Favourites #1: Halloumi

I’m writing about food so why not indulge myself?  I’m starting my favourite ingredients, in no particular order, with halloumi.  I can’t remember the first time I cooked with and ate halloumi but I do remember thinking it didn’t behave like you would expect cheese to behave: ‘It’s not melting, why isn’t it melting? Is it supposed to melt??’ and ‘It’s squeaky, that’s weird, but it tastes sooooooo good!’.

Due to a combination of complacency and lack of focus, more often than not it would end up slightly more charred than was intended.  On one occasion, completely and utterly ruined to such an extent it ended up in the bin and we were left mourning the loss of a delicious meal that could have been.  The silence at the dinner table was deafening.

I’ve tried grilling it, frying it plain and tried to get those aesthetically pleasing lines you get from a griddle pan.  But my all time favourite way to cook halloumi is to slice a block into 8 slices along the long side, coat each slice in seasoned plain flour with smoked paprika added then fry in a little oil till lightly golden on both sides.  Sometimes I add cajun spices instead but smoked paprika is the best.  Actually, adding cajun spices was The Husband’s idea but I’m taking the credit for this one.  I think a block is probably supposed to serve 4 people but at our house it only stretches to 2.  I always cook halloumi this way no matter what the recipe requires.

So, here’s a short list of 5 things I’ve made with halloumi, starting with my favourite and most frequently made halloumi dish.  There’s lots of other interesting ways to cook it and some excellent flavour combinations out there so I don’t think you’ll be short of ideas:

  1. Halloumi, roasted tomato and chickpea salad: this is so juicy and has so much going for it. I love it.  Warm roasted tomatoes mixed with chickpeas and a dressing of red onion and parsley topped with fried halloumi.   The recipe is below.
  2. Halloumi, new potato and beetroot salad with tzatziki: I found this in the March 2012 issue of Olive magazine. Beetroot is another of my favourites so it’s a bonus to use it with halloumi.  This is similar to the previous salad in that a dressing is made with onion and dill and mixed with cooked beetroot.  The beetroot mix is then served with warm new potatoes topped with halloumi and tzatziki dressing.
  3. Halloumi fritters with tomato and mint salsa: I’d never tried grating halloumi before I found this recipe in my 2015 ‘The Foodies’ Diary’ (that’s right; I live, breathe, dream and diarise about food. Is diarise a word? …..It is! It is a word!).  Mix grated halloumi, egg yolks, yoghurt and milk in a bowl.  Sift self raising flour, baking powder and salt together then add to the wet mix. Stir together.  Fold whisked egg whites into the batter mix.  Fry in oil and serve with a tomato and mint salsa.
  4. Halloumi with za’atar: Another idea from my diary but this time from 2014. I started getting ‘The Foodies’ Diary’ in 2012 and have every year since then (except the blip in 2013 when everything was rubbish and I couldn’t face documenting it).  For this I press the halloumi slices into the za’atar herb blend then coat in plain flour as per my usual way and fry.  Finish off with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses (this is a relatively new addition to my arsenal of cupboard condiments and it feels a little bit too posh for me but I’m just going to go with it).
  5. Halloumi and avocado salad: I make another salad with spinach, boiled egg, bacon, toasted pine nuts and a balsamic vinegar dressing. Sometimes I get a bit greedy, take the best bits of both salads (as in all the bits) and mix the two together.  This is super easy and quick.  Make a dressing with lemon juice, olive oil and fresh mint, halloumi fried etc etc, salad leaves, sliced avocado and parsley. Easy peasy.  Get the recipe here.

Halloumi, roasted tomato and chickpea salad

Serves 2

Based on a recipe from Olive magazine ’30 best ever recipes’.

Block of halloumi, sliced into 8

2 tbsp plain flour

1/4 to 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Sea salt and black pepper

1/2 small red onion, finely sliced

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

olive oil

400 g small tomatoes, halved

Tin of chickpeas

Handful flat leaf parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 200°C.  Put the tomatoes on a baking tray, cut side up.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with black pepper and sea salt (not too much salt).  Roast for 20 – 25 mins until the tomatoes are softened and have started to get blacken at the edges.  In the meantime make a dressing by mixing the red onion with the vinegar and 2 tbsp of oil. Set aside.  Coat the halloumi in flour seasoned with sea salt, black pepper and smoked paprika and fry in olive oil on a medium heat until lightly golden on both sides.  This takes approximately 5 – 10 mins and the second side cooks faster than the first so keep an eye on it!  Mix the onion dressing with the chickpeas and parsley.  When the tomatoes are done add them to the chickpeas, juice and all, and gently mix.  You don’t want to completely smush the tomatoes.  When the halloumi is finished arrange the chickpea and tomato mix on plates and top with the halloumi.

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