From halloumi and courgette sliders to halloumi flatbreads with salsa and rose harissa yoghurt, these vegetarian recipes will please anyone with a soft spot for salty Cypriot cheese.
Some foods are acquired tastes. You might love blue cheese, anchovies or pork scratchings, but you probably understand why they make some people wrinkle their noses.
Other foods, though, bask in near-universal adoration. Chocolate is one. Pasta is another. And halloumi – that salty, chewy Mediterranean cheese made from a mix of sheep and goat’s milk – is yet one more.
Whether flash-fried in a pan on the hob or grilled on a barbecue to charred, crispy, melt-in-the-middle perfection, halloumi goes down a storm with pretty much anyone who eats dairy. Its origins are murky, but it’s believed to have been invented in Cyprus in the Medieval Byzantine period (somewhere between the 4th to the 12th centuries AD) before spreading to neighbouring Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. Today, it’s popular around the world – although strict trademark laws mean that only Cypriot cheese can be sold under the halloumi name in the UK.
Below, you’ll find five vegetarian halloumi recipes guaranteed to put a smile on your face, courtesy of chefs and food writers Genevieve Taylor and Sabrina Ghayour. Happy grilling.
Genevieve Taylor’s courgette and halloumi sliders with tomato and tahini
Genevieve says: “Not proper burgers these, but colourful discs of veg, grilled to perfection, then layered up with all sorts of tasty extras. Shove them into buns, traditional burger-style, or eat ‘naked’, perhaps with a nice green salad. I make these with slices cut from a fat courgette, cutting the halloumi into similar-sized pieces so that they layer up neatly for sandwiching into mini slider rolls.”
Makes 6 little sliders
- 1 fat courgette (zucchini), cut into 18 slices about 5mm (¼ inch) thick
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 250g (9oz) pack of halloumi, cut into 12 pieces
- 4 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
- 4 heaped tsp tahini
- zest of 1 lemon, juice reserved
- 1 tbsp marjoram or oregano leaves, chopped
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 mini slider rolls, sliced
- chilli sauce (optional)
Fire up your barbecue ready for direct grilling, or preheat a castiron griddle pan on the hob over a high heat.
Brush the courgette slices all over with the olive oil and crushed garlic, seasoning with a little salt and pepper. Lay them on the grill bars or on the griddle and cook on the first side until lightly charred and starting to become tender, about 8–10 minutes depending on the heat you have. Turn over the slices and top 12 of them with the halloumi, allowing the underside to cook and the halloumi to become soft and warm.
While the courgette is cooking, make the sauce. In a small bowl mix together the sun-dried tomatoes, tahini, lemon zest and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon this mixture on to the slices of courgette that have no halloumi on them, allowing them to warm up for a couple of minutes or so.
Assemble each stack by layering up the slices in buns, finishing with a final halloumi piece. Squeeze over some lemon juice and add a drizzle of chilli sauce, if you like.
Sabrina Ghayour’s carrot, halloumi & dill balls
Sabrina says: “Rarely do you see carrots fried, so here I’ve combined them with halloumi to make these crispy little balls – perfect with drinks or as part of a feast. Probably one of the best things to have ever happened to the humble carrot, if I’m honest.”
- vegetable oil, for frying
- 2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
- 250g halloumi cheese, coarsely grated
- 1 large egg
- 1 small packet (about 30g) of dill, ﬁnely chopped
- 4 tablespoons plain ﬂour
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- Maldon sea salt ﬂakes and freshly ground black pepper
- salad leaves, to serve
Pour enough vegetable oil into a large saucepan to fill to a depth of 5cm. Heat the oil over a medium-high heat and bring to frying temperature (add a pinch of the mixture: if it sizzles immediately, the oil is hot enough). Line a plate with a double layer of kitchen paper.
Put the grated carrot and halloumi, along with the remaining ingredients, into a mixing bowl and season well with black pepper and just a little salt. Now work the mixture with your hands to combine it well.
When the oil is ready for deep-frying, take roughly 1 tablespoon of the mixture and roll it into a ball that would fit perfectly into the tablespoon measure. Repeat with the remaining mixture. Carefully lower the balls into the hot oil and fry in batches for 2–3 minutes, until deep golden brown.
Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the paper-lined plate to drain. Serve hot with salad leaves.
Genevieve Taylor’s harissa potato, halloumi and asparagus with coriander and lemon oil
Genevieve says: “Waxy salad potatoes, such as Charlotte, work brilliantly on a barbecue or griddle, but you do need to simmer them until tender before grilling. Here they are skewered up with ever-popular halloumi and asparagus and coated in spicy harissa. I used rose-petal-infused harissa because I love it, but any regular harissa paste will be great too.”
Makes 6–8 skewers
- 500g (1lb 2oz) Charlotte (or other salad) potatoes, sliced in half lengthways
- 1 x 250g (9oz) bunch of asparagus, each stalk cut into 3
- 2 x 250g (9oz) packs of halloumi, cut into finger-thick wedges
- 2 tbsp rose harissa paste, or to taste
For the coriander and lemon oil
- 75ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil
- a small bunch of coriander (cilantro), leaves finely chopped (save the stalks for another dish, they are full of flavour)
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- ½–1 tsp caster sugar, to taste
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
You also need
- 6–8 kebab skewers, preferably metal ones
Bring a pan of lightly salted water to the boil and add the potato halves. Cook until just tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 10 minutes, depending on how big they are.
Add the asparagus for the final 30 seconds or so, just to blanch it very briefly. Drain the potatoes and asparagus and put back into the pan. Add the halloumi fingers and harissa and stir gently until evenly coated, taking care not to break up the cheese or potatoes. Thread everything alternately on to the skewers and set aside while you heat up the grill.
Heat up your barbecue for direct grilling, or preheat a cast-iron griddle on the hob. Cook the kebabs over a medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, turning once until evenly charred.
While the skewers are cooking, make the coriander and lemon oil by putting everything into a jug and whisking together with a fork, seasoning to taste with a little sugar, salt and pepper.
Once cooked, transfer the kebabs to a plate and drizzle over the coriander and lemon oil.
Sabrina Ghayour’s grilled halloumi flatbreads with preserved lemon & barberry salsa
Sabrina says: “This is my version of a taco, but with all the punch and vibrancy you would associate with Middle Eastern flavours. You can substitute the halloumi for Indian paneer or tofu. The flatbreads alone are incredibly moreish – you may never buy shop-bought flatbreads again!”
- 2 x 250g blocks halloumi cheese
- 2 tablespoons Greek-style yogurt
- 5cm piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and ﬁnely grated
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- ﬁnely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lime
- good squeeze of lime juice
- vegetable oil
- 1 x recipe ‘Shaken’ Sweet Quick Pickled Onions (see below)
- pul biber chilli ﬂakes, to garnish
- Maldon sea salt ﬂakes and black pepper
For the flatbreads
- 30g unsalted butter, melted
- 175g plain ﬂour
- 100ml semi-skimmed milk
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons garlic granules
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the salsa
- ½ small packet (about 15g) of fresh dill, roughly chopped
- 4 preserved lemons, deseeded and very ﬁnely chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried barberries
- 1 avocado, peeled, stoned and roughly diced
- 2 teaspoons nigella seeds
For the harissa yogurt
- 250g Greek-style yogurt
- 1 heaped tablespoon rose harissa
Cut each block of halloumi into 4 thick, equal slices. Put the yogurt, grated turmeric, crushed garlic and lime zest into a bowl, add the lime juice and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Leave the halloumi slices to marinate while you’re making the flatbreads.
Put all the flatbread ingredients, except the oil, into a mixing bowl and mix until a firm dough has formed. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
To make the salsa, mix the ingredients together in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
To make the harissa yoghurt, mix the ingredients together in another bowl, season with salt and pepper, and chill until ready to serve.
When you’re ready to cook the flatbreads, preheat a large frying pan over a medium heat. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and roll out each piece into a thin round, about 25cm in diameter. Brush the hot pan with olive oil and cook the flatbreads, one at a time, for about 45–60 seconds on each side, or until lightly browned.
In the same frying pan, heat a drizzle of vegetable oil over a medium-high heat. Add the marinated halloumi slices and fry for about 1 minute on each side, or until nicely browned.
Divide the halloumi between the flatbreads and dollop a generous amount of the harissa yogurt on top. Add the salsa and some pickled onions, then sprinkle over some pul biber. Roll up and serve immediately.
Sabrina Ghayour’s ‘shaken’ sweet quick-pickled onions
Sabrina says: “I’m completely addicted to these onions and make them quite often, especially since they are ridiculously easy to prepare. Pile into cheese toasties or sandwiches, toss them into salads or serve with curries, stews and soups.”
Makes a small bowlful
- 1 large red onion, halved and very thinly sliced into half moons
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon pul biber chilli ﬂakes
- generous amount of Maldon sea salt flakes
Combine all the ingredients in a lidded plastic container. Close the lid tightly and shake vigorously for a couple of minutes until the onion slices soften, then serve. Keep refrigerated for up to 2 days in a sealed container.
Genevieve Taylor’s jerk-spiced plantain, shallot and halloumi
Genevieve says: “I often make my own jerk spice paste, as I like the extra flavour and chilli heat you get from mixing it fresh, but you can very easily substitute a ready-blended spice mix. In which case use around 2–3 tablespoons of jerk spice seasoning blended to a paste with olive oil.
“If you have a plancha, this is an ideal time to use it, as these kebabs can stick a little. If not, never mind, just oil the grill bars or griddle with a little vegetable oil before setting the kebabs on top and be prepared to ease them off with a fish slice. They will still taste fabulous.”
Makes 6–8 kebabs
- 2 large ripe plantain, each cut into 9 slices
- 2 x 250g (9oz) packs of halloumi, each cut into 9 cubes
- 3 large banana shallots, sliced into 1cm (½ inch) thick rings
For the jerk spice paste
- 2.5cm (1 inch) piece of fresh root ginger, finely grated
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1–2 Scotch bonnet chillies, finely chopped (seeds removed for less heat), to taste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp ground allspice
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp paprika (unsmoked)
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped
- 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- a little fresh thyme, leaves picked from stalks
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
You also need
- 6–8 skewers, preferably metal ones
To make the jerk spice paste, put the ginger, garlic, chillies and olive oil into a large mixing bowl and stir together. Add the allspice, cinnamon, paprika, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper and stir well to mix.
Add the plantain, halloumi and shallots to the spice paste and gently toss together so everything is evenly coated. Thread everything alternately on to the skewers, setting them on a plate as you go. Ideally, set aside for an hour or so to marinate.
Once you are ready to cook, fire up your barbecue ready for direct grilling or preheat a griddle pan on the hob.
Grill the kebabs for a few minutes each side, until the halloumi is crisp and everything is nicely browned. Sprinkle over the thyme leaves and squeeze over a little lime juice before serving.