Chewing over Cyprus

rose, pistachio, almonds, vine leaves, tahini, baklava, halva, olive oil, carob, figs

Embarrassingly, I had to increase my baggage allowance to bring Cypriot delicacies home for recipe testing. I was looking forward to the trip for the stuffed vine leaves, but I underestimated how a 4 hour plane journey would reveal a whole new world of cuisine.

goodies.jpeg

The goodies I managed to accumulate from the trip and fly back home included carob syrup, carob powder, tahini, black and green olive paste, Cypriot delight and traditional coffee.

Staying with my Cypriot friend and her welcoming family, I luckily experienced the cuisine the traditional way, through bustling family meals. I arrived on the Greek nameday for Maria, 15th August, and we celebrated with a kolokasi (a vegetable only grown in Cyprus) stew and fresh pitta smothered in tahini, hummus and olive paste.

Something amazing about Cyprus: I was able to sample the fresh produce by picking it off the trees.

Another amazing thing I found out: olive paste is the paste of Gods. This black olive paste was enveloped in a thick fresh pastry evenly smothered in sesame seeds. We bought a huge package of bite-sized pastries from a bakery in Limassol, in preparation for a day trip crossing the border into the North of Cyprus, the Turkish side.

Further fillings found in the pick ‘n’ mix pastry bag:

  • Creamy almond paste
  • Spinach
  • Halloumi
  • Feta and roasted pepper

Crossing the border was a surreal experience in the sense of the very sudden, dramatic change of culture and living circumstances; a change that occurred in a matter of minutes, once our passports were checked and the day car insurance purchased in order to pass the barrier. The food changed too. Food became territorial. Stemming from the tension from the country’s divide in 1974, when Turkey invaded the North. Cypriot delight became Turkish delight, Cypriot coffee became Turkish coffee…

The most momentous meal I had was made by Natasa’s grandma, which was stuffed vine leaves and courgette flowers. I’ll be experimenting with flavours and fillings in an upcoming recipe for stuffed vine leaves.

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