Assignment 110: Cyprus

CYP mapLocation: Mediterranean Sea
Population: 1.2 million
Capital: Nicosia
Geography: An island nation in the eastern part of the Mediterranean
Language: Greek, Turkish
Signature flavours: Lamb, seafood, olives and olive oil, citrus, sesame, beans, cheese

The Menu

Eric’s foray into Cypriot cuisine was exhaustive. The more he learned about it, the more his menu grew. He relied heavily on the excellent Cyprus Cuisine by Christina Loucas, which he was happy and surprised to find at the Tara (population: 1037) Public Library. Another win for Canadian libraries!

On the day of his assignment, he started cooking at ten in the morning, and he was getting things finished a little after eight in the evening.

“This table is too small!” I heard him call as he set out his dishes.

Indeed, there were plates and bowls and even a cake stand crowding the table when I sat down for dinner.

CYP soup

Fasolada: A vegetable soup with carrots, navy beans, and tomato.

Prep and cooking time: 2.5 hours
Difficulty: 2/5

CYP inside

Eliopita: A soft baguette-shaped loaf stuffed with olives.

Prep and cooking time: 4.5 hours
Difficulty: 4/5

CYP taters

Patates Antinaxtes: Potatoes roasted in red wine and seasoned with ground coriander seed.

Prep and cooking time: 25 min
Difficulty: 2/5

CYP watermelon

Karpouzi me Halloumi: Thick slices of halloumi wedged between juicy pieces of fresh watermelon.

Prep and cooking time: 5 min
Difficulty: 1/5

CYP squid

Kalamari and Tashi: Deep fried squid rings served with a sauce of tahini, garlic, and lemon juice.

Prep and cooking time: 20 min
Difficulty: 2/5

CYP salad

Louvia: A refreshing lettuce salad loaded with beans, pickle, tuna, green onions, and zucchini in a simple olive oil and lemon juice dressing.

Prep and cooking time: 15 min
Difficulty: 1/5

CYP cakes

Sunflower Seed Cake: Small cakes studded with sunflower seeds, ringed with icing, and pressed with more sunflower seeds.

Prep and cooking time: 2 hours
Difficulty: 3/5

CYP juice

Cypriot Citrus Spritzer: Sweetened orange and mandarin juices mixed with sparkling water.

Prep and cooking time: 40 min
Difficulty: 1/5

The Shopping List

Eric found most of his ingredients, including kalamari and Mediterranean-style (non-dill) pickles at a nearby supermarket. Mastic powder (for the eliopita) was ordered online from Greek Table. Mahlab powder (also used in the eliopita) came from Montreal-based Épices Anatol, which takes online orders. A local cheesemonger, The Milk Maid, supplied the Cypriot halloumi.

CYP ingredients

The Meal

Mediterranean food never disappoints for its variety, flavour, and presentation. Eric’s Cypriot feast was no exception.

We started with spoonfuls of fasolada, Cyprus’ national dish, which for a light soup was bursting with flavour. We dunked pieces of eliopita — which was absolutely beautiful to look at and even better to eat — into the broth.

We are both fans of squid, and Eric’s kalamari rings were perfectly tender with just a little crunch from the light breading. We dipped the kalamari into tashi, which any fan of hummus should try — it’s smooth and has an incredible zing of flavour.

The potatoes were prepared by first hitting them with a meat tenderizer, which broke them open and made them cook well and fast. Coloured inside by the red wine, and loaded with seasoning, they were another hit.

We’ve seen watermelon in savoury environs in a few assignments now. It added a generous splash of sweetness alongside the salty halloumi.

Eric wanted to include some greenery on his table, and opted for the louvia salad. With chunks of tuna, plenty of beans, and great crunch from the veg, it makes sense that it’s a popular summertime salad on the island.

We sipped our cold glasses of spritzer garnished with fresh mint between bites, and both enthusiastically said it should be featured in our next Wooden Spoon Wanderer showcase. It was sweet, citrusy, and so refreshing.

Our meal ended with a halved seed cake each. The cakes were stunning — Eric had lovingly iced and decorated them — and had a lovely light taste.

CYP table

Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.

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