Halloumi has an ancient history. Folklore has it that sometime between AD 395 and 867, a herder in present-day Cyprus hit upon the idea of combining the milk from her sheep and goats. This involved heating the cream over a fire, sifting out the curds as they separated from the whey, then patting the curds into blobs and leaving them to cool. Once set, our medieval monger put the cheese back into the bubbling whey, where it simmered until it floated. Finally it was soaked in a salty brine and patted down with specks of dry mint.

Halloumi’s popularity was almost immediate. Whole villages would reportedly get together to stir the pot, serving cheese to customers from across the wine-dark sea. Part of halloumi’s success was how well it travelled, since the heating, brining and application of mint leaves act as natural (and delicious) preservatives. What began as “Hellim” in the Turkish dialect became “Hallum” in Arabic and “Calumi” to the Italians. Bedouin tribes-people carried the stuff as far as Egypt and Sudan.

Stan Foustellis remembers his first taste of it, some 35 years ago. “In my youth I worked for a mobile caterer,” he says. “We would go to functions in local community halls and serve halloumi as an entree.”

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Foustellis now imports a range of continental delicacies through his company, Papouis Dairies. These include olive oils and tinned tomatoes, plus cheeses from Greece and Italy. But it's the authentic halloumi he sources from the island where it originated, that has seen him become the national supplier to Nando’s and their new limited edition The Halloumi. Available as a burger, wrap or pita, The Halloumi features the cheese paired with their signature PERi-PERi chicken breast (or a veggie pattie), cos lettuce, caramelised onion relish and aioli.

“The quality halloumi is sheep [and] goat milk , with a bit of cow blended in,” he says of the traditional Cypriot recipe he swears by. “That’s your right mix. Australian cheeses are mainly produced from cow’s milk.”

Foustellis says the difference between real Cypriot halloumi and other styles is textural. Unlike Australians, Cypriots tend to eat halloumi raw. So it’s important that real halloumi have the glossy consistency of mozzarella or bocconcini. “The Cypriots love eating it fresh,” he says. “It complements their watermelon [and] grapes.”

Halloumi has also long been a favourite of vegetarians. Unlike other cheeses, halloumi has an unusually high melting point, which gives chefs the latitude to cook it as they might any other protein. But Foustellis attributes the traditional cheese’s recent boost in popularity to the global shift towards more plant-based diets. “I believe it’s evolved from the publicity the Mediterranean diet has been receiving over the last decade,” he says. “Halloumi is one aspect that went along for the ride.”

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Nando’s. The halloumi-topped burger, pita or wrap is available for a limited time only. For $12, you can purchase an item from the halloumi range, plus a side such as Nando’s famous PERi-PERi chips, garden salad, coleslaw, spicy rice, garlic bread or corn on the cob.