Salty, mellow and tangy with a bouncy texture that melts to a springy squeaky, sweet, caramelised onion taste as the milk sugars or lactose oozes out and brown in the pan. Halloumi is the main ingredient in the Cypriot breakfast, starter or lunch served along side fresh fruit especially melon and figs or with vegetables.
The only cheese that does not melt when grilled or fried so is excellent cut in thick 50-75 mm slices and barbecued or fried as a canapé. It is essential however when fried that no oil is used as this seals the cheese and stops the milk sugars from escaping. For those who feel it is too salty soak large chunks in cold water for 5 - 10 minutes.
The flavour varies according to the seasons and also the type of milk used. The best come from Cyprus flavoured with sweet wild mint and made with raw goat and ewe’s milk during the spring and summer months when the free-ranging animals graze on a myriad of wild flowers, herbs, grasses and scrubby bushes that cover the rocky island. Unlike most other cheeses no starter culture is used only rennet.
With increasing world-wide demand most is produced in factories and often a small percentage of cows’ milk is added as it is less expensive and not seasonal but this inevitably impacts on the taste. Made by 11 New Zealand cheesemakers from cow, goat and buffalo milk it varies from sweet and juicy to hard and salty. Zany Zeus organic Halloumi based on a recipe from owner Mike’s Cypriot mother is one of my favourites and most widely available but I am about to taste the one I made at Farmhouse Kitchen Havelock North using a Mad Millie Italian Cheesemaking kit. Was great fun and the kit is well put together but there is far too much stirring, waiting for the temperature to rise or fall and whey too much cleaning for me to ever be a cheesemaker. It’s why I admire them so much!