My camp crew huddled around the camp stove to scrutinize the hors d’oeuvres I was preparing. Everyone delighted in the coveted whitetail tenderloin sizzling on the Camp Chef grill box, but most raised an eyebrow at the cheese I was cooking to serve with the meat.
Halloumi cheese has a high melting temperature, making it ideal for frying. It is a Greek cheese, usually made from goat and sheep milk, but in North America, we often find a blend of cow’s milk in the mixture. It is an unripe, brined cheese, which is firm and if tried right out of the fridge it has a squeaky texture against your teeth. But where this cheese shines most is in a Camp Chef cast iron frying pan.
How could an avid outdoors enthusiast, and wild game connoisseur go wrong with fried cheese? It is salty on its own but plate it with a tender, moist and flavorful piece of meat, a bite-sized tomato and a fresh basil lead, and you have yourself a winner. The fried cheese is often served on salads, but here is a recipe for appetizers you are sure to make on a regular basis.
• 2 whitetail tenderloins (a good cut of tender steak also works)
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 1 clove garlic, crushed
• 1 Tbsp lemon juice
• ¼ tsp seasoned pepper
• 6 oz. halloumi cheese
• 16 cherry tomatoes
• 16 basil leaves
1. Mix the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and pepper to make a marinade for the meat in a sealable bag. Add the meat and toss until thoroughly covered. Let the meat marinade for at least one hour.
2. Slice halloumi cheese into ¼-inch thick pieces and fry in a cast iron pan. Do not get impatient and try to turn the cheese early, as it will develop a nicely browned surface with a light crust making it easy to release from the pan, and then turn to brown the other side.
3. Grill the marinated meat at 400°F for three minutes per side, which should cook them to medium-rare.
4. Stick a cocktail or hors d’oeuvre skewer through the center of a cherry tomato, followed by a basil leaf. Cut the grilled meat into 1-inch thick pieces and insert onto skewers. Put a 1-inch long piece of fried halloumi cheese on the skewer to finish the presentation for serving. The ingredients make 16 separate servings.
The unique blend of fresh flavors is sure to be a hit amongst venison and cheese enthusiasts alike. The recipe concept can be altered to use venison meatballs, duck or grouse breasts, or any of your favorite game meats.
Halloumi cheese was also made by other cultures, meaning there are different spellings. When checking your local deli for cheese watch for halloumi, haloumi, or haloum labels. There could be other variations, but all have similar spelling. Halloumi cheese is commonly found unseasoned, but it is also often flavored with chili, jalapeno, Indian spice, or herb and garlic. The extra spices are added to the exterior of the cheese and not blended throughout. That means you can flavor the plain variety with your favorite spices and herbs to satisfy everyone at home or in hunting camp.
A big thank you to Sarah Burdon, from Glen Dene Hunting & Fishing for introducing me to halloumi cheese. I had never paid attention to halloumi cheese in the grocery store or deli in the past but actively search for unique brands and different spices and seasonings used on the cheese.