6 April 2008

Cheese Please!!!!! Fried Halloumi Cheese with Lemon and Caper Vinaigrette

I would never claim to be a self professed expert on halloumi cheese or it's history. What I have mentioned I have gleamed from my research into the subject. So...when I am in need of information I head to the experts. I remember reading a very moving post on the subject from  Kopiaste . Ivy and her family are originally from Cyprus a beautiful island in the Mediterranean. It has been produced for centuries and passed down from generation to generation. Halloumi is indigenous to Cyprus and world renowned. Ivy remembers her sister making halloumi cheese when she owned a taverna on the island. See... I would have loved to be a member of her family even then...just so much to learn about using what is available to you and grown locally. That is what is so basic to me about Greek cuisine, simple yet intense flavours that live and breathe Greece and all it's history in every mouthful!!!!! My mouth waters with all the delicious and traditional Greek and non-Greek recipes on Ivy's blog. She never disappoints me with her interesting stories about life in Athens and her home in Cyprus. To use Ivy's own words about Halloumi, "I can remember when she made them. We would eat some hot just as they were prepared. There is no way I can describe that taste. It has a very appealing flavour that's unlike any other cheese; mellow, but not the least boring, mildly sheepy, notably tangy, never too strong."


Ivy and I decided to collaberate on a post about halloumi. The plan was to make our own cheese. Goat's milk is readily available here for those that are unable to digest cow's milk. The catch was that I could not find any rennet. So...for the moment I gave up on my cheese making dreams and left the cheese making to the experts. For a truly delicious and original post about making your own halloumi please visit my blog sister Ivy here . I am so glad that Ivy was able to make Halloumi and relive part of her childhood. So glad also that she is able to share this recipe she translated for us from Greek. Since Halloumi is not readily available here I would still like to make my own someday.

So what exactly is Halloumi?? It's a mixture of sheep and goat milk with the addition of a little mint, made for centuries on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. These days a lot of manufacturers use cow milk as well. Fresh curd is submerged in hot whey to soften and stretch it similar to how they produce mozzarella. The young cheese is then aged in baskets and folded into wedges about the size of a large wallet. It is sold in packages with a little bit of brine surrounding the cheese. The cheese is very mild and slightly springy in texture. It reminds me of fresh cheddar curd which is available here in Canada and is essential for making poutine. It is known as "squeaky cheese" because the texture allows it to squeak when you chew it.

Like many cheeses of today halloumi is manufactured and not produced in the time honored fashion. I would love to get my hands on a truly original Cypriot cheese handmade on the island. What a treat that would be!!!! I had a hard enough time finding a distributor here as it is!!

For many Cypriots, a meal would not be complete without it. Halloumi can be enjoyed almost any of the ways you'd eat other cheeses; sliced up as is for a simple snack, cubed onto salads like you would feta or melted on casseroles. To me though, the number one way to eat Halloumi is to fry it or grill it. There's no other cheese that I've seen that grills up as nicely as Halloumi. A light, golden-brown crust bubbles up on the outside of the cheese; the interior gets soft, not quite runny, but very delicious. Simply slice some of the cheese into half-inch thick pieces, then lay them into a hot skillet that's been brushed with just a hint of olive oil. You can serve slices of lightly-fried Halloumi on their own as an appetizer, with or without a light drizzle of additional olive oil and a grind of fresh black pepper and served with wedges of ripe melon. As in this recipe it is topped with a homemade caper sauce. Salted capers, soaked for a few minutes to remove the salt, then drained and mixed with extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, a bit of lemon, chopped fresh cilantro leaves, chopped garlic, some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper...I also included some grainy mustard as well.

Best of all are slices of grilled Halloumi on top of a summer green salad of arugula. If you like, add a few grilled ripe fig halves for good measure. Then dress it with a good extra virgin olive oil and some aged wine vinegar.

I can tell that Halloumi is going to be a big hit in my summer menus.

**Fried Halloumi Cheese with Lemon and Caper Vinaigrette**

1 Halloumi cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 level tablespoons well-seasoned flour

For the dressing:

juice and zest 1 lemon
1 heaping tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 heaped teaspoon grain mustard
1 level tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly milled black pepper

To garnish:

few sprigs parsley

Unwrap the cheese and pat it dry with paper towelling. Using a sharp knife, slice it into 8 slices, including the ends. Prepare the dressing by simply whisking all the ingredients together in a small mixing bowl.

When you're ready to serve the halloumi, heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is really hot, press each slice of cheese into seasoned flour to coat it on both sides, then add halloumi to the hot pan. They take 1 minute on each side to cook, so by the time the last one's in, it will almost be time to turn the first one over. They should be be a golden colour on each side.

Serve straight away on warmed plates with the dressing poured over and garnished with cilantro. This is good served with lightly toasted pita bread, naan bread or Greek bread with toasted sesame seeds. I lightly grilled some naan bread with the halloumi during the cooking process in this case.

Yammas!!

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips

39 comments:

  1. Hey sis, first of all thanks for e-mailing me to post together about halloumi. I intended to post about it but not even in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would make cheese. So, I think we should dare more and try things we consider impossible. Your dish sounds delicious but I've run out of halloumi to make it. Although it was a good experience it cost a fortune. It cost about 15 euros to make 1 halloumi (about twice the price to buy it) but it was worth it. Efharisto kai filakia

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  2. Sounds wonderful. What does yammas mean?

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  3. This is the third time I have read about halloumi cheese (the other two times were at Peter's and Ivy's blogs), and I think that settles it: I really need to find some, somewhere.

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  4. How cultures differentiate themselves in part by their food never ceases to intrigue and amaze me. This looks entirely inviting as does the description of eating them hot...mmmmmm good.

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  5. You and Ivy have done a wonderful joint effort in bringing this cheese to our attention. I love the way you have prepared it Val. I love capers and using them in a dressing for this cheese is just perfect.

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  6. Oh yes, as soon as I'm allowed to fry things and can carry things from one end of the kitchen to the other, I'm making this! I even have Halloumi in my fridge right now!
    (By the way, my entire family now loves your skillet lasagna!)

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  7. Too funny. I was at a little gourmet food shop Friday night and I picked up this cheese but didn't buy it because I didn't know anything about it! Now I do and next time I see it will have to buy it!
    Thanks for the history and information!

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  8. I am so glad that you were able to make the cheese sis. I agree that we should dare to challenge ourselves and go beyond what we think we are capable of.
    Somona...Yammas I think means good health or something like that. When in Greece at the cooking school they would say Yammas as a sort of toast and raise their glass.
    You really need some Halloumi Heather..I am sending you a subliminal message:D
    I would have loved to try eating the cheese hot as well Giz...maybe we will have the opportunity some day.
    It is truly delicious Peter G.
    I am going to have tonight as well Mary:D
    Denitely give it a try Judy...you won't be sorry:D

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  9. That cheese sounds really yummy. I have never seen it at any stores before though. I bet it would be fun to make!

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  10. Hi Val!
    A cheese that talks back to you! Now, that's a new one on me :)

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  11. We love cheese around here, I am going to have to find this!
    Your recipe sounds wonderful too!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog :)
    I, too, cherish the time my family I spend together in the kitchen

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  12. Val, it truly is one of the best cheeses out there and Ivy's homemade Halloumi is fabulous!

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  13. I never bought it. I'm glad to read about it. Thanks for sharing.

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  14. I always order halloumi when we eat out, They normally serve it with cranberries, but I think I will like your vinaigrette more.

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  15. Absolutely love Halloumi, huge challenge to make it from scratch. You'll make it one day Val!!! This reminds me how I need to ask my mum how to make a peppered cheese she used to make when I was a child.

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  16. Val you gave a correct answer to Simona. Actually it is Stin Ygeia mas which means to our Health (or cheers as we say in English) and it's sort of pronounced all together (geiamas).

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  17. Val - thank you for such an lovely post - just what was needed on a Monday morning!

    I first tried halloumi in Cyprus when I was about 11 - and really upset my folks by refusing to eat anything else for the whole holiday! I've finally found a place near me that sells 'real' halloumi - lush!

    Ps. my favourite way to eat halloumi is fried too - but I never thought to dust it in flour - good tip!

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  18. I love grilled halloumi. I'm lucky as it's usuallu available in the supermarket here.

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  19. Did I just die and go to heaven? I think I may have looking at that delicious cheese! I haven't seen halloumi here...Greek cheese is not too common, except for feta. Wonderful post, Val! :)

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  20. You and Ivy are too much, girls!!! What a hard job! You are amazing! I'm afraid, I wouldn't try this one... cheese is not my favourite food :( But you can hear me clapping from Barcelona :D

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  21. I've read about this cheese before, most notably at Peter's blog. I really must try this. I'm not sure there is a cheese I wouldn't like and this one sounds particularly yummy. Great post.

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  22. This is wonderful! Mint in cheese! Caper sauce! I think I will love this cheese. What a wonderful post - I am going to find an online source, because I have as much chance of finding it around here as monkeys flying.

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  23. I have never had halloumi before. There are so many cheeses out there that I would love to try!

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  24. Val, You were making my mouth water describing the different ways to eat Halloumi! I need to seek this cheese out!

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  25. Great post Val! For rennet, Riana at Garlic Breath recently made some out of nettles (which should just be coming into season for you). Here's her post: http://garlic-breath.blogspot.com/2008/03/stinging-nettle-rennet-works.html

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  26. That looks delicious. I hope I can find some halloumi and do this myself sometime (when lactose-intolerant hubby isn't around to complain). It seems like just the perfect simple meal.

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  27. Fried halloumi is so good! The taste, the texture and even the sound it make when you eat it. The caper vinaigrette sounds like a tasty way to dress the halloumi. Trying this is a perfect excuse to get some halloumi. Bookmarked.

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  28. What a beautiful dish for spring, Valli! Thanks for the interesting write up about halloumi.

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  29. Halloumi sounds wonderful. I hope to try it someday soon--they just don't carry it locally.

    Yet!

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  30. If it's of any help, the ONE place I have found rennet around here is in hispanic groceries.

    I would love to make some cheese - it's great to read about your experiments. I suspect I'm going to start by buying some halloumi though!

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  31. I haven't had halloumi in ages, but it's soo good!

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  32. I don't believe I've ever heard of it, but it looks absolutely delicious!

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  33. I've only had fried halloumi in restaurants, but now you've inspired me to make it at home.

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  34. Fabulous! Jack as spent quite a lot of time in Greece and one of things he brought back with him was a passion for halloumi.

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  35. You ladies ROCK! I am so excited about this little collaboration you guys did! Awesome job!

    I agree Val, there is no better way to eat halloumi than grilled up like this! I love the way you prepared it!

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  36. What a great team effort of yourself and Ivy on the great halloumi cheese! I adore halloumi & what a beautiful dish for spring :) Thanks for sharing with us!

    Rosie x

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  37. Believe it or not, I never heard of this cheese until Holler introduced me to it last summer. I was amazed when I fried it up in a skillet and it did not melt! Now I must try it again with your sauce, anything with capers has to be great!

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  38. I need to get me some of this cheese. Graet post and love the caper sauce.

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  39. Halloumi's great, isn't it? Great, sharp 'pay attention to me' taste, and can be grilled and dressed simply, like you've done, to take things up another notch. Oh, and you've just gotta love that squeak.. ;)

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Welcome to my home. Thank you so much for choosing to stay a while and for sharing our lives through food. I appreciate all your comments, suggestions, daily encouragement and support.

Val

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