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Why is Halloumi Cheese so popular? | Charalambides Christis

September 20, 2022

It seems that the fame of our favourite cheese, halloumi, has gone beyond the borders of Cyprus, as it is now widely consumed and enjoyed throughout the world and in various cuisines. What more could be expected for a cheese with such a rich and special taste, which is in fact an excellent substitute for meat?

But what do we really know about halloumi?

The origin of halloumi

Halloumi was first made on the island of Cyprus during Byzantine times. People were using goat or sheep milk and rennet of animal origin to make the cheese. The use of rennet is essential for cheesemaking, since it separates the whey from the curd, so that the cheese can curdle and take form. The halloumi was then placed in brine and kept wrapped in mint leaves, which helped in preservation.

In general, despite the available technology, this is how halloumi is still being made today. The difference is that today you can find halloumi made with rennet of plant origin or cow milk.

Roast it for intense flavour

The main characteristic of this cheese is its high melting point. Unlike other kinds of cheese, such as the feta, it does not melt during baking. On the contrary, it acquires a more intense flavour and texture.

On the internet you can find halloumi recipes for every taste, from vegetarian dishes to traditional casseroles. However, the best way to cook halloumi is to fry or grill it on a griddle or other metal surface. Although it can also be eaten raw, who wouldn't want to enjoy its lovely golden yellow crispiness?

Suggested combinations

Ηalloumi has a strong salty and spicy taste. As a result, it goes perfectly with sweet and cool side dishes.

An excellent combination is fruit: any fruit of the Mediterranean region is perfect, especially summer fruit. You can choose between watermelon, strawberries, peaches, berries, ripe apricots, figs, etc.

You could also try:

  • Refreshing yogurt dips
  • Fruit coulis
  • Honey
  • Fruit and sugar desserts
  • Jams
  • Green salad
  • Tomatoes
  • Herbs of the Mediterranean
  • Grilled summer vegetables
  • Pasta

How healthy is halloumi?

The first thought that comes to mind is that halloumi, a salty cheese, is unhealthy, especially when fried. However, it contains calcium and protein, ingredients that are essential for our body. Well, this is a matter of quantity as well.

The recommended 28 gr. serving portion has 90 calories, 70 of which derive from fat. It also contains 6 gr. of protein,  20% of the recommended daily intake of calcium. The bad news is that it contains 297 mg. of sodium and 20 mg. of cholesterol. So, if you are on a low sodium and low cholesterol diet, for health issues, it would be better to avoid it.

An important source of income

For Cypriots, halloumi is not just a popular cheese but an important source of income, as it is this Cypriot product with the largest exports, bringing an income of 270 million dollars a year to the Cypriot economy. That is also why it is called the “white gold” of the island. Halloumi has even recently been granted the European certification of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), which means that the cheese under this label can now only be made in Cyprus and only under strictly defined procedures.

It has been a multi-year struggle for the Cypriot authorities to obtain the PDO label for halloumi and thus prevent other kinds of cheese with this name from being placed on the market. The matter of the origin of the milk proved to be particularly time-consuming. According to the EU, the milk should be, for the most part sheep or goat milk, and not cow milk, which has been the case until now, a condition that will put farmers who produce cow milk in a difficult position, in the midst of the global crisis.

However, it seems that these issues are now being resolved and the process will continue smoothly, so that all lovers of cheese and Mediterranean cuisine, all over the world, can enjoy this unique product of Cyprus.

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