1-2 minutes per side. place the cooked cheese on pieces of kitchen towel to soak up any excess oil. you will need to cook the cheese in batches and may need to add extra oil.

meanwhile, blanch the asparagus and peas in boiling water until just cooked.

when all the cheese has been fried, wipe the pan with a piece of kitchen towel, add another tablespoon of olive oil and, when it is hot, add the garlic. when you start to smell the garlic cooking, add the asparagus, peas, mushrooms and wine. fry gently until the mushrooms are cooked – this won’t take more than a minute. add the lemon juice and herbs and mix together. arrange the vegetables on a plate and top with the manouri