Friday, 14 May 2010

Forging Fromage - Halloumi

Volcanoes? Don't talk to ME about bloody volcanoes! Volcanoes are the reason why this month's Forging Fromage challenge had to be delayed a week. Volcanoes and the inefficiencies of Parcelforce.

You see, this month we made halloumi. Lovely, squeaky, creamy halloumi. And as I read the recipe my heart sank - this was by far the most complex cheese I had attempted! I needed some more supplies: starter culture, a draining mat, some more cheesecloth, measuring spoons for very small quantities. So in ample time I placed an order with Leeners. Then the volcano under Eyjafjallajokull glacier had insufficient virgin sacrifices or whatever and blew its top, providing a significant embuggerance to the airmail system into the UK. I waited for the skies to clear.

After a couple of weeks I dropped a polite email to Leeners, who sent me a very prompt reply with a tracking number which stated that the parcel was in the UK and I should have it. Hmmm.

Eventually it transpired that it had been waiting for me at the post office for two weeks. But as they hadn't left a card when they attempted delivery (or rather, they did but it had the wrong address, no name and no tracking information on it) I hadn't known it was there, and because of the fucking volcano it hadn't occurred to me to make enquiries any earlier.

Paul went to fetch it for me, whereupon it turned out that cheesecloth makes an excellent shock-absorber, as he hit a pothole and went base over apex over his handlebars, landing squarely on my parcel. With no damage to husband or parcel. Very eventful cheese making!

So last weekend I had the wherewithal, and I forged fromage!

I made a half quantity, because I don't have a big enough saucepan for 2 gallons of milk.

There's a frisson to cheesemaking. You add the rennet (I used vegetarian rennet, on the offchance that I would be serving this cheese to vegetarian friends), and then YOU CAN'T STIR IT TO SEE IF IT IS WORKING. The impulse is to prod it to see if it is set but you can't because that might stop it from setting. Honestly, you wouldn't believe the emotional highs and lows. And I am not just saying this to hide the fact that I am a slightly sad person who makes cheese on her weekends.

When I was eventually allowed to cut the curds, they had set beautifully.

After I cooked the curd, and drained it, I was delighted to find that at that stage they already had the characteristic halloumi squeak. Very gratifying! It's traditional to add some dried mint to halloumi, but I didn't. Because I forgot to get any.

When I'd read the recipe, one of the things that had scared me was the weighting of the cheese. It was very precise - an hour at 30lbs, then an hour at 40lbs. I ended up rigging an effective cheese-draining contraption. A baking tin, with a cake rack in it. Bamboo draining mat on the cake rack. Egg rings lined with cheesecloth on the draining mat. I filled the eggrings with the drained curds, pressing down firmly but letting the curds mound up above the rims and folded over the cheesecloth. Then on each curd-filled egg ring I placed a can of tomatoes, wrapped in cling film. On top of THAT I balanced a wooden cheeseboard, and 15kgs of dumbell weights.

After the first hour, I turned the cheeses out of the eggrings, and re-built the structure, in a simplified form. No egg rings, no cans of tomatoes, just the cheeseboard, the weights and an additional 7kgs of dumbell weights.

At about this point I was reminded of Rule Number 1 of cooking: Always Read The Recipe The Whole Way Through. I had neglected to do this. So I suddenly discover that there is talk of heating the cheeses in whey, and talk of brine, but no actual connection between the two things. Fortunately Canada was awake and Natashya came to my aid quicksmart.

The end result? Glorious, creamy, salty cheese! But I do think that I should have cooked the cheeses in a whey brine and then allowed it to dry. While the texture is spot on for eating raw, they are a bit too wet to fry to that beautiful golden crust that halloumi gets. It did melt into lovely long pizza-cheese strings though.

We served it, fried to melting, on top of wholemeal spaghetti, tossed with pesto and spring vegetables (artichoke hearts, courgettes and asparagus, cooked in olive oil and lemon juice).

Keep an eye on Forging Fromage to see the round-up, and also next month's challenge!
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24 comments:

Peter M said...

What a wonderful experience and the Halloumi you made looks like the real-deal!

girlichef said...

See. Always an adventure ;)!! Your halloumi turned out beautifully...and funny that it was on the wetter side as mine was on the drier. Huhn. Great job!

Beth (Jam and Clotted Cream) said...

Wow - you made Halloumi. It looks really good

kat said...

Wow, great work! The weighing down of the cheese scares me too.

Foodycat said...

Peter - thanks! It certainly tastes like the real McCoy!

Heather - I saw that you said yours was dry. Bizarre!

Beth - thanks!

Kat - It's very doable. And of course you could always exercise with the weights later...

Taste of Beirut said...

I had no idea it was possible to make the halloum at home! I may do just that during my hours of leisure this summer in the mountains in Lebanon! Sounds like fun!

Johanna said...

Like, WOW! I have already logged in Leener's to see whether they send stuff to Greece as well. Your halloumi looks fantastic. When are you making Camembert??

Debinhawaii said...

Very impressive! Your halloumi is gorgeous. I think I am too much of an emotional wreck to be a successful cheesemaker! ;-)

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Wow, what an epic endeavour! And don't even get me started on Parcelforce...

Well done for persevering - the cheese looks great, and at least you know now what to do just to finish it off. Great stuff!

Foodycat said...

Taste of Beirut - if you have the time, I would recommend it!

Johanna - I think camembert is even scarier! I'll settle for cheddar.

Deb - try it and see.

Forkful - yes, parcelforce deserves a whole other post!

Justin said...

i can't believe you actually made your own... very cool

Jude said...

You have amazing perseverance! I'd never have got going with all those setbacks. It looks wonderful, well done!

Mary said...

What a wonderful post for us and what a wonderful challenge for you. The halloumi looks terrific. You did some rabbit tricks that worked well for you. I'm in awe that you were able to make it at all, but then I'm an admitted coward. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Teresa Cordero Cordell said...

Foodycat, you are so frigging smart. And patient too. What an adventure just to make some cheese, delicious looking cheese at that. I admire your tenacity. :)

You asked me about the "Pocket" in making the gorditas. Yes, they form on their own when frying. They're really quite tasty and made for any filling your heart desires.

Foodycat said...

Justin - thanks!

Jude - I was pretty close to throwing my toys out of the pram.

Mary - thank you!

Teresa - I am going to have to make them. Thank you!

Gemma said...

I can't believe you made halloumi! This looks incredible. I am officially in awe...

Joanne said...

Making this cheese sounds like an emotional roller coaster! But you did so well with it...it looks just as it should, and probably tastes even better!

Foodycat said...

Gemma - thanks! I'm pretty amazed that I did it too.

Joanne - there is definitely satisfaction in DIY cheese. Especially when it tastes good!

grace said...

my, my, your halloumi had to jump quite a few hurdles, didn't it! ah, but it was clearly worthy the time and energy--it looks and sounds like a heavenly cheese.

mscrankypants said...

Best use of barbell weights. Ever.

:-)

Foodycat said...

Grace - definitely worth the effort!

Cranky - I know! Makes it worth while having them.

Simona said...

Nice job! I will try making halloumi once my hectic schedule settles a bit. Read the recipe all the way through is a good piece of advice. I am still recovering from the last time I did not do it. Very nice photos!

Choclette said...

How fantastically intrepid of you. The cheese looks wonderful despite all the stress of getting your equipment together. I did have a good giggle though, great writing. I must say I was under the impression that Halloumi was boiled.

Foodycat said...

Simona - with all your cheese making experience it'll be a cinch!

Choclette - well it is cooked, but not actually boiled. Or it wasn't in this recipe any way!

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