You either love halloumi or you don’t know about halloumi. Or maybe you know it exists, but have never tried it, it which case you don’t know about halloumi. You don’t know about the golden-brown crispy exterior, the molten interior, the salty squeakiness. Get schooled.
These are insane. They’re just wildly delicious. Think about it: super gooey, lightly breaded fingers of halloumi, drizzled with sweet chile sauce, scattered with ribbons of mint and lemon zest, and served alongside a smoky-spicy yogurt. Granted, they are a bit of a dairybomb (what with cheese being dipped in yogurt), but if that’s the type of thing you can gird yourself for, do it. I do not usually play favourites with blog recipes, but I cannot possibly be expected to mask my bias here. These are too incredible.
Also, as for the ingredients: harissa is a Middle Eastern chile paste; it can be found in some mainstream grocery stores, but also in ethnic markets as well, particularly those that cater to Middle Eastern or Greek palates. Harissa is quite spicy (for me, anyway), so definitely add it in judiciously, tasting before spooning in more, and adjusting to your personal preference. It makes things smoky and delicious though, so definitely don’t skip it! It combines perfectly with the coolness of the yogurt and the brightness of the lemon zest. Za’atar is a Middle Eastern thyme that often comes mixed with toasted sesame seeds and various other dried spices (sometimes marjoram or oregano, though sumac may also be mixed in). It’s really lovely, but should you not be able to find any, substitute with a mix of dried thyme, a pinch of sea salt, and a good amount of roasted sesame seeds. The sweet chili sauce in the recipe refers to that classic one that you’ve seen at every discount supermarket ever.
Halloumi Sticks w/ Sweet Chile + Harissa Yogurt
Adapted from BBC Good Food
Serves 4 as extremely gluttonous “fry bowls” or 6 if doing as a family-style appetizer
2 x 250 gr blocks halloumi cheese
1 cup all-purpose flour (a good GF all-purpose flour would also substitute in fine)
3 heaping tbsp za’atar
Canola oil, for frying
¾ cup 2% plain Greek yogurt
Harissa paste, to taste
Sweet chile sauce, for drizzling
2 heaping tbsp finely shredded mint leaves
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Cut the halloumi blocks in half so that your knife is running parallel to your cutting surface (creating a top and a bottom half). Now slice each half lengthwise into thick slabs and cut each slab in half to yield thick “fries”. For me, this made about 30 “fries” or sticks. If these cutting instructions make no sense to you, just do what you have to to yield ~30 fat sticks of halloumi. Pat the halloumi dry with paper towels and set aside. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the flour and zaatar. Set aside.
Pour the canola oil into a large skillet to at least ½-inch depth if not more. Let the oil heat to 350 degrees F over medium-high heat (use a thermometer or test by dropping in a cube of bread – it should sizzle and be brown in ~20 seconds). While the oil heats, whisk the yogurt in a small bowl until smooth, then add in harissa paste to taste. Start with ½ tsp harissa and go from there, unless you know that you like things a bit hotter than most.
Place a paper towel-lined cooling rack inside a large baking sheet and set aside. When the oil is nearly ready to fry, start dredging the halloumi sticks in the zaatar-flour mixture, ensuring that all sides are evenly coated. Working in batches, fry the halloumi sticks in the hot oil for 30-40 seconds, turning as needed to crisp up all sides. Set the fried halloumi sticks on the prepared baking sheet and place in the warm oven. Repeat until all batches have been fried.
Serve the halloumi as soon as you can, since the melt factor is always shorter-lived than you think. Arrange the fries in shallow bowls or a large platter. Drizzle with sweet chile sauce (I transferred mine into a cheap squeezy bottle), and garnish with shredded mint and lemon zest. Nestle a little ramekin of harissa yogurt among the sticks. Are you ready for it?