Uprooting oneself and moving to the other side of the world is a delicate business. Like repotting a plant, it’s relatively easy to pull up a life by its stem and place it elsewhere. But it takes time, attention, the right conditions and a welcoming environment for a life to thrive in its new location.
I’ve spent the last three months finding a good pot to plant myself in back home in Australia. The desire I felt in NYC to slow down and focus on the things that make me happy has lead me to something new: a country life.
Last week I moved to Kyneton, a small town nestled in the Macedon Ranges, about an hour from Melbourne. 6,629 other people live here, which is around 8.2 million less than New York City. I have traded in my Brooklyn apartment for a large weatherboard home with a garden that boasts an apple and pear tree, and my new oven is roughly the same size as my Williamsburg kitchen (only a slight exaggeration). Life is definitely slower. And so far, I’m loving it.
All this decision-making and moving is hunger making work. And as Spring unfurled its petals here in Australia I found myself craving comfort food, but on the lighter side. Well, lighter if you call adding some mint and lemon to a lovely, fried hunk of cheese “light”.
Halloumi is a cheese from Cyprus that has a high melting point, which means it can be grilled or fried and still hold its shape. It is packed in brine which provides a deliciously salty flavour and its firm texture is most satisfying to bite into (it kind of squeaks in your mouth). Frying it is super simple, you just need a pan and some oil. You can coat the halloumi in seasoned flour to make it crispier when fried, which is a fine thing to do if you can be bothered (I usually can’t).
Fried halloumi is a great alternative to grilled meat for vegetarians at your BBQ. It can also provide some heartiness to salads, turning them into a main meal.
I paired the halloumi with a vibrant topping of mint, lemon and garlic. This bright addition complements the smooth, mild flavour of the cheese and when served alongside some crusty bread and leafy greens, it makes a perfect lunch. It could also be served as a starter.
Many supermarkets in Australia now stock halloumi, thanks to our large Greek population. In the U.S you can pick some up at Wholefoods, try your local cheesemonger or substitute the Latin American version, queso para freir.
Fried Halloumi with Mint Gremolata
Serves 4, takes 20 minutes max
- 200g (7 oz) halloumi
- 1/2 cup mint (loosely packed)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 – 1 clove garlic (depending on your taste for raw garlic)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Olive oil
Prepare the gremolata by finely chopping the mint, lemon zest and garlic together. Set aside.
Unpack the halloumi and pat it dry with paper towel (this will help it brown nicely). Cut the halloumi into four rectangles by cutting the large rectangle into two smaller ones, then slicing them so they’re half as thick.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat and place the four slices in the pan. Fry until the cheese forms a lovely golden colour then turn the slices over and do the same on the other side. This should only take 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan.
Serve immediately by sprinkling the fried cheese with the gremolata, squeezing lemon juice over the lot and finishing off with a generous glug of olive oil. Serve with crusty bread and a simple green salad.