You know, I’ve never really given the melting point of cheese a huge amount of thought. Until now, that is.
It started with the runny camembert experiment. Having recently discussed the ethics of using a microwave to encourage camembert into a state of runniness, I just had to try it out for myself. I was quite surprised that no more than a few seconds worth of exposure to those micro-waves was enough to reduce a formerly upstanding wedge of camembert to utter gloop.
Not long thereafter, and clearly being in a dairy products frame of mind, I decided to have a snack of some fried halloumi cheese. This cheese from Cyprus, made from a mixture of goat’s, sheep’s and sometimes cow’s milk, is salty (somewhat like feta) but has a texture more like mozzarella. It’s very much at the other end of the melting spectrum from camembert and its high melting point means that it’s very suitable for grilling and frying, as the slices retain their shape, despite the heat of the pan. If you’ve not tried halloumi (and can get your hands on it), it’s delicious fried in butter until golden and splashed with some lemon juice.
In between camembert and halloumi, there are, of course, a myriad of other cheeses, all with varying degrees of meltability. Towards the solid end of the scale, I think of chunks of paneer in Indian curries, while that ultimate expression of melted cheese, the fondue, is likely to have gruyere and emmental swishing about in the mix. My favourite quattro formaggi pizza would have little islands of melty gorgonzola and ricotta merging into the mozzarella and all dressed with a coating of grated parmesan that just seems to go straight to the golden crusty stage in the heat of the oven. And last, but not least, there’s the humble cheese-on-toast. While there are as many variations of cheese-on-toast as there are cheeses and breads (a la Mrs Marv’s recent Grilled Cheese Manifesto), we generally want something that’s going to melt without too much encouragement and, yes, cheddar fits the bill nicely, among many others.
Halloumi Cheese with Portobello Mushrooms
My good friend Cheb was the first to introduce me both to halloumi and the tasty combination of halloumi and portobello mushrooms. I’ve added some garlic and thyme to the mushrooms, but leave out if you prefer.
- 1x250g block of halloumi
- Butter for frying
- 4 portobello mushrooms
- About 2 tblsps butter
- 1 clove garlic
- About 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- Olive oil for coating
- Lemon wedges
- Preheat the oven to 200C.
- Mince the garlic and mix it with the thyme leaves and butter.
- Wipe the mushrooms clean, remove the stems, brush the caps with some olive oil and spread the gill-side with the garlic butter mixture.
- Roast the mushrooms, gill side up, in the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until they start to turn golden brown around the edges.
- While the mushrooms are cooking, heat some more butter in a frying pan over a medium heat.
- Cut the halloumi into slices about 0.5cm to 1cm thick and fry in the butter until golden, about 5 minutes each side.
- Serve the mushrooms and halloumi with wedges of lemon and sprinkle with the juice before eating.
- Makes a snack for 4 or add some fresh tomato salad, ciabatta rolls and maybe some kalamata olives for lunch or brunch.