For me, one of the greatest food combos ever is halloumi cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. OK, fine – this may not be particularly progressive, and the more sophisticated food connoisseur might scoff at my undress (“that is so 1979”) but that’s their loss. Sun-dried tomatoes are better than real tomatoes. Squeaky cheese is better than non-squeaky cheese. The idea of putting these two simple things together seems extremely reliable.
As with all food trends, if there wasn’t something inherently good about them in the first place, then they wouldn’t have developed such a following. There were the sun-dried tomatoes of the 80s, pesto in the 90s and so it has been with halloumi of late. I can still remember discovering halloumi (a semi-hard, unripened cheese that is best served fresh off the barbecue – it has a high melting point) and now all of a sudden it’s everywhere (cough, Nandos, cough) – last year, Waitrose and Tesco reported a doubling and tripling of halloumi cheese sales.
It’s also worth £60 million a year to Cyprus, is a unifying force between carnivores and vegetarians and Turkish and Greek Cypriots alike.
More importantly though, it’s one of my favourite snacks, appetisers and additions to many popular dishes.
So, last time, I revelled in the fact that I could put this delightfully politically correct cheese IN A TACO. And there are lots of people out there who make up recipes and then blog them. This is not the objective of my food blog, but here I am, giving it a stab – I’m a book editor, not a chef – I’d be more inclined to expertly edit a recipe than invent one. As with many of my other food-related ideas and gifts, if it’s rubbish, my husband made it.
Halloumi and sun-dried tomato tacos with tzatziki and honey-balsamic dressing – adapted from my head
250 grams of halloumi cheese, cubed or sliced
Tzatziki/greek yogurt with added mint, lemon juice and chopped cucumber
Honey-balsamic dressing : 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp honey, 80 ml olive oil
1. Prepare your tzatziki, if not using storebought, and your dressing. Set aside.
2. Brush halloumi lightly with olive oil. Sear the cheese in a pan – it should take about 2 minutes on each side, and form a golden brown crust. Resist the urge to eat immediately.
3. Top each taco shell with 2 tbsp quinoa, 2-3 slices of halloumi (cut in half if necessary), tomatoes, and garnish.
So there you have it – my twist on halloumi, for better or for worse. Halloumi has a really unique taste – like mozzarella but saltier – and texture – it softens, but doesn’t melt – and you can do so many things with it. It goes really well with watermelon, butternut squash, and avocado – not all together though, that’s just greedy. Fun fact: in Cyprus the average person consumes 17 pounds of halloumi every year. Outside Cyprus, the UK consumes more halloumi than any other European country (all fun facts courtesy of this BBC article). Hopefully, you are starting to see why, and will try a halloumi recipe of your very own. Chances are, it will be successful.
Most major supermarkets stock halloumi – alternatively, make it yourself. Say cheese!