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Halloumi is also known as halomi, or hellim, and derives from a mixture of milk from goat, sheep and cows. Originating in Cyprus, it is also a white brined cheese which really stands out in a sense that the production process requires no acid based bacterium. At the same time, this chewy variety of Cypriot cheese is particularly unique as it has quite a high melting point which makes it perfect for grilling, frying and cooking in general. Indeed, halloumi is fast becoming one of the most sought after cheeses in the world and every bit as famous as the island on which it was first made.
Halloumi : The cheese that stands alone
Origins and the history of Halloumi
That being said, the origins of halloumi do not take away from the fact that this Cyrpiot cheese is even more popular throughout the Middle East than Cyprus itself, with the especially firm nature of the Cypriot cheese ensuring it keeps extremely well in warm weather. Served with watermelon or beer, it is considered either a snack or an essential component of a refreshing salad but then this creamy and springy cheese is also a hugely popular ingredient for a wide variety of dishes.
Either way, the humble origins of halloumi have long been surpassed as the cheese continues to feature in world class restaurants throughout the Middle East, Europe and the rest of the world.
How to make halloumi
Although the texture and taste of halloumi is quite complex, the process of making this cheese is rather simple. Having combined two or more varieties of milk in a saucepan and heated the mixture to 35 degrees celcius, the pan is removed from the heat before adding a dissolved junket tablet..
From this point, the mixture is stirred until it hardens and allowed to set, although there is always an option of adding herbs. After ten minutes, the mixture is then placed in a microwave for up to four minutes, at which point the cheese should have a distinct elasticity about its character. Finally, the cheese curds can be strained from the dish and left to cool in the fridge for at least two days, while a half-cup of the excess liquid can be used as a natural brine.
Simple Halloumi Recipes
As with the production of wine, the very precise process when it comes to making this cheese is one of the reasons why halloumi is so appealing. In fact, this is also one of the main reasons why chefs all over the world consider it for their specialty dish. With that said, once it is made, the cheese is best used as an ingredient for an exciting number of meals. Here are three recipes which are easy to remember:
Turkish halloumi flatbread pizza – Moreish flatbread is an excellent base from which to create a gourmet style halloumi pizza and having baked the Turkish flatbread for three minutes, Pasadena tomato sauce is an equally exciting companion. Whether you grate the cheese or not is unimportant, just add the cheese, pepporoni, piuapple and whatever toppings you wish before baking them for a further five minutes.
Halloumi Fries – Having cut the cheese into the shape of fries, lemon zest, seasoning, yoghurt and flour are perfect for creating a “za’ataar” in which you can then coat your halloumi fries. The za’ataar is the only really preparation necessary as once the cheesy fries are coated in the above mixture. It is just a case of adding them to a think layer of oil in a baking dish at 180 degrees celcius. Crisp and bursting with flavor, some mint or fresh herbs also add a nice finishing touch to that appetizer food.
Halloumi omelette – Omellettes are an incredibly simple meal to cook but the addition of butternut squash and the notorious cheese bring this popular dish to another level. Once the squash is fully cooked, add chili, garlic, and halloumi to the egg mixture in a frying pan for five minutes before placing your creation underneath the grill for a few minutes at the end.
So, Bon Appetite!
Although cheddar and a number of better known varieties are more popular around the world, the chewy or creamy nature of halloumi make this cheese increasingly popular as a snack but also the perfect ingredient for any meal. In fact, when you also consider the flexibility of halloumi, there is very good reason this Cypriot cheese is even more popular in the Middle East, than on the island on which it was first produced. If we still crave Cypriot food, check out Makaronia tou Fournou for an exceptional main course!