Haloumi Cheese - Gift From Cyprus
The Island of Cyprus
My memories of my life in Cyprus are mostly good. Cyprus is an island country that lies at the crossroads of three continents - Africa, Europe, and Asia. It is a mixture of modern and old, the smaller villages still living in the traditional Cypriot way. Yet one can find bustling cities and five star hotels and it remains a popular vacation spot for many Europeans. It is said that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, arose from the foam of the sea off the shore of Cyprus. One of the last divided countries in the world (one third of the island is Turkish, the rest Greek), Cyprus is a beautiful destination to this day. Not many Americans go there, yet my almost five years living in Paphos was as comfortable as could be. I still miss much about Greek Cypriot culture and certainly miss the people but mostly I long for the food. One food, which I purchase a couple of times a year from specialty stores, is Haloumi Cheese.
Though much of the meals prepared in Cyprus are based on traditional Greek cuisine, Haloumi cheese is unique to Cyprus. Haloumi's melting point is higher than other cheese so it can be fried or grilled. It is made from a mixture of sheep and goat's mlk and has a salty taste. When grilled or fried, the slices brown up and it is often served with vegetables or watermelon in the summer. Many meals are served as "meze". A meze is simply a variety of small dishes, samples of different foods, meant to compliment the taste of wine or ouzo but also to get people together to socialize. No meze is complete without haloumi. I liked it fried for breakfast with warm fresh bread. It is also good in salad or as a side for pork and lamb dishes.
Haloumi cheese can be purchased here in the United States at shops and stores that carry exotic international products. There are quite a few online sources as well. Because of wider marketing, cow's milk is sometimes used in the processing as this makes it more cost effective. It does change the taste somewhat. Either way, you will be doing yourself a favor by treating yourself to this unique and special cheese. Yamas.
Here are a couple of Haloumi recipes you might enjoy.
Haloumi and Chicken Kebabs
Two boneless chicken breasts
1 block of Haloumi cheese
2 tablespoons of honey
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
1 green pepper cut into chunks
Cut Haloumi cheese and chicken breasts into bite-sized cubes. Combine remaining ingredients in a small pan and heat until honey is melted. Place chicken, haloumi and green pepper pieces on a skewer. Baste well with warm sauce turning skewer to make sure everything is covered. Grill on medium heat, turning kebabs and basting again until cooked and haloumi begins to brown.