I begin every post here in my head with the same basic sentiment: this is one of my favourite something-or-other. Alas, the dairy version of this mock halloumi was a dish I did love pre-vegan; thin slices of briny halloumi fried and doused with lemon juice and freshly grated black pepper.
It was only after I started making my own tofu that I realised I had enough control over texture and density that I could probably turn out a vaguely similar vegan version. I heavily salt the bean curds that get pressed into the final tofu product, but have no fear if you're not ridiculous enough to have a 50kg box of soy-milk-to-tofu-ready soy beans under your sofa. So long as you really make sure to go crazy with the salt, your fried tofu vegan halloumi snackytime will go unscathed.
Tofu + Halloumi = Tofoumi
The Cypriot cheese has a very high melting point, meaning its consumers have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to cooking method. Halloumi can easily stand up to a frying pan or grill, so for this particular preparation it makes sense to use equally sturdy firm bean curd. If you get the cooking method right, with the right product, you can even expect a bit of the ol' halloumi sqeak. Just be sure to be liberal with the salt, because that's a major feature in the cheese counterpart.
I'm not going to try to kid anyone into thinking this is just like halloumi, but I think it's a happy marriage between veganism and something close enough to make me happy.
- Try warming the dish first (under a grill, in a low temperature oven, that sort of thing). Tofoumi can be eaten at any temperature, but I think it's best hot.
- If you make your own tofu, you can improve this dish by sprinkling some generous pinches of salt between layers of curd before pressing. If you do this, omit the step in the instructions to rub the tofu with salt.
- The other trick is really robust tofu, and that means as little liquid as possible. Press, press, press!
Tofoumi: Vegan Halloumi Style Tofu with Lemon and Herbs
- Make sure you've got as much liquid as possible out of that tofu before you cut the slices (and don't get too hung up on exact slice size- it doesn't matter much)! Rub each slice with a pinch of salt on each side and fry on a cast iron griddle pan or skillet with a little bit of olive oil. If you don't have anything cast iron, go for the next best thing: the heaviest bottomed frying pan you've got. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side, until you see some nice brown griddle streaks (or a uniform dark golden colour if you're using a flat pan). Remove and pat the oil off with a paper towel.
- Pour half of the lemon juice onto a plate (preferably one with a lip so the juice doesn't run off the edges) and layer the tofu slices in it. Sprinkle the rest of the lemon juice over top of the slices along with a pinch or five of flaked salt and some freshly grated black pepper (I tend to go fairly heavy on the latter too). Follow this with the herbs and then the za'atar and serve. If you're feeling decadent, drizzle a little bit of your best extra virgin olive oil over the entire dish!