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Halloumi Pie

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As I mentioned in this post http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/lisa-feinson/thea-eleni_b_978930.html I make Halloumi Pie every now and again, and it always takes me right back to Thea Eleni's kitchen. The second the cheese gets mixed with the mint, there I am again. wide-eyed and hungry, but still too shy to ask for anything.

This is, basically, a variation on the filling from a Greek Easter pastry called a flaouna. I adore them. An addiction was born the first time I tasted one, still warm from the oven.

A brief history: http://kopiaste.org/2008/04/easter-flaounes/ but, annoyingly, no recipe unless you buy the book. Of course.

This link is better. http://kypros.org/Sxetikos/Cookery/Flaounes-AS.htm

In my quest to reproduce these pastries, it became clear that the cheese for the filling is not easily obtainable here in the UK, and even when it is - during our meandering Greek Easter - it is very expensive. I also didn't know the name, which made it more difficult. I asked the family, and they said, quite simply, "it's just called 'cheese for flaounes, agapi mou*." When I did find it, it was £15 for a small piece, and the label did indeed just say "Cheese for Flaounes".

It does have a name, it's called pafitiko, but no-one in my family knew it, and neither did any other Greek I asked.

My Auntie used half halloumi and half cheddar so that's roughly what I do. Probably more halloumi than cheddar. She used the special dough too, but I can't be bothered unless it is Easter. It's that filling that calls me. My greatest success was making these for my Dad one year and he whispered to me that they were better than his girlfriend's version, and, more importantly, as good as his Mother made them.

For a VERY LARGE PIE that filled a 9" x 9" x 2" deep pan.

Enough short crust pastry to line the tin. I don't quite know how much that is as I didn't make it but it was probably about 500g.

3.5 x 250g blocks of halloumi cheese, grated. (I got mine from Asda though most big stores sell it now.)

1 x 250g block mature cheddar

2 tbs finely chopped fresh mint

1 tbs dried mint

2 handfuls of sultanas

2 spring onions very finely chopped

3-4 eggs

½ tsp Bicarbonate of soda

Sesame seeds

Line the baking tin with your choice of pastry and bake for around 15 minutes so that it starts to cook. Cooking it blind stops the base leaking when the egg/cheese mixture goes in.

Mix all the cheeses, herbs, spices, onions and fruit together so the fruit is well distributed.

Crack 2 eggs in, and add the bicarb, mixing it in. Then mix the eggs into the cheeses. It should be wet enough to hold together, but not runny at all so you just have to adjust as you go. I eventually used 4 smallish eggs the first time I made a large pie.

Pile the filling into the case, smooshing it into all the corners, sprinkle with sesame seeds if using then bake for around 40 minutes - non fan oven - or 30 in a fan oven at around 170C.

The centre should be set and firm, not wobbly at all. Leave it to cool a while before slicing, it makes it easier!

I wish I could show you a photograph - oh, wait, I can! Hurrah! Go here and see the pie in all its cheesy glory.

http://cookwitch.blogspot.com/2011/05/halloumi-pie.html

NOTE 1: If you cover the pie with a lid, you will get liquid from the cheese inside it. Halloumi is a very wet cheese, so be warned. The uncovered part lets the steam escape. I know it is tempting to have All The Pastry but hold back a bit. :)

NOTE 2: Easy peasy prep! I have discovered that halloumi and cheddar grate, well, cube into tiny bits, beautifully in the food processor. Do the halloumi, spring onions and mint first, then do the cheddar second else it gets claggy.