Cypriots love food – it is an essential element of any and every social occasion. The best way to sample Cypriot cuisine is by ordering a meze, consisting of a wide selection of small dishes so that everyone can try a little bit of everything. A holiday to Cyprus wouldn’t be complete without trying some of the traditional dishes and delicacies, so read on for a list of definitions to get your taste buds going!
Kleftiko is a typical dish for every single celebration. It is usually a piece of lamb wrapped in foil and cooked for many hours. They bake it in special ovens that most importantly must be closed airtight until cooked. The origin of this dish goes back to the Cypriot freedom fighters of the 19th Century who had to secretly bake their stolen meat. So that it would not be smelt or seen, it was put in special earthenware pottery and buried deep under ground.
Makaronia tou Fournou
Makaronia tou Fournou or oven-baked macaroni is a layered pasta casserole dish with lots of halloumi in it. It is another common dish essential during all celebrations in Cyprus, often served as a main course, with a salad and enjoyed hot or cold. The bottom layer is made up of tubular pasta with cheese and egg as a binder, or béchamel cream so that once baked it can be served up in square portions that wont spread across the plate. The second layer is a ground meat sauce (usually beef or pork) with fresh tomatoes and spices. There are many slight variations of this recipe; the Cyprus version is known to have cinnamon as its main spice.
Souvlaki is a popular Greek fast food consisting of small pieces of marinated meat (usually pork) and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer. It can be eaten in a variety of ways, either straight off the skewer when on the go, in a pita with salad and sauces for lunch, or with fried potatoes for dinner. You’ve probably had souvlaki at home, or in a Greek restaurant before. However, the only way to really experience it is in its home turf, so book flights to Cyprus now and get your food on! Souvlaki is perfect for dinner parties and large groups, being a very delicious and simple meal.
Gemista is a staple dish in many Cypriot households and is especially popular in summer. Translating as “ones that are filled”, gemista are usually tomatoes or peppers filled with rice and sometimes ground meat that are baked in the oven. The main ingredients are vegetables making it a healthier option – for each gemista you eat, you get almost 2 servings of vegetables as the rice stuffing is mixed with some more vegetables.
The rice and vegetables are cooked until very soft using plenty of olive oil for a melt-in your mouth sensation. It is said if your gemista looks too pretty then it probably won’t taste good!
Kupepia are vine leaves stuffed with flavoured rice, sometimes enjoyed with natural yoghurt. They are usually eaten as a side dish, part of a meze or as a tasty snack on its own. Ideally the vine leaves used should be the first tender leaves of spring, for a meltingly soft and juicy texture with a subtle herby flavour.