Grilled Halloumi cheese with Zaa’tar and roasted red pepper coulis


I’ve asked this question before – let me ask it again:  who the heck is Valentine’s Day meant to please?  Single people feel depressed at being left out of all the saccharine togetherness; and people in relationships feel depressed because their relationships don’t measure up to the fantasy portrayed by the media – or resentful because they are expected to eat underwhelming food in overpriced restaurants masquerading as special Valentine’s menus.  The only people getting any joy are the Hallmark Cards shareholders!


So a couple of years ago I decided to start a new Valentine’s tradition – instead of waiting for flowers or chocolates, I decided to stay home and invite a bunch of friends round for lunch or dinner.  That way nobody gets to sit home alone on Valentine’s Day, and nobody has to waste a ton of money on overpriced meals while packed into restaurants with the world and its uncle.  Needless to say, the quality of my Valentine’s meals has improved vastly since I made this decision!


This year, we kept the theme vaguely middle-Eastern/north-African and started with this delightful dish from my friend Beth of Dirty Kitchen Secrets (one of the organisers of Food Blogger Connect 2010 – remember to register now to hear me speak at FBC10 in June!).  There is nothing I don’t love about this dish – it’s quick to make, it’s packed with fabulous flavours, it’s pretty to look at and not too rich.

Zaa’tar is a Middle-Eastern spice blend prepared using ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds and salt, though other spices might also be added.






750g halloumi cheese, sliced lengthwise into 12 slices
6 red bell peppers
1.5 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons zaa’tar
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
pita bread, cut into small triangles




Halve and seed the bell peppers and place them skin side up under a hot grill until they start to char and blacken.  Once they are fairly evenly charred, remove from the oven and place them in a ziplock bag and seal tightly. Set aside for about 5 minutes to cool.  When they are cool enough to handle, peel them and slice into strips.


Pre-heat the oven to 350F/180C.  Place the bell pepper strips, garlic, lemon juice and cayenne pepper in a food processor and blitz until you have a smooth puree.  Allow to cool to room temperature.


Place the pita triangles on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or till crispy.  In the mean time, mix the zaa’tar well with olive oil till it is well incorporated.


Heat a heavy bottomed pan and lightly wipe the base with some olive oil. Place the halloumi cheese slices in the pan and cook for about 2 minutes, then over and repeat on the other side.


To assemble, plate the  hot halloumi cheese on the bell pepper coulis, drizzle liberally with the zaa’tar mixture and then top with the crispy pita crisps.  Use any leftover coulis to decorate the plate or store it in the fridge to use as on pizzas or pasta.


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  1. says

    Squeaky cheese my children call this. I have not cooked with za’atar before……my hunt for it will start at Atlas today, maybe I’m lucky!!

  2. says

    Lovely cheese + sweet-tart spiciness! Ah, well, Valentine’s day usually has me cooking dinner for my parents, sooo.. It’s not so bad :)

  3. says

    Oh Jeanne I’m so honored that this made it onto your blog! So glad you enjoyed it! Hope you are having a wonderful time in SA! I saw all the pics from the conference looks like a terrific success and cocktail of fun! well done!

  4. says

    I’m going to have to check the ‘international’ section of my cheese counter for this. We always order it at Greek restautarnts (which is never in our corner of Frence). As to the red pepper coulis – love it. I cheat and used pimientos from a jar LOL

  5. says

    What a lovely dish! I love this cheese, and normally just heat it up and eat it with bread. I love the way you add so much more to this dish. I look forward to trying this dish very soon.

  6. says

    Ok, I was really tempted to try this recipe when I first saw it on Beth’s blog. But now when I see it on your blog too, I just have to give it a go. Luckily, I have halloumi in the fridge! :)

  7. says

    I have never had halloumi but I am dying to try it although I have no idea where I would find it! This is a yummy yummy dish! We don’t do Valentine’s Day though for some strange reason husband does buy me flowers and cooks for me.

  8. says

    What a nice Valentine’s tradition. (Btw, the link to Beth’s site has a fault.) Have you read the book, Waiter Rant, yet? It was quite informative, especially the chapter on the big con of Valentine’s. Have never come across Zaa’tar before but now I know better.