Haloumi is a crowd pleaser. It's multifaceted. It's unique. Firm and springy, it causes a cute squeak when teeth dig in. It can be grilled, shredded, tossed into a salad, slid into a burger or served as part of a big breakfast. It's also a popular substitute for meat.
For these reasons, it's the chameleon of cheeses, but it's an outlier in other respects: it doesn't easily melt and it's one of the only cheeses that's cooked during the production process.
Traditionally, the Cypriot cheese is made from a mixture of sheep's and goat's milk, however cow's-milk haloumi has become increasingly common. For those thinking they're trendy for using haloumi, we'll humble you by letting you know the people of Cyprus have been enjoying the cheese for hundreds of years.
To make the famed cheese, rennet is added to heated milk. As the mixture cools down, the curds and whey separate. Sounds like most other cheeses, right? Well, here's a twist. After the curds have solidified, they're poached in the haloumi's whey itself. The cheese is then preserved in brine, similar to how feta is treated.
One of haloumi's biggest fans is Lina Jebeile, a chef and food photographer who runs website and Instagram account The Lebanese Plate.
"It's got to be one of my favourite cheeses. I love that it has a high melting point so it's ideal for grilling and keeps its shape," says Jebeile.
"When you grill, it transforms its texture and flavour to a whole new level with the delicious crispy golden outside and equally yummy inside."
Haloumi is healthy in some ways and not in others. It's known to be high in protein and calcium, but it's also high in salt. So, when eating it, Jebeile channels the motto "everything in moderation".
If you're conscious of the salt, look for the reduced salt variants.
Jebeile likes to grate haloumi for dishes such as cheese sambousek (Lebanese-style small parcel pastries) and cheese manakish (a kind of breakfast pizza).
In an episode of The Cook Up With Adam Liaw, Jebeile makes one of her favourite haloumi recipes called grilled zaatar haloumi. "This is basically chunky slices of halloumi brushed in evoo and zaatar, then grilled. It's served on a bed of rocket leaves with a drizzle of honey and pomegranate molasses," she explains. "It's so delicious."
Jebeile says the best haloumi dishes she's eaten out are "always grilled".
"One of my favourites is a grilled haloumi which came out sizzling in a cast iron plate. It had a dressing combo of balsamic and honey (another great topping for haloumi), and olive tapenade on the side."
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