Andrea Burgener shares one of her favourite recipes
Good haloumi cheese is sublime. It's at its optimum eaten hot, when the salty, squeaky fattiness is as good as duck fat. Sadly, most of the stuff available is pretty disappointing.
Of course it would be bonkers to expect haloumi in 2017 South Africa to be the same as its Cypriot ancestors (for a start it's not made from unpasteurised milk from sheep and goats).
And of course there are different versions (even in Cyprus nowadays, much haloumi is made from cow's milk, and aged haloumi is used in a way similar to Parmesan: grated over dishes).
But whatever the version, it should have great flavour and texture, which means ignoring most of the stuff available.
For a glorious haloumi experience, head to Parea Taverna in Illovo, Johannesburg. They cook the cheese over fire and you can imagine how wonderfully that smokiness works with the oily, salty sharpness. You can happily skip the kleftiko lamb with this on the menu.
As we move towards winter, and citrus fruits get more delicious and less expensive, my favourite way to enjoy haloumi is pan-fried or braaied with oranges, mint and chilli. The salty, oily hot cheese against the fresh sharpness of the oranges and the burn of the chilli makes it quite addictive. A little lemon squeezed over it never hurts.
Some people worry over the saltiness of haloumi. Fear not! As with so much of the dietary advice concocted in the latter half of the 20th century, when things took a wrong turn, the recommendation to cut salt was never based on controlled clinical studies.
In fact the research that does now exist points more strongly to low sodium chloride intake being bad for us. Unless you have crazily high blood pressure (which by the way is not caused by salt) or malfunctioning kidneys, anything resembling the realistic levels you would take in with pretty salty food is just fine.
Natural salt, rather than salt laced with additives such as anti-caking agents, is obviously best, so as usual the rule is: eat real food.
Haloumi with oranges, mint & chilli
8 generous slices of haloumi
4 oranges, peeled, all pith removed, and sliced very thinly (across the lines of latitude)
2 Thai chillies, sliced very thin, placed in a few tablespoons of salted olive oil
Handful of mint leaves
Drizzle of olive oil for cooking (if cooking in a pan)
1) Spread orange slices on a platter.
2) Cook the cheese until golden-brown on both sides, either in an oiled pan or on a braai grid (tricky but if you turn the pieces carefully, all will be well).
3) Place haloumi onto oranges, scatter chilli oil and mint all over, and eat - this part is important - with great haste.
• This article was originally published in The Times.