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Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Can we have halloumi?

Three things happened last week (or the week before) when the sun decided to turn the heat up full boot. I got me lugs burned, I scoped out a cheap air conditioning unit for the house and I discovered that I don’t hate halloumi.

This latter realisation came as a bit of a surprise as on all previous occasions that I’d encountered the Mediterranean staple: I wrote it off as squeaky muck, only suitable for non-carnivores. Not any more.

Three things then happened as I was barbecuing halloumi for the first time. I plastered the lugs with factor 50, the cheese stuck to the grill and then I fired the barbecue into the field in a fit of rage. OK, so I resisted this latter act of petulance. But I definitely considered it for a split second. However, the upshot of the halloumi experiment was this: I couldn’t believe how good it was. Marinated and partnered with bell peppers and red onions, the salty, barbecued tang of the cheese was nothing short of glorious. And since all good things come in threes, I had barbecued halloumi for the next three evenings running.

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Made from a mixture of sheep and goats’ milk (and sometimes cows’), halloumi was never a go-to ingredient for me and in fact, it was only after some persistent persuasion from Herself that I even tried the halloumi on the barbecue on the evening in question.

“Can we have halloumi? Can we have halloumi? Can we have halloumi?” she persisted.

“It’s too squeaky,” I countered. “I’m not a fan.”

“Can we have halloumi? Can we have halloumi? Can we have halloumi?”

“Gone give over about the ruddy halloumi, for Godsakes, woman,” I didn’t say.

“OK,” I relented. “Let’s give it a rattle.” It was just too hot to argue.

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An hour later as I was fighting with the eldest little human about who would get the last halloumi skewer. Herself goes, “Whose idea was it to have halloumi?”

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“Gone give over about the ruddy halloumi, for Godsakes, woman,” I didn’t say again.

Instead, I suggested, “It’s only good because of my peerless culinary skills.”

“How come it stuck to the grill then?”

Admittedly, this was a schoolboy error, although it only happened with the first batch. A brush of oil on the grill for rounds two and three seemed to do the trick and sticking was thus reduced to a minimum.

So satisfying and tasty and wholesome was the halloumi, not only did it dominate the barbecue for three nights running, we took an executive decision to not have it on the fourth night because we love it so much – we didn’t want to sicken ourselves with it. It also helped that the rain returned and so further barbecues weren’t an option. And yet, as sure as eggs are eggs, as soon as the sun peeks out from around the clouds (hopefully the summer isn’t over already), more halloumi will be purchased and marinated and this time, I’ll remember to plaster the lugs with suncream before exiting the house.

Another thing I have discovered during the three-day halloumi binge is this: It’s not worth buying the expensive stuff. On the third and final day of my new-found adoration for halloumi, I was in M&S and I spotted Cypriot halloumi in a box. To paraphrase the old advert from the telly, it wasn’t just halloumi, it was M&S halloumi and therefore, almost twice the price of the packs I’d previously bought. I made the purchase anyway but how was I to know it would taste exactly like the cheaper stuff?

This recipe is a little time consuming, what with the chopping and the marinating and the threading of the chunks onto skewers. But the final product is oh-so worth the effort. It’s also very simple and so long as you remember to brush the grill with oil, you’ll be fighting with the eldest little human for the last morsel before the evening is over.

I’ve also included a little recipe for a simple minty yoghurt dipping sauce which is optional, but recommended – especially if you find any leftovers on the morning after. Barbecued halloumi in a wrap with some of the minty sauce is mighty fine gear.

INGREDIENTS (SERVES FOUR AS A LIGHT LUNCH)

One block of halloumi (250G)

Two bell peppers (the colours are up to you but I probably wouldn’t go green)

Two red onions

One clove of garlic, grated

One heaped tsp of harissa (if you don’t have harissa, you can use tomato ketchup and a few chilli flakes)

half a tsp of black pepper

squirt of lemon juice

Two tbsps of good olive oil

FOR THE YOGHURT DIPPING SAUCE

120ml of natural yoghurt

a few mint leaves (5 or 6), chopped

the zest of half a lemon

half a clove of garlic, grated

salt and pepper to taste

THE PLAN

Start by chopping the peppers and onions into bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl.

Cube up the halloumi and place that in the bowl also.

Add the garlic, olive oil, harissa, black pepper and lemon juice and stir gently to combine. Cover and allow to marinate for as long as it takes to get the barbecue lit and ready.

For the yoghurt sauce: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. When the marinating process is done, thread the halloumi and veggies onto skewers as in the picture and repair to the barbecue. They shouldn’t take any more than five or six minutes but you’ll know they’re ready when the peppers begin to char. Serve with the sauce and a side of pretence that it was your idea to make halloumi in the first place.

And don’t forget to brush that grill with some oil before the skewers go on!

 

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