I had a very nice halloumi and vine leaf nibble with drinks at 6 St Chad’s Place, a bar in London (a place I can’t recommend to you with my hand on my heart – it’s so appallingly noisy that you can forget meeting your friends there, because you won’t be able to hear them speak; the chips are frozen; and they made my very pricey Dirty Martini with olives in oil, which floated repellently on top of the gin). The halloumi was excellent, though, so I’ve come up with my own version to be eaten in the quiet calm of my own kitchen, with a Dirty Martini made properly with brined olives and a little of their juice.
Vine leaves and halloumi are excellent with this particular drink because they are both preserved in brine, like the olives; prepared with some aromatic herbs, sharp chilli and herby honey they go down very nicely indeed, and make a good supper dish or a posh nibble to serve with cocktails. To make 12 little packets of flavour (enough to serve three as a main course with some bread or couscous) you’ll need:
2 blocks of halloumi
12 large vine leaves
1 large red chilli
3 tablespoons runny Greek honey (thyme honey is great if you can find it)
1 tablespoon chopped marjoram
Any given pack of vine leaves will contain a mixture of sizes – you should be able to find at least 12 big ones in there. Discard or freeze the rest – piddling small vine leaves aren’t very useful.
Rinse the vine leaves beneath a cold tap and dry with kitchen paper. Chop the chilli into 12 slivers. Slice each block of halloumi into six pieces, and lay each piece on a vine leaf as in the picture above, with a piece of chilli on top. Fold the vine leaf around the cheese as in these pictures:
Heat a large, nonstick frying pan without any oil over a medium flame. Twelve little packets fit snugly in my largest pan, but it is unusually big, so you may find you need to cook in two batches or use two pans. Carefully place each little halloumi parcel, the side with the open leaf edges down, in the hot pan and cook for four minutes. The hot cheese will have sealed the edges, so you can be less careful when turning the parcels. Cook the other side for another four minutes, and remove to a serving dish.
Drizzle the honey evenly over the halloumi and sprinkle the oregano over the dish. Serve piping hot.