Cheesepalooza #3 Halloumi
We are up to the third Cheesepalooza challenge already that’s a quarter of the way to the holy grail of cheese invention. So far we have made ricotta, chèvre and this month halloumi. The other option was feta, but I have successfully (and not so successfully) made feta before, and although I have also done halloumi before, I’ve only done it once and I didn’t blog about it.
I’ve never really been a huge fan of halloumi because I don’t like the squeak. Yes, I know, it’s another one of my funny food rules, but it feels like fingernails down a chalkboard on my teeth. However, halloumi is a cheese that so many people rave about that I though I owed it another chance. It is also a relatively quick and easy cheese to make, so I whipped up a batch on a busy cheese making day as I was making some Camembert and Cabecou for the arrival of the in-laws. There is no better way to impress your mother-in-law than presenting her with an entirely home made cheese platter.
Anyway, back to the halloumi. I followed the recipe in Artisan Cheesemaker to the letter so I’m not going to write it out here. As a general guide for halloumi you heat the milk, curdle with rennet. No starter culture is necessary for this one, which makes the process at least an hour shorter than other cheeses as you don’t need to let the starter ripen.
Once the curd has formed it is cut, stirred and gently heated. The curds are then pressed for a short period of time. My only variation to the recipe was the shape of the mould. The recipe suggests round, but then recommends cutting off the corners. I don’t like waste so I went straight for the square mould.
Once pressed the unique process for halloumi begins. The whey is reserved and the cheese is heated gently in the whey which I think gives it its unique texture and frying properties. Finally, to give the halloumi it’s distinct flavour the cheese is soaked in brine. Ok, so I lied about following the recipe to the letter, I also tweaked this bit to use a milder brine as I found the last one really salty.
Now once I had my completed block of halloumi I had to work out what to do with it. I wanted a dish that would showcase it, so I turned to Twitter asking for suggestions. And the overwhelming response? Do nothing. Simply fry and serve with a squeeze of lemon. That was me well and truly told! Whatever you do with it, halloumi, lemon and chilli are a match made in heaven.
I had a good yield of cheese from my high quality milk so there was enough to do a second dish. I couldn’t resist ‘messing’ with the halloumi just a little. After lunch at MoVida in Melbourne last year I was charmed by the Bocadillo they serve (AKA Spanish sandwiches). With a dash of lemon and some roasted capsicum they make a great light lunch or maybe a fancy canape.
So how did my halloumi taste? Just as halloumi should, I think. It was salty and squeaky. There were four of us who tucked into the two servings of halloumi. Everyone else thoroughly enjoyed it and were left wanting more, but I’m afraid to say I am still distressed by the squeak. I will be happy to make halloumi for others as it is a relatively quick cheese to make and very satisfying, but when it comes to eating I just cannot get past that squeak. I know I am the exception to the rule, so I will leave you with my recipe for MoVida inspired halloumi Bocadillo.
I forgot to weigh my halloumi so I cannot give accurate measurements for my recipe but I used half of the final yield, which I think was about 400-500g
1 red capsicum
1/2 block halloumi (200-250g)
8 slices of white bread
1 lemon, half juiced, half cut into wedges to serve
Put the capsicum in a very hot oven for 20-30 minutes until the skin starts to blister and can be peeled easily. Once the skin has started to blacken and blister, remove from the oven and put in a bowl and cover with cling film to continue to steam while it cools. Once cool enough to handle remove the skin, seeds and stalk. You should be left with one piece of capsicum that can be roughly cut into four rectangles.
Meanwhile, cut the crusts off the bread then cut into eight rectangles roughly the length and half the width of the average slice of bread. There is quite a lot of waste, but with the shape of bread I was using the pieces would be too uneven if I cut the slice in half. The leftovers can be made into breadcrumbs or fed to the the chooks as a treat!
Once you have removed the capsicum from the oven, turn the heat down to 180 degrees Celsius. Brush one side of the bread with olive oil and place on a baking tray oiled side up. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown but not burnt.
Cut the halloumi into four rectangles the same size as the bread. Just before the bread is toasted, fry the halloumi in a hot frying pan with a little olive oil until browned on both sides. This should take 4-5 minutes on each side. Drizzle with some lemon juice just before they are ready.
Serve with a wedge of lemon.
- Appearance: Creamy, white with markings from the mould
- Nose (aroma): Salty
- Overall Taste: Salty
- Sweet to Salty: Salty
- Strength: Mild cheese flavour, but strong salty flavour
- Mouth Feel: Squeaky