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Islands are the stuff of fantasy and romance, places to find solitude and a sense of calm. The beautiful sun kissed Mediterranean island of Cyprus is a must visit, but what can be expected within its unique cuisine?
You may have heard on the grapevine that the Mediterranean people live a long and healthy life. It used to be said that Cyprus invented the art of good living and the island has developed a reputation of luxurious lifestyles for both humans and Gods. The fresh produce is a clear indication of why the elderly Cypriots are still skipping down the streets in their eighties!
Cypriot cuisine has many different influences due to its neighbouring countries and location: Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. Such flavours inject a unique culinary experience for visitors. Herbs and spices are an ingredient within every dish, the most common being parsley, oregano, basil and mint. The hotel that you might be residing in could in fact have its own herb garden! So your meal in its restaurant will deliver a fresh local taste every time.
Introduction to the Meze
Meze, the definitive dish of Cyprus, meaning ‘delicacy’, is a great introduction to the cuisine on offer. You can order meat, fish or vegetarian variations of the dish. The meze arrives with a choice from 20-30 different dishes of rich Mediterranean flavour. In your meat meze you could expect a selection of smoked hams, chicken, turkey or sheftalia (a sausage without skin!). The fish alternative could include octopus, squid, shrimps or the delicious red mullet by the name barbouni. These dishes will all be accompanied by an array of fresh appetizers such as different types of Greek/Cypriot cheeses like halloumi and feta, olives, sun blushed tomatoes, peppers, sliced artichokes and koupepia (stuffed vine leaves). The fresh homemade bread can be used as a great sponge to mop up the zesty lemon and olive oil juices as well as the dips provided such as houmous, tahini and tzatziki.
Is your mouth watering? It would probably be a very wise idea to begin a meze on an empty stomach and to have plenty of friends and family to share it with!
If you’re looking for something a little gutsier on your travels, then why not try the traditional moussaka. This dish may have originated from Greece but no one prepares individual portions in earthware dishes like the Cypriots do. Consisting of minced lamb, the traditional meat of Cyprus and Greece, layered with sliced potatoes and aubergine, tomatoes, onion and cinnamon, topped off with a creamy bchamel sauce. There are a few variations of the recipe to try so before you go on your travels why not try making one at home.
Cyprus is surrounded by the lush Mediterranean Sea, full of an array of fresh fish. You’ll find an abundance of fish taverns in the coastal towns, each serving the freshest catch of the day. If you find yourself in Limassol on a beautiful summer’s eve then you should visit the award winning Limanaki Fish Restaurant. Nestled on the beachfront with picturesque views across the Mediterranean, this restaurant offers a glimpse of the fisherman’s life and a relaxing, indulgent experience.
Fruits of the Gods
If all that just seems a little too savoury and you crave something a little sweeter, then you must taste the fresh ambrosia fruits of the gods, including golden oranges, apples, ripe pairs, luscious watermelon, exquisite berries, strawberries and figs, grown all over Cyprus. Here is a little fig fact for you, there is a fig tree growing in Famagusta, Cyprus which is believed to be more than 700 years old. It seems it’s not just the people of Cyprus that live a fruitful life!
Limassol Wine Festival
To accompany all these earthly pleasures you must try the wine of Cyprus. It is a well known fact, confirmed by many historical references, that Cyprus has been producing wine for more than 4,000 years. Worshippers and ancient folk chose the island to be epicentre for the adoration of Aphrodite the Goddess of fertility and love and Dionysus the God of wine.
These traditions are still evident in Limassol, the largest seaside town on the south coast. Limassol hosts an annual wine festival held during the first week of September. The festival takes place in the Municipal Gardens which are situated on the east side of the town.
On arrival you pay a minimal fee and then purchase a souvenir glass or bottle which will be your trusty vessel for the duration of the festival. You are able to taste as many wines from the different wineries for free! So fill your boots and join in with the frivolity and merry making that this now international festival can offer. You may even stumble across the most entertaining sight – the traditional pressing of the grapes.
If there is one wine in particular that you must sample it’s Cyprus’s famous sticky dessert wine commandaria. It represents an ancient wine style dating back to 800 BC and was traditionally drunk at festivals to celebrate the Goddess Aphrodite. If wine is your vice and you want to experience this unique and pleasurable festival then why not book yourself into one of the luxury hotels in Cyprus based in Limassol and enjoy your days by the sea drinking wine to then return to your 5 star hotel to relax and unwind.
I hope that you now have a feel for the undeniably mouth watering island of Cyprus and the delicious food and wine it has to offer, it’s where tradition and luxury combine to make a memorable holiday.
write by Zi Wu