I used to baby sit my littlest niece a couple of days a week while I was studying at uni. So I was kind of an expert in little kid speak; but then one day, she stumped me.
She told me she wanted squeaky cheese.
Squeaky cheese? She nodded her little head emphatically. Yep, she wanted squeaky cheese, whatever the hell that was.
So I picked her up, opened the fridge, and asked her to find the squeaky cheese for me. Like the little monkey she was she scooted higher and stuck her head in the fridge, coming back out with a block of haloumi.
That’s when it clicked. The high salt content in haloumi actually makes the cheese squeak as you chew, hence, squeaky cheese!
Haloumi is a half goat-half sheep’s milk cheese with a higher than normal saltiness usually found in other semi-soft cheeses. It apparently originated in Cypress but there are many variations across the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Haloumi also has quite a high melting point, making it perfect for frying and grilling, aka saganaki.
So that’s what I did. I grilled some ‘squeaky cheese’ for my little niece and she quite happily munched away, giggling every time she chewed a bite, whilst watching Bananas in Pyjamas.
But what do you do when the four year old in question refuses to eat anything else but squeaky cheese?
You cut up the haloumi and you hide it in a salad, creating what will forever be known as squeaky cheese salad!
This is quite a fresh salad, despite the saltiness of the haloumi. It is also deceptively filling and is great as a light dinner.
Haloumi Garden Salad
Serves 2 as a light meal and 4 as a side salad
- 180g haloumi* (sliced into eight strips)
- 250g baby spinach
- 250g cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
- ½ a cucumber (cut into quarters)
- 1 avocado (chopped)
- 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 4 tablespoons lemon oil**
- Heat the lemon oil in a small heavy-based frying pan over medium-low heat.
- Add the haloumi strips.
- While the haloumi is cooking, place the baby spinach in a salad bowl and cover with the balsamic vinegar. Toss to coat.
- Check the haloumi. If the strips have become golden brown on one side, flip them over and cook the other side. If not, continue to watch the strips carefully until then need to be turned.
- Add the cherry tomatoes, cucumber and avocado to the baby spinach. Mix gently.
- Remove the haloumi strips when they are golden brown on both sides and place them on some paper towels to drain the excess oil.
- Divide the salad amongst the bowls. Top with haloumi strips. Serve while the cheese is still warm.
* There is also a chilli haloumi available, which adds a lovely heat to salad.
** If you don’t have or cannot find lemon oil, you can use extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil. If lemon oil is not used, squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the haloumi as it drains.
You could always make lemon oil – add the zest of one large lemon to one cup of olive oil. Heat in a small saucepan over medium heat for ten minutes, but do not allow the oil to reach a simmer. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain the lemon zest from the oil and store the lemon-infused oil in a clean jar in a cool and dark place.