British newspapers have drawn attention to the rise of halloumi cheese and hummus. Famous TV chefs also regularly feature these Mediterranean dishes on their cooking programmes. The UK is now Europe’s hummus capital and the second largest halloumi market in the world after the cheese’s home in Cyprus.

Halloumi, also known as hellim, is a Middle Eastern cheese traditionally made with a mixture of goat’s milk and sheep’s milk. It is remarkable that no acid or acid-producing bacteria are used in its preparation. Halloumi can be cooked without melting which makes it ideal for grilling

According to the British press the amount of halloumi entering Britain is worth over £70 million. This figure makes Britain the largest halloumi importer, three times larger than second placeholder Sweden.

Until the ‘90s halloumi was a niche food in the UK. Now it is a staple of the British barbecue season, and one of the most popular cheeses competing with traditional British varieties such as cheddar and stilton.

The cheese has come a long way since it first hit British shelves around thirty years ago. Increasing familiarity with the cheese has made the British the largest consumer of halloumi after the Cypriots themselves! What is even more striking is the fact that the cheese grew in popularity incredibly quickly.

According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), halloumi is indispensable for the millions of vegetarians across the UK. Surging demand for halloumi in the UK, the rest of Europe and in China where consumers have recently developed an appetite for the cheese has sent prices soaring by around 12%. In 2017-2018 producers in Cyprus warned that they were already struggling to keep up with demand and an export deal with China might lead to shortages in the UK. This has pushed the average price up by almost 20% in the last year alone.



Hummus is also incredibly popular despite the chickpeabased dish having received some bad press recently. In November, major British supermarkets began recalling hummus dips amid fears they could contain salmonella.

The recall instigated by a Greek hummus producer in October has now been extended to include products from a number of large chains. Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Asda, Lidl and Morrisons are among the stores affected, according to a full list of the products in question published by the FSA

Hummus still remains one of the most popular foods in Britain today regardless of this disappointing episode. According to a 2013 survey, 41% of Brits had it in the fridge – making the UK Europe’s hummus capital.

There is disagreement over how to spell it – hummus or houmous – but no debate over its rising popularity. Waitrose is thought to have been the first British supermarket to stock hummus, introducing it in the late 1980s

Marks and Spencer followed suit in 1990 and today four of its top five best-selling dips are variations of hummus.

This ancient peasant’s dish – usually made up of cooked and mashed chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste), lemon and garlic – is produced in countries throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, where unleavened bread is used for dipping.

Hummus, like halloumi has been co-opted into Britain’s cosmopolitan national cuisine. It has moved beyond the Lebanese or Greek and Turkish Cypriot restaurants to plastic pots filling row after row of the supermarket chiller cabinet.


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