Monday, 21 September 2015

Making and using Halloumi cheese

Recently I was sent a halloumi making kit, made by The Big Cheese Making Kit Company, to test for a project on the craft and food website Cut Out + Keep. You can see the recipes I made with it on the following pages:

Halloumi with Cherry Tomato Sauce
Panko Crumbed Halloumi with Yellow Tomato Sauce
Halloumi and Cherry Tomato Tarts
Making Halloumi Cheese

I've often fancied making cheese but was put off by the vast quantities involved. Take this recipe from an old book in my collection which begins "Take 50 gallons of milk (24 gallons of evening milk which must be cooled down to 60 degrees F, and 26 gallons of morning milk)...."

However this kit uses 4 litres of milk to make around 900g of cheese, a much more manageable quantity. The milk MUST be unhomogenised, and for this cheese it needs to be gold top milk, that rich creamy milk that has dropped out of favour these days. But most supermarkets still stock small amounts of it. You will need to check the bottle carefully though - the most popular brand comes in two varieties, in similar looking bottles, the "cream on top" variant which is the correct one to use, and the "cream blended in" variant which apparently won't work for this recipe. Some of the major supermarket chains only stock the second type - I've found the unhomogenised one in Waitrose, Asda and Ocado.

The milk is the only ingredient you need to supply, everything else is in the kit. The equipment you will need is simple - a large deep pan, a colander and a large bowl.
The step by step instructions are very easy to follow - first you heat the milk  and then place the pan of milk in a water bath (ie a sink full of warm water!)  and add the rennet, then leave it to separate.
Then you cut the curd into small pieces and reheat the mixture to a slightly higher temperature. After a short standing time, the curds and whey are separated using the butter muslin provided and a colander. The whey is returned to the pan.
After cutting  the cheese into large slices, it is returned to the pan of whey and gently poached at just below simmering point, then  it is drained on a rack and salted ready for use.

Ignore the mesh marks on my cheese - when I make the next batch I'll line the rack with muslin so it won't happen again!

The results were very successful, a really rich, creamy tasting cheese with that traditional halloumi "squeak". In terms of cost, it does work out cheaper than buying ready made halloumi, even taking the price of the kit into account, but it is also quite time consuming so I wouldn't use one of these kits to save money. However I found the whole process thoroughly enjoyable - relaxing, interesting and fascinating. The alchemy of starting out with a load of milk and ending up with something with a totally different texture and taste is something you can only understand if you experience it. I think it would be a great way of teaching children about how  their food is made, although the hot pans and careful temperature control needed mean they couldn't be left to work alone.

My only regret about the kit? After finishing making the cheese, I thoughtlessly poured the whey down the drain. If I'd not done that, I would have been munching on a buttermilk scone as I typed this!

Halloumi is a very versatile cheese as it can be cooked without melting. This makes it very popular sliced and fried. As well as doing this, I used some of it to top tomato tarts, and covered some in panko breadcrumbs, fried it and served with a yellow tomato sauce. For full details of the recipes, follow the links at the top of this post, and for more great ideas using either home made or bought halloumi, you can see the other testers' recipes here.

1 comment:

Di said...

Oh my word Jane - what fun this looks!! Sadly, I adore halloumi but Len's not so keen. Maybe I'll have a play sometime anyhow and see if he can be tempted :)


Di xx