An exotic take on an Aussie staple

Karen Martini
Spiced lamb shank and haloumi pie.
Spiced lamb shank and haloumi pie. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Originally from Cyprus, haloumi is a brined cheese that has a distinctive squeaky texture and salty tang. It's great for frying because of a high melting point, but it also has lots of other cooking applications and works brilliantly in salads.

Spiced lamb shank and haloumi pie

These are really elegant and flavourful little pies: sticky, rich and layered with spice. They're perfect dinner-party fare. Do all the hard work ahead of time and they will take only 10 minutes or so in a hot oven.

4 lamb shanks

2 tbsp cumin seeds, roughly ground

salt flakes

extra virgin olive oil

2 carrots

1 bulb garlic, cut in half crossways

500ml chicken stock


2 bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

6 allspice berries

3 tbsp honey

150g butter

3 leeks, trimmed and washed, sliced into 1cm rounds

6 cloves garlic, sliced

2 pinches saffron

250g haloumi cheese, finely diced

1 large bunch coriander, picked and chopped

1 packet filo pastry

12 vine leaves, rinsed and dried (available in jars from Greek or Mediterranean delis)

1 cup thick, plain unsweetened yoghurt

2 tsp tahini

1 handful pomegranate seeds, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.

2. Rub the shanks with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cumin, salt and oil. Place on a roasting tray. Add the whole carrots and garlic bulb. Roast until golden, about 30 minutes.

3. Transfer to a pot with the chicken stock a litre of water (or to cover), the bay leaves, the cinnamon stick, the allspice and two tablespoons of the honey. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until meat is tender and coming off the bone.

4. Remove the shanks, allow to cool a little, then take the meat from the bone. Allow the meat to cool, then cut in 2-3cm dice.

5. Strain the liquid and return it to the stove; reduce by half.

6. In a clean saucepan, add 30 grams of the butter, the leeks, the sliced garlic cloves, the saffron and the remaining half tablespoon of cumin. Sweat gently over medium heat until soft, then add the reduced liquid and remaining tablespoon of honey, or to taste. Stir and season.

7. Reduce until sticky, then add back the shank meat and correct the seasoning. The mixture should be thick (but moist).

8. Transfer to a large bowl and add the diced haloumi and chopped coriander. Start to assemble your pies straightaway, as the mixture needs to be warm.

9. Melt remaining butter. Grease an 8cm dish or ramekin with butter. Butter a sheet of filo, then cut into four. Layer the pieces on top of each other (lying two sheets vertical and the other two horizontal to ensure even coverage when you fold them in) and carefully push into the dish.

10. Spoon two heaped tablespoons of the warm mixture into the filo-lined dish, then fold in the overhanging pastry to cover the mix, butter the top and turn the pie out on to a square of baking paper, folded side down. Repeat. Keep the parcels separate, as the filo is delicate. Cover each with a single vine leaf and leave in the fridge to chill and firm up - half an hour or so.

11. Lift on to a baking tray and bake at 200C for 12 minutes.

12. Mix the yoghurt and tahini together, and dollop on to the warm pies. Scatter over the pomegranate seeds and serve.

Drink A spicy, cool-climate shiraz

Makes 10-12 small pies


Fried haloumi with white cabbage, date and green chilli salad

The sharp freshness of the white cabbage, the sweetness of the dates and the pop of the chilli and spices work well with fried haloumi. I would happily have this on its own with fresh flatbread, but it also partners with spiced chicken or quail.

1/4 white cabbage, tightly packed

salt flakes

freshly ground pepper

2 tsp caraway seeds, coarsely crushed in a mortar and pestle

2 lemons, 1 juiced, 1 peeled and segmented

1-2 green chillies, finely chopped, seeds in, to taste

6 dates, pitted, chopped roughly in large chunks

extra virgin olive oil

5 sprigs coriander, picked

5 sprigs mint, picked

2 1/2 cups vegetable oil

250g haloumi

flour for dusting

1/2 pomegranate, seeds only

1. Remove and discard the core from the cabbage. Finely shave the leaves with a sharp knife or on a mandolin.

2. Place the cabbage in a bowl and season with a little salt and black pepper. Add the freshly crushed caraway seeds and lemon juice and toss. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, add the lemon segments, chillies, dates, and a good splash of olive oil. Toss together. Tear in the herbs and combine.

4. Heat the vegetable oil in a shallow pan for five minutes.

5. While the oil is heating, slice the haloumi into 1cm-thick fingers lengthways. Toss in the flour then fry in the hot oil for two minutes or until golden. Drain on paper towel.

6. Pile the cabbage on a serving plate, top with the fried haloumi, scatter over the date salad and the pomegranate seeds and serve.

Drink A bright and aromatic white, such as gruner veltliner or riesling

Serves 6-8


Haloumi and zucchini fritters

Entree, finger food, side dish, breakfast; these fritters are rather versatile. They're great served with tzatziki or just minted yoghurt, and they also go well with chicken, grilled lamb and fish.

6 medium zucchini

1/4 tsp salt flakes, plus extra for salting the zucchini

200g plain flour

50g cornflour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cumin

2 large eggs

2 spring onions, sliced

1 clove garlic, very finely chopped or grated on a Microplane

250g haloumi cheese, chopped into 1cm dice

1/2 bunch mint, half chopped, half whole

300ml vegetable oil or olive oil

tzatziki, to serve (see tip)

1 lemon, quartered

1. Coarsely grate the zucchini, sprinkle with salt and let sit for five minutes before squeezing out excess moisture. You will need about three cups of zucchini after salting.

2. Sift the flour, cornflour, baking powder and cumin into a large bowl. Add the salt and combine. Make a well in the centre.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, then mix in the zucchini. Gradually add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until you have a smooth, lump-free, but quite stiff, batter.

4. Fold in the spring onions, garlic, haloumi and chopped mint.

5. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat then drop in two tablespoons of batter for each fritter. Cook about four fritters at a time, depending on the size of your pan, but don't overcrowd them.

6. Cook fritters for two minutes or until the underside of each one is golden. Cook the other side for two minutes then drain on crumpled paper towel.

7. Serve with tzatziki, mint leaves and a squeeze of lemon.

Tip To make your own tzatziki, grate some cucumber, vigorously squeeze out the water with your hands, and mix through thick plain yoghurt with a pinch of salt and a bit of finely grated garlic.

Drink Mint tea, albarino, or German pilsner

Serves 4-6