The Great Taste of Early Summer
Summer is synonymous to freshness. Enjoy the summer fruits of Cyprus!
Traditional cooking in Cyprus is fun because family meals are linked to the passing seasons. There are so many different types of seasonal fruit and vegetables to enjoy which taste marvelous because they are homegrown on the island and are gathered early in the morning for extra freshness.
Enjoy the Summer fruits of Cyprus
The best way to enjoy the seasonal fruits is to keep a bowl of washed fruit in the refrigerator and to enjoy them throughout the day. Within a few short weeks these seasonal delights will disappear from the shops and be replaced by a different fruit. The arrival of the first apricots in the local shops heralds the arrival of summer! Within a few weeks apricots are joined by cherries grown in the mountain villages of the Maratha Valley. The cherries are either large black and juicy, or smaller and blush pink and golden in colour – and both taste really good!
Soon peaches, plums, nectarines and strawberries are available - although the latter are now grown hydroponically (in greenhouses in top-quality soil, kept at a constant temperature and drip fed with water and nutrients) by some farmers, so they are available throughout most of the year. Apple trees will soon be everywhere, laden with either red or green fruit. Last but not least, probably the king of summer fruit in Cyprus is the mouthwatering and refreshing watermelon karpouzi enjoyed by most with delicious Cyprus halloumi cheese.
In days gone by, before the introduction of refrigeration, local housewives would preserve the seasonal fruits in a sweet syrup so that the fruit could be enjoyed through the brief winter months and used in the delicious Cypriot version of the Christmas cake! Similar recipes can be found throughout the eastern Mediterranean. These fruits are called glyka or Cyprus spoon sweets.
Cyprus Spoon Sweets – a very different way to enjoy fruit!
Today, there are more than 20 different types of glyka, as well as the usual variety of fruits including cherries, figs and apricots, housewives are experimenting make glyka from small aubergines, bergemot peel and citrus skin. If you are traveling to the mountains from Limassol it is worth breaking the journey at Dhoros and popping into Katerina’s glyka factory which stands at the side of the road. Here, you can taste all the different glyka including some interesting new versions! Alternatively, you can buy jars of original glyka from the roadside stalls in Trimiklini.
Karidi, is the most prized type of glyka that is made using the whole walnut. The walnut are gathered from the tree for twenty days after the 25th of May, whilst they are still small and green and the nut and shell inside have not properly formed. Everyone loves Glyko karidi and, we have to admit, they make the perfect accompaniment to a cup of Cyprus coffee. A fitting accompaniment since it was when a piece of glyko was always traditionally served to house guests in the past.
During the early summer months there are plenty of different vegetables to enjoy. Many of them are easily recognisable to visitors, however, others are a little more unusual. One of the great favourites in early summer are marrow flowers. These distinctive golden flowers are gathered by local housewives and stuffed with a savoury mince and rice mixture before being baked in the oven. The other vegetable that causes great curiosity is the kolokassi (a form of taro). This knobbly brown vegetable has to be prepared carefully as it must not come in contact with any water, however, it tastes really good in a casserole with pork.
Whilst European doctors enthusiastically encourage everyone to eat five portions of fruit and vegetable a day, this is not news to Cypriots! Like the Cretans, the Cypriots eat large quantities of fruits, vegetables and olive oil and doctors regard the traditional Cypriot diet as one of the healthiest in the world!
As well as an abundance of soft fruits and vegetables, the early months of the Cypriot summer bring an array of different nuts, which can be enjoyed by the handful and accompanied perfectly by a chilled glass of Cyprus wine, beer or Brandy Sour. The nuts are also incorporated into several traditional dishes including daktyla (honey-soaked sweets filled with chopped almonds) and baklava – delicious layers of golden phyllo pastry with a nutty filling. Whilst almonds are the most common nut used in local cooking, pistachio and walnuts are becoming more popular as they are also grown locally.
Two of the most popular ‘sweets’ made using nuts are sugared almonds and Loukoumia, made in small factories in the village of Yeroskipou in Pafos district. These sugared almonds are not hard and brightly coloured, but golden coloured with a soft sugar coating that simply melts in the mouth – be warned, make sure you buy double the amount you think you need!
A Fresh look at Cypriot Cuisine
Whilst in Cyprus it is fun to try the traditional Mezé/ Mezedhes which is an array of 20 or more seasonal dishes that give diners ‘the taste of real Cyprus’. These include many of the traditional dishes that are currently being adapted to the modern lifestyles and time restraints imposed on young housewives. Many cookery courses are taking in all the traditional favourites and sensitively recreating them with great success. More and more young Cypriots are keen to learn how to make all the favourite dishes they have enjoyed their grandmothers making for them.
For those who are passionate about Cypriot dishes, it is well worth investing in a cookery book to have a go at baking the local favourites for your family. Key components of the Cypriot food include hearty olive oil, local fruits and vegetables, fresh fish and wholegrains with a moderate amount of wine and red meat. The flavors are rich in local herbs and spices, and the health benefits for people choosing a Mediterranean diet are hard to ignore - they are less likely to develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol or become obese.
Here's your first recipe with love from Cyprus:
Horiatiki Salada – Village style salad with grilled halloumi.
Easy to make, healthy to eat, and a perfect reminder of days in Cyprus!
1 fresh lettuce thinly cut
A handful of fresh coriander, chopped
4 large red tomatoes cut into chunks
4 small Cyprus cucumbers diced
1 small onion cut into thin rings
150g sliced halloumi cheese
handful of juicy black olives
juice of one lemon
extra virgin olive oil
Put the all the vegetables and olives into a large salad bowl. Add four tablespoons of olive oil, the juice of the lemon and a good sprinkling of salt. Lightly toss all the ingredients together to mix well. Decorate the top of the salad with the slices of grilled halloumi. Serve as the perfect accompaniment to all meat and fish dishes, or tucked into halved pitta bread. Bon appétit 'Kali orexi'!!!