The great thing about Cyprus food is it’s many influences from the surrounding countries and former colonisations! If you don’t know much about this divine island then a very quick, potted history is to say that many different cultures have attempted control and ownership of Cyprus. The Venetians, Byzantines, Ottomans, Lusignians, British…they’ve all had a piece. Hence a varied culinary repertoire that includes pasta dishes, many breads, meat varieties, vegetable stews, a collection of desserts, jams and chutneys and of course the local tipple of Brandy and our famous Limonata.
Since we arrived, I’ve eaten non-stop. The thing is, because it’s so hot you’re not tempted to eat lots of rubbish (although the fast food culture is rapidly growing unfortunately). Rather, you are surrounded by fresh fruit and vegetables, salad and lush greenery. Juicy red tomatoes are everywhere, we even eat them for breakfast along with the local cheese, Halloumi (Hellim) and the small, crunchy sweet cucumbers. Fresh yogurt is one of my favourites, especially the local village style sheep’s yogurt.
Meat is obviously one of the main showpieces of our dinner table (although, vegetarians need not fear, there is plenty to be had that doesn’t have lamb in it!) Most evenings we’ve had a barbecue, not on anything fancy like those Weber things, just a basic aluminium rectangular construction with four legs. As long as it can balance a bunch of shish and a griddle full of chops you’re good to go!
Fish is another feature of our cuisine, well, we are on the Mediterranean sea… Our most popular fish during the summer season is Sea Bream (Cupura) and Sea Bass (Levrek). Both are white, meaty fish and very healthy. Normally baked in the oven and served with local Cyprus Potato chips and salad. We also love Octopus and it’s a great sight to see local fisherman catching the octopus then giving it a good bashing against a rock before cleaning it up then marinating in some red wine.
There are so many fruits grown in Cyprus because of the hot climate it’s hard to choose a favourite! However, there are a few very popular types that are at their best during the hottest summer months of June to September. Figs are a national staple along with the Prickly pear. There are miles and miles of orange and lemon trees and vast olive groves. Grape vines are everywhere and great not just for grapes but the local dolma, vine leaves stuffed with either rice or mince and rice. Strawberries are famous most in the North West region of Cyprus, especially in my dad’s village of Limniti (Yesilirmak) and a special post on that will follow soon highlighting the beautiful Organic Gardens.
Overall, if you plan a trip to Cyprus with food in mind, then you wont be disappointed whether you are on a special diet or eat everything like me! Another post on some of the chefs on the island will follow soon. Leave a comment if you can and here are some tomatoes to salivate over!