Greek: heart-warming traditional recipes, 128pp.
by the Australian Women’s Weekly Kitchens
ACP Books, Sydney, 2012
Cooking on page 32
No way I could resist this cookbook and the recipe on page 32.
I first tasted grilled haloumi (which I call saganaki) in 1976 at the Greek Club in Cairo, Egypt. These rectangles of salty firm cheese—grilled in hot oil and liberally doused in lemon juice—were one of the most amazing taste sensations I had ever experienced.
I had saganaki regularly during the years I lived in Cairo, and often make it at home in Australia. So on with the recipe.
500g (1 pound) haloumi cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Cut cheese into 1cm (1/2-inch) slices. Cook cheese on heated oiled flat plate until browned on both sides.
Transfer cheese to serving plate; drizzle with juice. Serve immediately, sprinkled with parsley.
How it played out
Made half a batch for lunch for Poor John and me.
I sprayed a small cast iron frying pan with olive oil and cooked the rectangles of cheese on high for 2–3 minutes a side. My only problem was that I used a haloumi in brine and they tend to spread and melt a bit before they brown, so mine weren’t as beautiful or firm and they should have been.
Served on a bed of rocket (arugula) with lemon wedges on the side.
Update: Since posting this, several people have said they have found it hard or impossible to find haloumi cheese. Here are some options. The original saganaki is made with graviera, but that cheese is hard to find here. Other firm cheeses that work are kefalograviera, kefalotyri, kasseri, sheep-milk feta, and even firm tofu and paneer. Hope this helps.
Appearance didn’t make one bit of difference to the taste. I love saganaki (grilled haloumi) in any form.
Be sure to use plenty of lemon and eat immediately because they go tough and rubbery if allowed to cool.
If you love cheese in general, you should check out the ropes of unusual cheese we saw in a big market in Bhutan.