The Big Cheese: Halloumi tacos

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

Ingredients

250 grams of halloumi cheese, cubed or sliced
Sundried tomatoes

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1 cup cooked quinoa
Corn taco shells (fresh, if possible)

To garnish:

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

Directions

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.

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3. Top each taco shell with 2 tbsp quinoa, 2-3 slices of halloumi (cut in half if necessary), tomatoes, and garnish.

4. CONSUME

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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!

 

 

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This recipe will change your life

When I’m finished this blog, I think I might start a blog about tacos.

Tacos are my favourite thing ever. All I wanted for my wedding was mini tacos. Unfortunately, this was not an option at the beautiful converted barn in the Cotswolds where I got married. Instead, we had chorizo on toast, local smoked salmon, and grilled halloumi with rosemary, which was great too, because halloumi is also my favourite thing ever. I can’t even begin to imagine what a halloumi taco would taste like – in fact, I am surprised I’ve never tried it. Watch this space.

I did get to marry my best friend, and the love of my life. But there were no tacos.

Following on my last post based loosely around Korean BBQ, I thought I would share this recipe for KOREAN TACOS (with Asian coleslaw and sriracha sour cream) adapted from The Partial Ingredients, a pretty kick-ass cooking blog I discovered a while back.

I’ve eyeballed the measurements for this dish every time I’ve made it, and it’s turned out really well, albeit differently, every time.  You may not need to be super precise but all of the components to the recipe are key.

Use roughly the same amount of each ingredient for the marinade, using three times the amount of soy sauce for each other measure. If you have time to actually roast a whole chicken Korean style, do it – otherwise skin-on breast will do. What you want is for the marinade to cling to the chicken, so if you need a pinch of corn flour, it probably wouldn’t hurt.

Ingredients

For the chicken:

Chicken breast
Soy sauce
Lemon juice
Brown sugar
Honey
Shaoxing wine (I got ID’d for this at Tesco)
Mirin
Garlic and ginger, minced
Sriracha sauce
Sesame oil
Sesame seeds

For the coleslaw:

Chinese cabbage, sliced
Red onion, finely chopped
Green onion, diced
1 carrot, grated
Garlic and ginger, minced
1/4 cup rice vinegar
Fish sauce – 1 tbsp
Mirin – 2 tbsp
Sriracha – 2 tsp

For the sriracha sour cream:

1 cup sour cream
Sriracha – 2 tbsp

Corn taco shells – buy them fresh. You can use Old el Paso ones if you want but the authentic ones work best. I buy mine from Casa Morita in Brixton. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the cactus ones.

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Lime and coriander to garnish

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Directions

1. Prepare your marinade. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl – add chicken and set aside. The longer you leave it, the better.

2. Invite some friends over under the auspices that it is Halloween and you are going to carve some pumpkins and have a few drinks, even if really you just want to show off your tacos.

3. Combine the ingredients for the coleslaw in a large bowl, and set aside.

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4. Mix the sour cream with 1 tablespoon of sriracha – and, you guessed it, set aside. This is actually a great recipe for a night where you want to prep ahead, carve some pumpkins, and have some drinks, not necessarily in that order. I meant to write this blog post a while ago, clearly – I’m not carving pumpkins in January – not even I like Halloween that much.

5. Have some drinks – two’s good, three’s probably too much before standing over a hot grill pan.

6. Cook the chicken slowly in a hot grill pan, so that the marinade caramelises but doesn’t burn. Alternatively, roast a chicken.

Meanwhile, heat your tortillas in the oven. I trust you’ve bought them fresh.

7. The tacos taste best if the chicken is shredded, but this is a massive pain. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces; serve in the corn tacos topped with the coleslaw, sour cream and a generous amount of coriander and lime.

I didn't say I knew how to photograph tacos.

I didn’t say I knew how to photograph tacos.

8. Enjoy with friends! You’re welcome.