This grilled halloumi recipe forms the foundation of all halloumi recipes and more. Don’t miss this taste adventure and everything you can do with halloumi.
What is it?
Halloumi comes from Cyprus and is semi-hard, unripened brined cheese made from a mixture of unpasteurised goat’s and sheep’s milk. Sometimes cow’s milk is also used.
Halloumi has a very high melting point, so it can easily be fried or grilled.
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Halloumi is commonly set with animal rennet. What is unusual about this cheese is that no acid or acid-producing bacterium is used in its preparation.
Many people also like halloumi that has been aged; kept in its brine for much longer. This makes it drier, stronger and saltier than the milder halloumi we use in the West.
The cheese is white, with a distinctive layered texture, similar to mozzarella and has a salty flavour. It is stored in its natural juices with salt-water and can keep for up to a year if frozen below −18 °C and defrosted to +4 °C before retailers sell it to us.
Its firm texture when cooked causes it to squeak on the teeth when being chewed. Vegetarians must ensure they are not eating halloumi made with animal rennet.
Below, the cheese at the bottom was just taken out of its packaging. The top one was soaked in water for three hours. Do you notice the difference?
How is Halloumi made?
Halloumi is really easy to make, you can even make it at home. There are conflicting debates whether we can use rennet (animal or vegetable) or junket tablets.
The diehard traditional cheese makers insist on using rennet and the fast food connoisseurs insist that junket can be used. I even spotted a microwave recipe for making halloumi the other day.
Personally, if I were to make it myself I would follow the traditional method with vegetarian rennet.
Animal Rennet is an enzyme derived from the stomachs of calves, lambs or goats before they have consumed any solids. It averages 90% pure chymosin. Vegetable rennet is obtained from a certain mould (Mucur Miehei).
Rennet is standard, so whether it’s a liquid, tablets or powders it works the same way to set the milk. The easiest most precise measurement is achieved with liquid. However, the powders and tablets store better in adverse conditions.
Calf rennet is considered to be the best choice for longer aged cheeses because some of its residual components help to complete the breakdown of proteins. The more complex proteins in vegetable rennet have a slightly bitter taste after 6 months of ageing.
The liquid vegetable rennet is Kosher, but it has been re-packaged without Kosher supervision.
Junket and Pepsin
Rennet is 80-90% chymosin and 20% pepsin. Junket is 80% pepsin, it is much weaker than rennet. There is a lot of pepsin in junket which increases the protein breakdown causing problems when the cheese ages.
Junket was made for custards. If you do decide to make your own halloumi read the junket label, you will see that there are many additives in it.
When supplies were hard to find for home cheese making everybody used junket. Now that Rennet is widely available there is no need to use junket in your cheese making.
The high melting point is a result of the fresh curd being heated before being shaped and placed in brine.
Traditional halloumi is a semi-circular shape, the size of a large wallet, weighing about 220–270 g.
The fat content is approximately 25% wet weight, 47% dry weight with about 17% protein. Carbs are about 2.2g, calories 336 and salt 2.8g.
Where in the World?
Many parts of the Middle East such as Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Israel, Egypt and Iraq consume halloumi. It has slightly different names in each region’s dialect. The common name in the Arab states is “halloum” and it is served with meze.
By 2013 demand in the United Kingdom had surpassed every other European country, except Cyprus.
In Israel, it is called by its Greek name, halloumi. In Turkey, it is called “hellim”.
History and Origins
The name “halloumi” is derived from the Egyptian Arabic, itself a loanword from the Coptic halum ‘cheese’. This refers to a cheese that was eaten in medieval Egypt.
Halloumi cheese is very similar to Nablusi cheese which is named after Nablus a city in Palestine. Many people believe that Halloumi cheese is Arab and of Levantine creation, due to its similarity to Nablusi cheese and this region’s long history of consuming halloumi cheese.
In modern Egypt, the name “hâlûmi” is similar to the Cypriot name “halloumi” but apparently, it’s a completely different cheese.
The Best Ways to Serve Halloumi
This Cypriot cheese is robust in texture and has a deep savoury flavour. Popularity stems from its ability to be grilled, barbequed or fried without losing its shape. Here are some exciting and even adventurous way’s to serve this squeaky cheese.
This Grilled Halloumi recipe can be used to prepare the cheese for the following meals:
Most people do not soak halloumi, but should be ideally soaked to reduce the salt content. This also changes the texture slightly and makes it softer.
It is often garnished with mint, a practice based on the belief that halloumi keeps better and stays fresher and more flavoursome when wrapped with mint leaves. In accordance with this tradition, many packages of halloumi contain fragments of mint leaves on the surface of the cheese.
Vegetables and Salads
Serve grilled halloumi with roasted vegetables or tossed into your favourite salad.
Cypriots eat halloumi with watermelon in the warm months. When I do eat cheese this is one of my favourite go-to meals. It is absolutely divine and works well as a fresh starter. Slices of grilled halloumi layered onto chunky bite sized pieces of watermelon on a platter. The watermelon must be exceptionally sweet. Try various different melons with halloumi. You can serve with pita bread
Another leading favourite in Cyprus is halloumi with a slice of smoked pork or a soft lamb sausage.
Bacon and halloumi canapés as an occasional treat are delectable. Wrap bits of halloumi in bacon slices. Add chopped chives to cut through the savoury richness, and serve as a gluten-free party nibble or cooled down and packed into a picnic or lunchbox.
As a traditional component of breakfast for Arabs, it is eaten either fresh or fried, accompanying other Arab dishes such as hummus, falafel, and khubz.
Halloumi in Israel is sometimes fried in olive oil and served for breakfast and served with meze. It is also eaten with fish.
Try long rectangular pieces of halloumi on skewers. Flavour them with oregano and grill them or place them over hot coals on the barbeque.
Eggs and Breadcrumbs
We all love a good cheesy omelette. Slices of halloumi add a satisfying firmness to an omelette.
Before pan frying give the pieces a light dusting of seasoned flour. This gives the outside of the cheese a crispy, protective layer. Pan-fry slices and serve in pitas with a contrasting sauce, I serve it with mojo verde or mojo rojo.
Deep-fried, breadcrumbed cheese gives the finished nuggets an extremely pleasant, firm texture. Use panko if you can find it, combine with cayenne or paprika, and dip the slices of halloumi in egg to help the crumb stick. Deep or shallow fry, then serve with lemon wedges and a freshly made sauce of your choosing.
Greece, Cyprus and Middle Eastern countries use phyllo pastry extensively. Ready-made packs are easy to handle. Cut chunky halloumi blocks flavoured with tahini and wrap them up with pastry.Give them a quick deep fry.
If you don’t serve the Tahini on the halloumi inside the pastry, then serve your pastry parcel with a cranberry jelly.
Burgers and Stuffings
Halloumi burgers can be very versatile and toppings are numerous in design. Combine grilled slices of cheese with harissa, red peppers, aubergines and humus. If you leave out the meat patty a vegetarian burger could be adapted with layers of salad toppings, sauce, grilled mushrooms, avocado and even salsa.
Halloumi as a stuffing, dice it into small cubes and stuff peppers, courgettes or aubergines. Bulk it out with couscous flavoured with parsley.
I think it’s at its best on its own with a chilli or guacamole dip.
Prep 5 minutes
Cook 5 minutes
Total 10 minutes
Author: Michelle Minnaar
- 500g (1lb) halloumi
- 30ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
- 15g (½ oz) fresh coriander or parsley
- Soak halloumi blocks in water. Each 250g block should be used with 3 litres of water. Halloumi should be soaked for a minimum of 3 hours maximum 6 hours.
- Cut each block into 8 slices.
- Give each cheese slice a light coating of olive oil.
- Place halloumi in hot frying pan and cook until browned on both sides, turning only once halfway.
- Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve immediately.
- Serve with Pickled Cabbage and Red Onion Slaw.
Serving Size 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 38.2g
Saturated Fat 23.3g
Total Carbohydrates 4.5g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
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