Cheese

Today’s post will be short – we have visitors and I am going to be a tourist with them.  We are going to the Museum of Modern Art, then the NBC shop, lunch somewhere, the 9/11 Memorial, St Paul’s Chapel, back here to change and then out for an early dinner followed by Orlando Bloom in Romeo and Juliet.  I will then bring the under-21 home while Dad takes John and Jackie to the Campbell Apartment for a real Long Island Iced Tea.  So I have been wondering what I can tell you today that is short and useful, and have decided on halloumi.

Halloumi can be really tasty if cooked properly.   Halloumi is the quintessential Cypriot cheese.  It is a sheeps milk cheese and is commonly found on both sides of the Green Line.  It is eaten in pretty much every meze and used in cooking as I mentioned in my moussaka recipe.  I like it raw with watermelon, in salads and simply to nibble.

My first taste was unsurprisingly in Rosslyn Avenue and cooked by Bapu.  In those days, he used to cover the grill pan with foil, and grill the halloumi, making sure it was well-browned on both sides.  For me, halloumi has to be eaten hot – as it cools, it becomes waxy and just isn’t as good.   When we were living in Hong Kong, I was thrilled to find halloumi on sale – Dad was less enthusiastic.  I had never noticed that he didn’t eat halloumi.  He said that he had too many memories of cold halloumi at Greek wedding receptions.  Somewhere along the line he changed his mind, and he now enjoys it as much as the rest of us.

My preferred way of cooking halloumi is dry fried in a frying pan.  Halloumi expels a lot of water, and the trick is to get the pan hot enough that the water evaporates, but that the cheese doesn’t then get too brown.  I know that in restaurants they use griddle pans, but I have had less success with this.  Griddles become that bit too hot and when I turn the cheese, I leave the cheese churins* on the pan and I find that really irritating!  One block of halloumi should be cut into no more than 8 pieces, 6 if you want it thicker.  Heat the pan, add cheese and watch what you’re doing.  Serve immediately.

Of course, the traditional way of serving is with lounza, smoked pork loin, or the absolute best bit of bacon.  It can be hard to find lounza outside of Haringey, but Polish sepocka is almost the same and is much more readily found.  What I do to make sure halloumi and lounza are ready at the same time is to put less halloumi in the pan, and when the first side is browned (which takes longer than the second because of the water), put in the lounza.  When the second side is browned, put the halloumi on top of the lounza and move to a heated plate.  Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

*chorin is the Urdu word for the delicious bits of food that get stuck to a pan.