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
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.
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