Celebrate cheese month

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By Jan Bilton

Our cheese choices are becoming more sophisticated and eclectic. Gone are the days when mass-produced ‘bricks’ dominated. According to supermarket research and the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association — speciality cheese purchases are up over seven per cent in both sales and volume in one year.

Halloumi is one variety rapidly growing in popularity. Sometimes referred to as the ‘feta of Cyprus’, it is an excellent cooking cheese. Salty and semi-firm, halloumi can be quickly cooked on a grill or in a frying pan and is a wonderful vegetarian option for snacks or mains.

Blue cheese remains popular for nibbles at five o’clock. (Try it cubed and skewered with watermelon.) There is now a wide range to choose from. If you’re new to blue cheese, then the mild Puhoi Blue Brie is an excellent option. If you like your cheese bold, then you will relish Kapiti’s award-winning Kikorangi. And there are plenty of taste treats in between.

To ensure maximum enjoyment, table cheese should be removed from the refrigerator at least an hour before serving.

HALLOUMI TOASTS

The smooth antipasto mixture on the base of the toasts gives a flavour boost to the cheese.

Halloumi Toasts

4-8 asparagus spears, trimmed

4 generous slices ciabatta

1/2 large avocado, stoned, peeled and cubed

1/2 cup good vinaigrette

11/2 cups baby rocket

8 mint leaves

200g Whitestone Ferry Road Halloumi

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

4-6 tablespoons Barkers Sundried Tomato & Capers Antipasto or similar

Blanch the asparagus until crisp-tender. Cool in icy water. Lightly toast the ciabatta. Sprinkle the avo with a little vinaigrette. Place the rocket and mint in a bowl.

Slice the halloumi into 8 equal pieces. Brush with olive oil. Heat the remaining oil in a ridged frying pan. Fry the halloumi for about 1 minute each side, until golden.

Spread the toasted ciabatta with the antipasto mixture. Top with the well-drained asparagus and the avo. Toss the rocket and mint in the remaining vinaigrette and place on the avo. Top with the halloumi. The toasts can be sprinkled with a few chilli flakes, if preferred. Serves 4 as a light meal.

  • Jan Bilton is an award-winning, professional food writer. For more of her recipes visit her website here.

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