Food and Foraging

A big post-wedding feast in Cyprus!

The day after the big event at a lovely villa with swimming pool in a mountainside village called Neo Chorio (you don’t pronounce the ‘c’).

The children stayed in the pool, which was all the more for us! I.e. delicious food prepared and delivered by some local tavernas in the village.

And certainly there were some brutal-sounding dishes that kids and the English contingent were better off not knowing about.

The first picture, for example is of ‘Shieftalia’, a mixture of pork mince, onion, cinnamon, parsley and…wait for it…sheep stomach lining.

A cracking dish. Then there was the Loukániko sausage, pork offal cooked for a long time in red wine.

I’m doing this in order of the pictures to make it easy: we then had the classic southern Cypriot dish of Souvlaki, melting, tender and yes - fatty – pieces of pork cooked over a charcoal grill to make what we know as the kebab. Here’s to pork fat.

Finally a gentler dish of Spanakopita – spinach pie. This was the first entrance to the meal the vegetarians could make, so no ‘special dietary requirements’ there.

And to finish some great ‘Pishies' - deep-fried pastry dripping in syrup with orange blossom water. Take a look at a map and you'll see how close Cyprus is to the Middle East. Or taste food like this and you'll save yourself the bother.

Plus those spinach pastries again, but this time filled with amari, and known as ‘Dhaktyla' or ladies' fingers. Amari is the whey that gets left behind in hallomi making. They boil it to thicken and add sugar and put it in dishes like this. More please!

And here’s to Victoria and Pedro on their marriage. It was only one village at their wedding, but it felt like the whole of the island turned up. Luckily I managed to grab some of this great food before it all disappeared.

We’ve all had pitta bread, and probably dolmades as well. Vine leaves stuffed with rice probably come better than the versions we usually taste, and certainly they do in Cyprus where, mixed with meat stock and properly large vine leaves with that hint of sweetness they were absolutely delicious

The pitta we ate alongside was puffy, warm and very tasty – not the flat, flimsy packets we’re used to.

And to start were those rather strange-looking black objects with forks sticking out of them. These in fact are a traditional Cypriot starter, preserved walnuts with sweet syrup and a glass of water to wash down with. Kindly donated by the lovely woman who ran our guesthouse in Drouhsia, they packed a punch.

Then to finish, a sweet biscuit that was heavy on the nuts and raisins but light on the flour, dusted with icing sugar. Traditionally eaten at weddings – funnily enough as we were in Cyprus for that very reason – the shop opposite gave it to us probably because it was about to walk out of there.

But absolutely top-drawer it was, eaten with the lovely, Orthodox church in view opposite from the balcony with the evening temperature at 26˚. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Halloumi making in the Cypriot village of Drouhsia

Halloumi is the cheese world’s version of marmite.

Either you love it or hate it. Plenty of people can’t stand the salt - but you can always wash it off!

There’s also the choice of frying halloumi to make it soft inside, and caramelised and almost burnt on the edges. 

This is delicious for a few minutes, but once cool it becomes hard and dry.

But when it’s as good as this lady’s in the north Cyprus village of Drouhsia, there’s little you need to add or take away.

Set at 700 metres in the hills leading to the Akamas Peninsula, the terrain around Drouhsia is perfect goat-grazing land, with grass amidst the rocky outcrops and occasional rains to offset the searing summer heat.

We taken by the owners of our guesthouse to see some halloumi making in a room in the house of this family on the edge of the settlement.

She was grabbing huge lumps of curd as we walked in, taking them from a large cauldron and squishing them into circular containers.

The idea was to get rid of the whey and form large sausage-shaped strips, then cut in half and set to rest.

These are then flattened and placed in salt, giving that recognisable split oval shape.

The family own around 300 animals, including goats, cows and pigs locally. In the traditional way this cheese is made from goats’ milk and you can really notice it. Many now use cow’s milk, but it has less flavour, say locals. Judging by this I’d have to agree.

The people who ran our guest house eat the cheese with blocks of local melon, but this piece was just so creamy, tangy and rich that we unpacked and ate it immediately. Mmmmm, delicious!

Amazing looking prawns from the north Cyprus coast, fresh out of the Mediterranean that morning.

Yes, that’s just 3 hours after fishing you can see them here.

We picked them up from the extremely helpful folk at Fishmarket Psaragora Karamanos in the town of Polis. Although at 13 euros, they didn’t come cheap.

They in turn bought them from the local fisherman, with boats a mile or so down the coast at Latchi.

Later that day we cooked in a pan with a few slivers of garlic and a few drops of olive oil. To be honest they didn’t need much - any more added flavours would have masked the amazing sweet taste of these creatures.

Utterly delicious!