We have been eating our way around Cyprus, thanks to an amazing holiday we have just returned from, in collaboration with James Villas. In this post, I wanted to give you a flavour of what Cyprus has to offer.
Cypriot food is so incredibly varied, tasty and fresh. It has many influences, especially the cuisines of Greece and Turkey, but also Byzantine, French, Italian, Catalan, Ottoman and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Everywhere you go on the Island you see fresh produce being grown. Whether at the side of the road, on someone’s property for their own personal use, up a mountainside or more planned areas like the Banana Plantations, which were in abundance near the James Villas villa we stayed in.
The bananas (or berries) once they reach the right size, are harvested in this green unripe state. They are only grown for the internal market, so not exported apparently. It looks kinda messy on the floor, but that’s the leaves of the already harvested plants which are left on the ground to rot and provide nutrients for the next generation of plants.
One of the things I had to look up was this Cacti – Opuntia ficus-indica that we saw everywhere we went, at the side of the road, it seemed to grow like a weed. Though it often looked in need of a good water. It is in fact a prickly pear!
The edible variety apparently taste similar to a juicy, extra sweet watermelon. We didn’t see it on any menu’s or in any shops whilst we were there unfortunately, so didn’t get to try it. *Well I didn’t think so anyway, but did try something that could have been it – see the end of this post for more detail.
We did pick pomegranates straight from the tree though, and they tasted delicious. There is something about picking your own food, it definitely adds to the whole experience!
Of course we saw goats, which are also in abundance in Cyprus and their milk (along with cow’s milk) is used for the totally delicious Halloumi cheese, which actually originated in Cyprus.
We spent one morning exploring the mountains near us, and that’s where we saw these goats, we also spotted so many fruit trees by the roadside. One of my favourites was the fig tree, boy did they taste amazing. It reminded me of the first time I ate a fresh fig off a tree in Crete, over 20 years ago, it blew my mind then, and did again!
Another tree we spotted was a nectarine.
Apparently Cypriot honey is some of the best in the world, and I can imagine it would be, as the plants around the area are so varied. These beehives were our neighbours at the James Villas property we were staying at. – You can read more about that on my other blog HERE.
So as I mentioned Cypriot food is a real mix. I’m vegetarian, but didn’t really have any problems finding things to eat in the Paphos and Coral Beach area we were based. Though it’s definitely easier if you are a meat eater, if you want to sample some of the traditional BBQ’s and pork dishes that Cyprus is famous for.
I was so impressed with the salads, the above is a traditional village salad. We pretty much had it with every meal we had, along with village bread, a chewy fresh bread that came to the table sliced with oils and vinegar. The village salad differed slightly every time, but usually had tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, olives, feta, red onion and occasionally some form of salad leaf. The dressings usually were simple honey and lemon and olive oil ones. Packed full of flavour!
Mezes were also really amazing, and great for us, as we all have different things we like, some loving fish, others meat. A meze is a selection of tasty little dishes, spicy or savoury, cooked or raw, hot or cold but always enjoyed when sharing.
We went to lots of restaurants that were frequented by the locals, so observed Cypriot life, and who doesn’t love a bit of people watching. One thing I noticed was that children were an important part of the meal, they chatted and ate with the adults. I didn’t once see children with tablets or phones, they just ate at the table.
The below was my absolute favourite salad, and I had it as my main dish at a lovely and very bustling cafe one afternoon.
I’m going to recreate it this week, and I’ll pop the link here so you can see all of the ingredients.
This is another of the dishes I’m going to attempt to cook, courgettes or baby marrow as described on the menu. I’m a fan of courgettes anyway, but these were amazing, crisp and salty!
My husband had a beautifully cooked sea bass at a restaurant we visited, he even got to choose the fish he wanted cooked. He said it tasted amazing, and being cooked on the bone it retained its delicate flavour and all of the moisture!
It would be remiss of me not to mention the desserts. Often we were served without ordering melon as a palate cleanser, which was delicious, sweet and often just enough. However the youngest in our family would always go on to sample the ice cream, which she reported as being amazing. There is always room for ice cream with my 6-year-old.
I would recommend trying two things, if like me, you have a sweet tooth, each served with an iced cold glass of water, and a strong Cypriot coffee.
Spoon sweets (preserved fruit) you can see that above in the vibrant red. *I actually think this could have been prickly pear as it tasted of watermelon, and on investigation once I am home, they only seem to preserve the rind of watermelon rather than the flesh. I’m not completely sure though, so someone might be able to help me with that.
Also the very rich and sweet cakes made with filo pastry and honey, there was many different varieties, I think the main three were Kadeifi, Baklava and Galatopureko, all with added nuts, amazing!
We all loved the food in Cyprus, we had some amazing meals. The people were welcoming and friendly.
Have you tried any dishes in Cyprus? Do you know if what I tried really was a prickly pear, I would love to know?
If you want to find out more about My Holiday Dish with James Villas, then either follow the hashtag on twitter (#MyHolidayDish) or follow THIS link.