The taste of authenticity
Text: Marilena Ioannides
Photos: Antonis Farmakas
Food Styling: Laura Colocassides
They originate from specific parts of Cyprus and owe their unique characteristics to their geography. They are protected by the European Union and enjoyed all over the world.
A legend tells of the goddess Aphrodite rising from the sea of Petra tou Romiou and creating her sacred gardens near Geroskipou. While the mythical gardens may be lost to time, Geroskipou is quite conspicuous and fragrant with the colours and aromas of its superb Loukoumi. The famous confections have been associated with the town since 1895 and were the first Cypriot product to be officially recognised with the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). Loukoumi has always been the traditional accompaniment to coffee in the kafeneia of Pafos, an essential souvenir from what was a remote province. The original flavours of rose and bergamot (with or without almond) are supplemented today with mastic, carob, Commandaria wine and fig.
Koufeta Amygdalou Geroskipou
Koufeta (roasted almonds with a hard sugar coating) made in Geroskipou since 1895 are traditionally given to guests at weddings and baptisms. The know-how required to get them just right has been handed down from generation to generation and are still enjoyed the same way today. In Cyprus, Koufeta is given as ‘tratarisma’ (from Venetian trattare, meaning ‘to treat’), ideal for sweetening friends and visitors alike.
Halloumi, the symbolic cheese of Cyprus, is an integral component of the island’s folk traditions and food culture. The earliest written reference to Halloumi can be found in a document from 1554, preserved in the archive of Leonardo Donna, the 90th Doge of Venice. Halloumi is made of goat’s or sheep’s milk (or a combination of both) and is white, elastic and soft, hardening as it matures. Its flavour evolves as well, becoming more spicy and buttery. It is semi-circular or rectangular in shape and usually folded in fresh mint leaves.
According to one of the oldest established producers in the region, this unique smoked ham takes four months to make and cure. The method of preservation has been handed down from generation to generation. Hiromeri Pitsilias is a true Cypriot delicacy and has long been acknowledged as the island’s most luxurious form of salted pork. The meat is seasoned, marinated in local Mavro and Maratheftiko wine, then smoked over wood fires. It has very intense flavours. Served in thin slices or small cubes, it is the titbit par excellence for accompanying the local spirit, Zivania.
Lountza, another famous pork delicacy from Pitsilia, is equally delicious but more fragrant than its predecessor. Pork fillet is salted and marinated in local red wine together with coarsely chopped coriander, then smoked at low temperature over certain native woods and shrubbery. It can be enjoyed raw, cut into thin slices, or lightly fried in olive oil. Combine Lountza with fried eggs and Halloumi, and you have the ultimate Cypriot breakfast. Lightly roasted and served with potatoes, it becomes the main course in and of itself.
In the old days, every rural family would fatten a pig. Then, just before Christmas, they’d make all the different traditional cold cuts that could keep them in meat through winter. In Pitsilia, high up in the mountains, the chilly climate helped preserve the meat. Loukaniko (sausage) was the most common and perhaps the easiest to make of all Cypriot charcuterie. First, they’d marinate the mincemeat in red wine with coriander, cumin and salt. When the mixture was ready, they’d fill the sausage skins and smoke them. The simplest way to enjoy Loukaniko is lightly grilled with fresh village bread. The intense flavours of the sausage are balanced by the heartiness of the bread: rustic Cypriot cooking at its best!
Apart from the unique taste that red wine from the vineyards of the arid mountains of Pafos imparts into sausage, this pork delicacy is also sundried. Nowadays, all the relevant hygiene regulations are observed with the curing process taking place in modern desiccators. In the old days, this was how pork was preserved, which allowed it to be consumed uncooked. A fast and imaginative way to heat the sausage was over a flame fueled by Zivania, the traditional liquor of Cyprus. The process involved frying sausage in a pan over gentle flames combusted by Zivania then enjoyed as meze or accompaniment to the midday meal.
Kolokasi Sotiras & Kolokasi-Poulles Sotiras
Kolokasi (taro root) is an agricultural product from Karpasia on Cyprus’ eastern peninsula. It has been cultivated on the island since the 12th century and arrived in the village of Sotiras in the early 20th century. Kolokasi was the first Cypriot product to be awarded the PDO. The soil, climate and agricultural know-how of local farmers through centuries of cultivation determine the unique characteristics of Kolokasi. The root vegetable is a bulbous mass attached to the plant’s central stalk. Poulles are secondary stalks that grow off the main root. Traditionally, Kolokasi is cooked with or without pork in a homemade sauce of tomato and celery or as Kapamas, a recipe of lamb and red wine originating from the area of Famagusta and Kokkinochoria. Poulles are cooked with red wine and coriander seeds that are coarsely ground with a pestle and mortar.
Glyko Triantafyllo Agrou
A century ago, from the village of Kampos Tsakkistras, the rose flower (Rosa damascena) made its way to Agros. This transplant was encouraged by the great folklorist Nearchos Clerides who is said to have had a vision in which the flower and village of Agros became intrinsically linked. Glyko Triantafyllo is made from the beautiful petals of the rose. It is a unique and fragrant spoon sweet that has medicinal qualities to maintain the healthy function of the intestines. The flavour, enriched by essential oils of rose, sweetens the palate and mood. Pair the sweet with a glass of cold water, a Cypriot coffee, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!
From 1895 until today, the know-how of preparing Loukoumi and Koufeta Amygdalou Geroskipou is handed down from generation to generation. Traditional cold cuts accompanied by a glass of wine or Zivania are the preeminent meze that one must enjoy in Cyprus.
Kolokasi is commonly roasted, boiled or added in onion and tomato-based yahni stews that pair well with meat. Poulles can be cooked with red wine and coarsely chopped coriander seeds.
Κolokasi was the first Cypriot product to be awarded the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).