Cyprus cuisine: traditional dishes that are worth trying

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Cyprus cuisine traditions were dramatically affected by both Greece and Turkey. Grilling and such ingredients as parsley, garlic and yoghurts came to the island from these countries. Hot spices are less widespread in Cyprus than in Turkey, but such Italian herbs as mint, cardamom, arugula and estragon are extremely popular here. During the period of British occupation, Cypriots grew to like curry and ginger.

The mild climate and fertile soil allow Cypriots to grow vegetables and fruit. The island is known for its oranges and grapefruit; even bananas are grown not far from Paphos. Troodos mountains create a perfect setting for nut and olive trees cultivating. Most of Cyprus vineyards are also located in the mountains.

Lamb, pork and rabbit meat are most frequently used for meat dishes. Tuna and sword fish are Cypriots’ favourite fish.

«Meze plates» served almost everywhere on the island are the best way to try couple dozens of different dishes during one dinner.

Our review is dedicated to some of the main traditional Cypriot dishes, their history and ways of preparing.

Main courses

Kleftiko is a famous Cypriot dish which is usually made from a lamb’s legs. The name of the dish can be translated from Greek as «stolen meat». As the legend has it, once shepherds decided to steal and eat a goat from the herd. They hid it in the hole and made a fire above this hole. The meat that had been cooked in the ground turned out to taste so good, that this way of preparing soon became well-known, and the dish got its name — kleftiko.

Of course, modern chefs do not cook kleftiko in the ground. Instead, they use mud stoves (the taste is still perfect). It is also possible to prepare meat in the baking oven. Kleftiko is served with potatoes baked in the same oven and splashed with lemon juice. You can find a cooking recipe at the end of this chapter.

Souvla is another popular meat dish which looks very much like Russian shashlik. The difference is simple: before cooking souvla you do not have to do anything with lamb or pork (just cut meat into big portions, salt and roast on the open fire for an hour and a half), while the meat for shashlik needs to be marinated first.

During the first hour of roasting meat for souvla should be placed high above the coal, and right before serving it is usually moved lower to achieve golden brown colour.

A remarkable fact: all over Cyprus people use automatized roasting devices and never fail to forget to rotate the spitter.

Souvla is usually served with raw vegetable salad, fried pita bread and Halloumi cheese.

Stifado is beef stewed in tomato sauce (sometimes with a little bit of red wine) with onion, garlic and spices. Meat, previously cut into large pieces and roasted with vegetable oil, is stewed along with vegetables in the pot or deep frying pan for 2-2,5 hours. The dish is served with potatoes, rice and vegetables.

Kotopoulo me Kolokassi is chicken with small pieces of taro, a root tuber from Colocasia family, that Cypriots have been boiling and eating for centuries. It tastes like potatoes. The most popular on the island way of preparing taro is baking with vegetables, meat and some red wine.

To make Kotopoulo me Kolokassi root tubers are usually cut into large pieces and stewed in a pot along with previously fried chicken, onions and celery. Tomato sauce with vegetables and spices is prepared separately.

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