Halloumi or haloumi is a Traditional Cypriot cheese that is also popular in
Greece, and throughout the Middle East and is now made the world over. It
is made from a mixture of goat's and sheep milk, although some halloumi can be
bought that also contains cow's milk. It has a high melting point, and so can
easily be fried or grilled. Halloumi is set with rennet, and is unusual in that
no acid or acid-producing bacterium is used in its preparation.
Halloumi cheese originated in Cyprus and was
initially made during the Medieval Byzantine period, subsequently gaining
popularity throughout the Middle-East. Industrial halloumi contains more cow's
milk than goat and sheep milk. This reduces the cost but changes the taste and
the grilling properties.
The cheese is white, with a distinctive layered texture, similar to mozzarella,
and has a salty flavour. It is stored in its natural juices with salt-water, and
can keep for up to a year if frozen below −18 °C (0 °F) and defrosted to +4 °C
(39 °F) for sale at supermarkets. It is often garnished with mint to add to the
taste. Traditionally, the mint leaves were used as a preservative, the use
serendipitously discovered when the fresh Halloumi was kept wrapped for
freshness and flavour from the mint leaves. Hence, if you look closely, many
packaged Halloumi will have bits of mint leaf on the surface of the cheese.
It is used in cooking, as it can be fried until brown without
melting due to its higher-than-normal melting point, making it a good cheese for
frying or grilling, as an ingredient in salads, or fried and served with
The resistance to melting comes from the fresh curd being heated before being
shaped and placed in brine.
Traditional halloumi is a semicircular shape,
about the size of a large wallet, weighing 220-270 g. The fat content is
approximately 25% wet weight, 47% dry weight with about 17% protein. Its firm
texture when cooked causes it to squeak on the teeth when being consumed.
Left: Fresh sliced halloumi.