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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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haloumi a hard, salty, sheep’s milk cheese, variable in character, which is well known in Cyprus and used as a cooking cheese in many Middle Eastern countries. It melts well, and is sometimes grilled on skewers with pieces of vegetable.

The name (which occurs in many variant forms and transliterations) is one of the few words of the ancient Egyptian language which have survived; in Coptic, it was written ialom; the modern pronunciation is hâlûm. Egyptians eat the cheese either fresh, under that name, or in conserved form, when it is known as mishsh; the latter has been flavoured with red pepper, brined, and stored in a sealed container with salted milk. Mishsh often becomes infested with tiny worms, which can be eaten without harm but are considered a nuisance. The Egyptian proverb ‘Dûd il-mishsh minnu fi’ (the mishsh worm arises from it; namely from the cheese) means, roughly, ‘The problem is inherent in the situation.’