Halloumi is perhaps one of the most Cypriot of Cypriot foods. If there is one food that Cyprus is known for on an international level, I would say it would be halloumi. I was so happy to make it the other day with my aunt, who learned the recipe from my grandma, who used to sell her homemade halloumi. This is the type of recipe that you, the reader, can make wherever you are – so long as you can find the right ingredients and have a normal kitchen stove. And I hope you try to make it. I hope the recipe is easy to follow and that you are not intimidated by trying to make halloumi yourself. I was a bit overwhelmed, but in reality if you know what to watch for during each stop (and I think that is the key and what I try to explain below) then it’s OK. The process of making halloumi is also the same process of making anari, so I will explain how to do that as well since it is part of the process of making halloumi.
23 & 1/2 cups unpasteurised sheep milk*
1/2 tsp powdered rennet (see the picture of the type of rennet I used**)
1 cup of water
1/2 cup salt
1 to 2 tsp dried mint
* You can also use goat milk, but I used all sheep milk. In either case, ensure that the milk is unpasteurized!
** What the rennet I used looks like:
1. Place the milk in a large pot on the stove. Remove 1 cup of milk so that you can make the anari cheese at a later stage.
2. Heat the milk so it becomes luke warm. Once the milk is luke warm, take it off the heat, add the rennet and stir so that the rennet is incorporated. Then, cover the pot with a cloth and let it stand for about 30 minutes. This is when the milk will start to solidify and become “chunky”. You can tell it has become “chunky” because when you press the top of the liquid, it leaves a small dent, as in the picture above.
3. This means that your milk has begun to turn into cheese. Using your hands gently press the halloumi that has begun to form on the top of the mixture down to the bottom of the pot. Make sure your hands are clean, otherwise your halloumi will smell! (Yes, this means dipping your arms and hands right into that pot and pressing the chunky stuff at the top down!)
4. Then, using your hands, take out about a large handful of halloumi (about 2 cups) and put it in a cheese container (a plastic container with lots of holes) on a pan and very gently press down on the cheese with your knuckles to squeeze some of the liquid out. You will see the liquid pressing out of the cheese. Do this until the cheese in the pot is all taken out – you should have enough cheese for about 5 containers. Pour any excess liquid at the bottom of the pan back into the pot.
5. Ensure that there are no little bits of halloumi cheese left in the liquid in the pot. Use a strainer spoon to remove any little bits of cheese and add them to one of the cheese containers.
6. About 7 minutes after letting the halloumi rest in the cheese containers, use your knuckles and gently press down the cheese and turn them over in the containers, as shown in the pictures above. Be careful not to break the halloumi. Then leave the halloumi to strain again for 5 minutes. Pour any excess liquid at the bottom of the pan back into the pot. You can pile one cheese container on top of the other, this helps the liquid drain, but do not squish the top container down too hard on the other cheese, it should just rest there.
7. At this stage, make your anari. Place the pot with the liquid back onto the stove on high heat. Once the milk is hot but not boiling (you should still be able to touch the milk with a pinky finger) add the 1 cup of milk you removed earlier. As the milk is heating, stir gently with a large wooden spoon.
8. Meanwhile, after 5 minutes have passed, pour 1 cup of water over the resting halloumi and into the liquid that is gathering in the bottom of the pan. Let the halloumi rest for another 10 minutes. The reason we add water is to make the halloumi have a nice glossy shine. Take the excess water that has gathered at the bottom of the pan and add it to the pot. Continue to heat and gently stir the liquid in the pot.
9. After the ten minutes have passed, take the halloumi out of the cheese containers and place them onto the pan as in the picture above. Let rest.
10. By this stage (13 to 15 minutes since you started heating the liquid in the pot to make anari) you will begin to see the anari starting to form. It simply looks like pieces of cheese floating to the top of the liquid. Stir until the pieces begin to get larger – about 1 minute. Then, turn the heat down to low and stop stirring the liquid. Instead, just place your wooden spoon in the middle of the pot and sort of gently wobble it around. Do this for about another 3 to 4 minutes as the large pieces of cheese will again get larger. Then, using a slotted spoon, gather the cheese and place it in another tall cheese container and let it drain on a pan. This is fresh anari and can be eaten and enjoyed with maple syrup, walnuts and cinnamon, as in this recipe here. You can also salt it and dry it to grate over top pasta. I have not covered this recipe yet.
11. After you have removed all of the anari from the pot, turn the heat back into high and gently add the halloumis to the pot ensuring that they do not break when you place them in the pot. Gently stir the pot, only to make sure that the halloumis do not stick to the bottom of the pan. Do not break the halloumi when you stir. Continue to heat, gently stir and cook the halloumi for about 17-20 minutes. By this stage, the halloumi should have expanded and start to float themselves on the top of the liquid. Stop stirring the mixture and leave the halloumi to cook for another 10 minutes.
12. By this stage your halloumi should be ready. You can tell when the halloumi is ready because they are floating at the top and appear to be very soft and are naturally bending slightly in the middle.
13. Remove the halloumi carefully from the pot with the a slotted spoon and place in a pan.
14. Prepare your halloumi seasoning. Mix the salt with the dried mint.
15. Then in a pan, take one halloumi and rub a very generous pinch of the salt mixture on one side of the halloumi. Gently turn the halloumi over and rub another generous pinch of the salt mixture onto the other side of the halloumi. (Remember to err on the side of too much salt as the salty taste will dissapear slightly when you place the halloumi back into the liquid.) Then gently fold the halloumi in half. Make all of the halloumi this way.
16. Place them in a clean air tight container and cover with enough liquid from the pot to cover the halloumi. Leave the top of the container open for about 24 hours, simply covering it with a cheese cloth to make sure no flies get into the pot. Then close the lid. You do not have to refrigerate the halloumi if you keep it covered with liquid. I ate mine very quickly anyway, so I am not sure how long it will stay good for outside of the fridge. Once you remove a halloumi from the container do not place it back inside otherwise it will turn the rest of the halloumi off. Instead, once you remove a halloumi from the bottle, keep it inside the fridge with no liquid, where it should probably last up to one week. Again, a lot of this depends on how clean your containers are when you prepare the halloumi, so freshness times may vary.