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What's the hype about haloumi?

Saganaki greek style pan-fried cheese

Haloumi is fast becoming one of Australia’s favourite cheeses and it’s easy to see why. When cooked to perfection each bite is like molten cheese heaven, its signature squeak and versatility makes this cheese a winner all year round. Whether it’s as a starter, or on a salad we think it deserves a place on your Holiday table.

Originally hailing from Cyprus, haloumi is now enjoyed far beyond its Mediterranean roots, with dozens of our own Aussie cheesemakers having added this stretched-curd white cheese to their repertoire.

So what is it that makes this cheese so irresistible? We take a look at some of haloumi’s best qualities to find out what all the hype’s about. 

Chicken cauliflower watercress and almond salad

You can grill it or fry it without it melting

Unlike many other cheeses, haloumi has a very high melting point, so when you grill or fry it, it holds without it losing its shape. One of the main reasons for this is because it has a low acid content.

When you put a cheese such as cheddar under the grill, the bonds which form the protein structure begin to loosen and the cheese starts to melt. Things like fat content, acidity, salt and moisture are all things that can change the way these proteins break down.

Haloumi’s low acid content means it’s much harder to break those protein bonds, which is why it holds its shape and turns golden and crispy when it’s cooked. Now you know!

To fry haloumi, place slices in a dry hot frypan over medium heat and cook for a minute on each side until golden. Same goes for the BBQ.

The ‘squeak’

Nothing beats the first satisfying squeak when you bite into a piece of haloumi. Go on, give it a go!

There’s still some debate about what causes the notorious squeak. Some cheese-lovers attribute it to air escaping from the haloumi as you bite into it, while probably the more likely reason is the long protein strands in the cheese rubbing against the enamel on your teeth. 

The flavour and versatility

Haloumi is known for being salty when fresh, thanks to the brine it’s preserved in. However, the flavour changes and becomes sweeter, creamier and mellows as it’s cooked.

Fresh haloumi is eaten widely as part of a traditional Middle Eastern breakfast, but you might also see it served with watermelon as a refreshing snack, pan-fried or barbecued it can be thrown through a salad, or as part of a mezze dish. The mild, buttery flavour of haloumi, depending on how it’s prepared and what it’s eaten with, can be enjoyed practically for breakfast, lunch or dinner making it an incredibly versatile cheese.

We ask Alice Zaslavsky

Author, TV personality and all-round cheese lover, Alice Zaslavsky, (otherwise known as Alice in Frames) is a self-proclaimed haloumi advocate. We caught up with her to find out what ignited her love affair with this Aussie favourite, and get her expert advice on incorporating haloumi into everyday dishes.

What makes haloumi one of your all-time favourite cheeses? 

For me, haloumi is more than just a garnish or a filling, it's the main event. I love grilled haloumi, especially the way it crisps up on the outside while staying gooey in the middle.

How do you spot a good haloumi?

The mark of a good haloumi is the way that it holds itself together when things get heated, but you should also get a satisfying squeak when you bite into it. My favourite is Olympus Haloumi from Queensland - I always keep some to hand in the fridge.

How should haloumi be enjoyed?

The saltiness of haloumi teams tremendously with anything sweet, whether it’s honey, stone fruit or melon. Toss grilled cubes of haloumi through a salad, thread onto skewers or pop on top of baked goods such as a tart.

Alice Zaslavsky’s watermelon and grilled haloumi skewers

These flavoursome skewers are bound to brighten up any table! Serve as a starter, or alongside a salad for a main meal.

1. Slice watermelon into cubes and toss with some lime juice and finely chopped mint.

2. Heat a pan over a medium/high heat and then add the haloumi slices, lightly drizzled with olive oil. Grill until golden brown.

3. Remove from the pan with tongs and allow to cool. Skewer watermelon and haloumi and finish with extra sprigs of mint.

Recipe from Alice’s Food A-Z by Alice Zaslavsky
Photograph © 2015 Walker Books Australia Pty Ltd.
Photograph by Cath Muscat
All rights reserved.

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