Prep time: 15 minutes
About this recipe
Take a look at the life lesson that inspired this recipe – you can find it here.
This recipe is one of my favourite emulsions – it’s quick, easy and has a comfortable amount of closeness to classic Genovese pesto. Halloumi and mint have got a good amount of flavour distance from each other: the cheese is mild and fresh mint is sprightly. But they also have an inbuilt close affinity, with a ready-made relationship from day one – my aunt used to make halloumi cheese in Cyprus and traditionally a single mint leaf was placed into the fold of the cheese when it was pressed and shaped at the end. On the topic of ‘shaking things up’, I think the best thing you can do with halloumi is not grill it, but grate it – it’s a lovely way to showcase its mellow salty flavour, and the texture of the grate feels soft and snowy.
Here, blanched mint, with just a little water left on the leaves, emulsifies more easily to produce a smoother creamier sauce. Halloumi is a great emulsifier because it contains high levels of casein proteins. Who’d have thought that squeaky cheese could be so stabilising.
- 110g fresh mint (leaves only)
- 15g toasted pine nuts
- 20g finely-grated halloumi cheese
- 1 small clove garlic, crushed
- 130ml olive oil
- Zest of ½ lemon
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Pinch of salt (optional – it depends on how salty your halloumi is, taste it first)
This recipe will make about 200g (a supermarket pot’s worth)
- Blanch the mint leaves for a few seconds in a bowl of boiling water. Remove and spread onto kitchen paper to absorb the excess water. Place another piece of kitchen paper on top and pat gently. Leave to cool for a few minutes.
- Place the damp mint leaves and pine nuts into a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the grated halloumi and the garlic and pulse again.
- Scrape the mixture out of the food processor into a bowl and drizzle in the olive oil, stirring as you go – you may need slightly more or less (depends on the viscosity of the oil). Stop adding oil when the pesto’s texture is soft and oozy, and it flops off a spoon.
- Stir in the lemon juice and zest, and, if you need it, a pinch of salt. The pesto will keep for a good week in the fridge, in an airtight container.