This cheese grilled makes a great alternative to beef burgers in barbecue season

Halloumi has a high melting point, making it perfect for frying or grilling, Try it with honey and za'atar salad

 

Halloumi is a Cypriot semi-hard cheese that is made from cow, sheep and goat cheese, or a mixture of all three. It has a high melting point, making it perfect for frying or grilling.

As barbecue season approaches, it is good to know that grilled halloumi makes a really super alternative to a beef burger. It is brined so it is quite salty and only needs seasoning with herbs. You can fill warm toasted pitta bread with halloumi and salad for a delicious lunch or brunch dish.

Once cooked, the cheese melts and becomes incredibly delicious, but it hardens up again once it cools, so do serve it right away. It has become infamous for its distinctive squeakiness and rubbery texture once cold, but don’t let this dissuade you from cooking it.

Although it is served in many Mediterranean countries, I’m cooking it a traditional Cypriot way, by scoring the top, grilling it and then drizzling it with honey. It would typically be scattered with thyme leaves, but I’m taking inspiration from the fresh za’atar salads that I tasted in Jordan.

Soft, wild thyme leaves are mixed with lemon juice and oil and a pinch of sumac. The thyme leaves have a very full-on flavour, so I’m diluting it slightly here by mixing them with lettuce leaves. Don’t use the tight, tough thyme, but rather look for a softer, wider-leaved version. Oregano or marjoram are perfect alternatives.

As I moved house quite recently, my herbs are still in pots as we try and decide how to tackle the garden. But they do thrive once planted in the ground. I love having a huge selection of herbs in the garden, or at least an abundance of specific herbs.

Thyme and oregano seem to be the most useful and grow so well. Once picked you can use them right away, or leave them to dry on a wire rack at room temperature for a few days, then store in a jar for the winter months.

A few years back, I saw a tisane bed at the Ballymaloe Cookery School and have been planning on creating my own ever since. Simply fill a large trough or container with earth and plant your favourite plants for making herbal tea. Lemon balm, mint, rosemary, sage and lemon verbena all make beautiful tisanes by infusing the leaves in hot water, and they are all so fragrant too.

My children had little interest in herbs till we took them to a garden centre and let them smell and see the amazing variety available. We came home with pineapple mint, apple mint and their favourite, chocolate mint.

They also love fennel, so it has given them great ownership to be able to identify and eat plants in the garden themselves. I often ask them to get me specific herbs and they’re very happy to set off foraging.

Grilled halloumi with honey and za'atar sald

Serves 2

Ingredients
1 block halloumi
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp honey
4 tbsp thyme leaves
3 handfuls lettuce
Half a lemon, juice of
Half a tsp sumac
2 pitta breads, toasted

Method
1. Slice the halloumi in half horizontally.Place it on a tray and drizzle it with olive oil. Score a criss-cross pattern on the top of each half with a sharp knife. Drizzle with olive oil and place under a hot grill for about five minutes until golden and bubbling.

2. Meanwhile divide the salad leaves and thyme leaves between two bowls and drizzle with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Scatter a pinch of sumac over each bowl.

3. Place a piece of hot halloumi on top and drizzle with honey. Serve right away with a warm toasted pitta bread.

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