This rich tomato sauce with cubes of fried Cypriot cheese goes great with penne or other short pasta with a good chewy bite.
It is slightly sweet, flavored with cinnamon and mint, and just a little spicy.
- 2 packages Halloumi [see note 1]
- (each 1/2 lb)
- Olive oil, for deep frying
- 2 – 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 Bay leaves
- 3 inches Cinnamon stick, broken into 2 or 3 pieces
- 2 tsp. Cumin seeds
- 2 large Onions, sliced
- 3 cloves Garlic, minced
- 2 Serrano cillies, minced
- 1/2 lb. Mushrooms, sliced
- 1 quart Tomatoes, coarsely chopped [see note 2]
- 1 1/2 tsp. Ground cumin seed
- 1 Tbsp. Oregano, dry
- 1 Tbsp. Mint leaves, dry
- 1 small can Tomato paste
- 1 Cup Water
- 1/2 – 1 tsp. Sugar
- Salt, to taste [see note 3]
- Black pepper, to taste
- Cut halloumi into 1/2 inch cubes. Deep fry in olive oil until golden and lightly browned on edges, much as one treats Paneer. Do this in batches, so that the cubes can be kept from clumping together. Drain on paper towels and put aside. This can be done ahead of time; just refrigerate halloumi in paper towels inside a container until ready to use.
- Heat 2 or 3 Tbsp. of olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add bay leaves, cinnamon, and cumin seeds; fry 30 seconds. Add onions and stir-fry with the spices. After two or three minutes add garlic and chile, and continue stir-frying a few more minutes. Add mushrooms; fry a few minutes, until they change color. Add tomatoes, stir in ground cumin, oregano, and mint. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add tomato paste, stir well to dissolve paste. Gently stir in fried halloumi cubes and simmer 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally and adding the water as needed for the desired consistency. Add sugar, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Halloumi is a white Cypriot cheese with a subtle hint of mint flavor. You can buy packaged halloumi at a local Middle Eastern grocery. If you can’t find any, I think you would get good results using paneer, which is pretty easy to make at home.
- You can use fresh ripe Roma tomatoes when they’re in season In the winter when the only available tomatoes are whitish, rock-hard, and tasteless, you can use canned ones instead, using the extra juice from the can in place of the water.
- Some halloumi is pretty salty, and in this case you will probably not need to add any salt at all.