The first time I had halloumi, I was actually in London, not its native Cyprus.
It was a spring day in April, and I had just hopped off the 140 double decker bus from London Heathrow to my friend’s flat in Harrow in northwest London. It had been a year since I had seen Megan, and I felt a smile of relief spread on my face when she met me in the lobby of her office just outside the bus station.
We first met when we lived in Salt Lake City, but were only acquaintances until we both moved away. While I lived in Asturias, Spain, she was studying in England and I flew to London and took a train to Crewe (near Manchester) to meet her. When I moved back to Salt Lake, she visited me the following year, and a year later here I was again visiting her, this time in London.
We walked the few blocks to her place, where she unlocked an exterior and interior door, revealing a narrow stairway up to a shared landing, kitchen, and bathroom. She shared the flat with an Italian 20-something guy, Carlo, who had come to work as a chef and send money home to his family, as well a middle-aged British woman who looked after the home for a trust. (We borrowed Carlo’s room late at night while he was at work so we could jam out at the piano to Josh Groban’s “Closer” album…we are a magical duet.)
Megan and I sat in the tiny kitchen and chatted as she chopped a cesar salad and fired up the overhead broiler on her little retro stove. I watched – slightly jet lagged – as she turned over slices of halloumi. I didn’t know what it was and had never tried it but was glad to do so. I loved watching her flip it under the broiler…I could tell by her hungry anticipation that it was one of her favorite things to eat.
The slices of halloumi transformed from white to golden brown under the flame of the broiler, exactly the color of a perfectly roasted marshmallow. The inside was soft and the outside slightly crisp, and the first bite into the briny, salty cheese was heaven.
After lunch, Megan head back to work and I stripped to my unders and crashed face first on the bed, slipping into a sleep-drunk stupor until my lost luggage arrived from Air Canada a few hours later.
Here in the USA, I’ve found halloumi at a few grocery stores that usually have a few more imported products or a higher-end vibe. It ranges anywhere from$8-$11 for a small package.
Halloumi is a semi-hard goat and sheep milk cheese from Cyprus. It is brined and often seasoned with mint in the brine, although I find that the mint flavor is trace. It’s a cheesy miracle because it doesn’t melt when you grill it, so you can get a gorgeous charred flavor on it!
I usually slice and broil it, but occasionally opt to throw it in a hot, dry cast iron grill pan for about 5-7 minutes on each side.
You will love a few slices of halloumi drizzled with citrus olive oil (olives crushed with fresh citrus) and a few torn pieces of mint. The bright flavor of citrus and the bitter of the olive is a champion partner to halloumi! I also love to dip or drizzle it in grape must; the sweet raisin flavor of the must is a perfect combination with the salty, light flavor of the cheese.