It’s getting to that time of year when halloumi is sliced and lobbed onto barbecues everywhere. But there’s so much more to this squeaky cheese than burnt barbecue fodder. Greek Cypriot food writer and cook, Georgina Hayden, shares her favourite ways to cook with halloumi, along with her ultimate grilled halloumi recipe with apricot jam.
“This is my new favourite way to cook halloumi.” Photography: Georgina Hayden
Hello, my name is Georgina Hayden and I am a cheese addict. Put it this way, it’s the only thing I have ever attempted and failed to give up for lent (and I give up something every year).
As a self-confessed cheese addict I often get asked what my favourite cheese is, but it’s not easy picking just one. Cheddar is so versatile, comforting and nostalgic. But then I do love blue cheese (Stichleton is my favourite at the moment). Then there are the ones that have to be stored in a separate building because they’re so pungent your family are threatening to throw you and the cheese out (yes, Vacherin). But if I’m being really truthful then nothing comes close to good halloumi. I am Greek Cypriot so you may call me biased, but I know I’m not alone. Halloumi is widely loved and for good reason.
So what is it that makes halloumi so great exactly? Well, it works brilliantly in sarnies, tarts, fillings and basically all the ways you’d use any other cheese. It’s texture means it can almost be treated like a protein in its own right. You can batter it and make it into fries for goodness sake. Marinate it. Grill it. I think the biggest selling point for most non-Cypriots is that it can be put on the barbie and it won’t melt through the bars.
In Cyprus, we use halloumi in the same way Italians use Parmesan
Halloumi is also so much more than just the non-meat option at a barbecue. In Cyprus, we use it the same way Italians use Parmesan. Grated on top of a large tray of moussaka or stirred through pasta, it acts as the perfect seasoning to so many dishes without shouting too loud. We also eat it un-grilled and un-fried, just straight up, thinly sliced with wedges of watermelon. A wonderful snack or light meal when the weather is hot.
Grilled salty halloumi and sweet apricot jam or honey is the perfect combination.
Find the recipe here.
My current favourite way to serve it is to score and grill a whole piece. Instead of slicing pieces of cheese and grilling them, next time score the top of a whole halloumi or anglum in a criss-cross fashion, rub with a little olive oil and pop under the grill. Grill it until the cheese slightly concertinas open and it’s golden on top. Then serve immediately at the table, however you fancy. I love it drizzled with a little honey and a few fresh oregano sprigs on top. It’s impressive as well as delicious.
A few UK makers are making great halloumi-style cheeses
Up until recently, I’d never have dreamed of recreating anything similar in the UK. I avoided most halloumi sold here because it’s rubbery and flavourless (aside from small independent Cypriot delis of course who import the good stuff). But now all that’s changed.
A few local makers are making great halloumi-style cheeses here in the UK, and not only are they good, they are great. My favourite is easily Kupros Dairy who make anglum cheese. This is essentially halloumi but because it’s made in the UK it has a different name. I’ve known Anthony for a few years and I really rate his cheeses even when compared to the Cypriot halloumis. His yiayia (grandma) was a halloumi maker and taught him everything he knows. It’s anglum that I now finely slice and eat with summer fruit (try it with strawberries) on warmer days.
Next time you stock up on halloumi, try it grated, fried, cooked whole or just eaten raw. Then play the ‘what’s your favourite cheese game?’ and I bet there’ll be quite a few of you who’d include it in your top five too.
Find Georgie’s recipe for grilled halloumi and apricot jam here. Or check out more of Georgina’s recipes in her Farmblog series, from quick fish pie and 30-minute Sloppy Joe Burgers to Thai fish curry to breakfast cauliflower cheese fritters to this cowboy bean stew.