The Melting Potcast: are we obsessed with halloumi?

By Julia Webster and Jess Browne-Swinburne

In every podcast, we unpackage the truth behind one of the UK’s favourite dishes. In this bitesize episode we talk about the very successful squeeky cheese from Cyprus.

Halloumi has a high melting point so it often fried or grilled. Source:  jules on Flickr

Halloumi has a high melting point so it often fried or grilled. Source: jules on Flickr

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VEGGIE MEAT

You'll have noticed it as the go-to meat substitute in veggie burgers. It’s often scattered in your salad, or is a nice addition to your breakfast or brunch. Halloumi is everywhere: from Nando’s to modern Turkish restaurants in Fitzrovia. But what has made this cheese so successful? Some say it’s due to its salty taste and rubbery texture. Others say it's the fact that you can treat it like a piece of meat. It's tough and doesn't melt as easily, so you can fry it, grill it or even bake it. Many a vegetarian has admitted to finding comfort in halloumi when secretly craving bacon. Indeed, who would have thought Brits would be swapping their bacon for cheese? The French must be laughing their heads off.

But the fact is the UK is the biggest consumer of halloumi cheese outside Cyprus, devouring over 40% of all halloumi exports, which is 3 times more than Sweden and 5 times more than Germany.

THE POLITICS OF THE CHEESE

Similarly to hummus, halloumi is also a political issue. In January the government of Cyprus said it was pressing the EU to speed up the process of granting full name protection to halloumi cheese, after an application was filed in 2015. If granted, it would limit the use of the name to halloumi made in Cyprus, like champagne or Parmiggiano Reggiano, which can only be made in specific regions of France and Italy. But it was bad timing. The battle for halloumi, or “hellim” as it's called in Turkish, has created tension between the Turkish and Greek sides for some time. The application was filed amid talks to reunify ethnically-split Cyprus, but the peace talks collapsed in 2017.

HOW HALLOUMI DEVOURED A NATION

In this bitesize episode of the Melting Potcast, Jess Browne-Swinburne spoke to Richard Vines, chief food critic at Bloomberg and author of the article ‘How Halloumi Devoured a Nation’ to find out exactly why the British have gone crazy for this squeaky cheese.

The Melting Potcast is produced by Aisling O’Leary, Jessica Browne-Swinburne
and Julia Webster.

Featuring original music by Gully Trim.