I love the distinctive taste of the halloumi cheese or hellim peyniri as we call in Turkish, it is such a treat. Originated in Cyprus, halloumi is a semi hard cheese, made from the mixture of goat and sheep’s and sometimes cow milk. As it has a high melting point, it is wonderful when grilled or lightly sautéed; a real treat we enjoyed while we were at the Aegean coast of Turkey.
Halloumi is a popular cheese also in the Middle East, as well as in Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus. It is also good to see its increasing popularity in the UK and the US.
I like serving grilled or cooked halloumi with a plain, crunchy salad; it makes an easy, delicious starter or accompanies main courses well. Halloumi cheese has a distinctive, quite salty and rich taste and pairs well with sweet bell peppers, spring (green) onions and juicy tomatoes. Rocket, watercress, spinach all work well in this salad. A simple dressing of zesty lemon juice, oregano and olive oil is all you need as a dressing. You may also wish to sprinkle some red pepper flakes, Turkish pul biber over, if you fancy a spicy kick. Then close your eyes and imagine yourself at the Aegean or Mediterranean; it does the trick for me and tickles our taste buds every time.
Tip: The trick with the halloumi cheese is that you need to serve it as soon as it is grilled or cooked; while the cheese is warm and crispy outside and soft and juicy inside. If you wait longer, it will start to get harder and you will start to lose the texture and flavors. Therefore, make sure to get your salad ready first before cooking the halloumi cheese and serve straight.
I hope you enjoy this easy (and gluten-free) grilled halloumi salad, packed with flavor. And I hope it helps hanging on to that summer feeling, that sunny outlook, no matter the weather.
- 110 gr/ 4 oz. halloumi cheese, drained and pat dried with paper towel
- 110 gr/ 4 oz. rocket, watercress or spinach leaves
- ½ red bell (or pointy) pepper, ½ yellow or green bell pepper, deseeded, quartered and thinly sliced
- 2 spring (green) onions, trimmed, washed and finely chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 15 ml/ 1 tbsp. olive oil (to cook the halloumi cheese)
- For dressing:
- 30ml/ 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (you can use a little less if you prefer)
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 10 ml/ 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 5 ml / 1 tsp. Turkish red pepper flakes, pul biber or chili flakes (optional)
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Crusty bread to serve
- Place the rocket, spinach leaves or watercress (or a combination) in a large bowl.
- Mix in the sliced peppers, chopped spring (green) onions and tomatoes, combine well.
- Add the extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, dried oregano, salt and ground black pepper to taste. Toss well to combine everything thoroughly. Set aside until the halloumi is ready.
- Drain the juices of the halloumi cheese and pat dry gently with a paper towel. Cut the cheese into 6-8 small chunky slices.
- Pour in 1 tbsp. olive oil in a heavy pan over high heat.
- Once the pan is hot, add the halloumi slices and cook 1 -2 minutes each side until nicely browned.
- Place the cooked halloumi over the salad and sprinkle with red pepper flakes or chili flakes if you like.
- Serve immediately with crusty bread.