This weekend has been a holiday time in Cyprus. The Saturday and Sunday saw many carnivals taking place around the country the biggest being in Limassol. For various reasons I sadly missed this gaiety and a great photo opportunity if ever there was one. Instead I was enjoying a glorious day and a seafood lunch at Latchi, I even wore my sunglasses for the first time but from what I hear a good time was had by all…. even me. On the Monday generally all Cypriots gather with their families and celebrate Green (or Clean) Monday the beginning of Lent. This is marked by eating a meal based on vegetables, salad and shellfish or octopus. Often picnics are taken out to the countryside on the Monday and kites are flown. I was greatly looking forward to seeing this but sadly the weather was very wet and cold, unusually so for this time of year and most were staying indoors in the warm. I saw one brave sole trying to fly his kite in very poor conditions but bravo for the spirit of the thing..
Today I have been helping my good friend Elena of Orexi fame in her kitchen bottling up some of her delicious preserves in readiness for the monthly event of The Farmers market at the herb garden at Pano Akourdaliawhich should be very busy as it usually is and a great social gathering in a beautiful spot. On my way home from a productive morning I decided to travel a different route taking the long way round and went through Kato Arodhes an adjacent village to the one in which I am staying in so doing I passed some amazing scenery looking down to the sea with lush green everywhere. I thought I’d share the pictures.
Yesterday I accompanied my brother to Lefkosia ( Nicosia) for a lightning trip to see to some official business there. One of the ports of call was near access to the river called Pedieos which runs through the city, or at least it used to; during the lifetime of the city’s occupation, some 4,500 years or so it has been diverted to the outskirts and some has even been covered over. There are places where it has been made into a park like area where footpaths have been created and you can walk, run, cycle along shady,pleasant paths dotted with very old eucalyptus and palm trees mingled with wild foliage and bushes. Eucalyptus are not native to Cyprus but during the British occupation they planted many all over the island to combat the mosquitos in the swampy lowland areas. Eucalyptus soak up the water and now could be considered to be a hindrance in times of low rain fall.
The last time I visited this area it was late April and it was warm and sunny,the winter had been drier so there was no water at all in the river-bed. This year there was a fast flowing body of water, sure it is no River Thames but it created a very pleasant, fresh space to gently amble along. To Quote Wikipedia :-
The river has a total length of 98 km. An 18 km stretch of the river banks, in and around Nicosia, has been turned into pedestrian walkways. There are two dams constructed along the river, the largest one at Tamassos built in 2002.“
I can’t believe that nearly a week has gone by since my last post. To borrow a phrase from a well known Christmas song “The weather outside is frightful” and we have had everything this week from dramatic thunderstorms to buckets full of hail and even snow here and there. The sun, thank goodness came out on Thursday and this afternoon just to show us that it is still there, so hopefully things can only get better. The countryside is looking tremendous at the moment with very green lush fields, the trees foliage is all very fresh in their greys and greens with the dramatic contrast of huge wet ochre coloured boulders of rock striated with black thrusting out up the hillside road.
Even though to me it seems like Easter is a long way off the preparations are beginning now with the run up to Lent and Green Monday when everyone starts the 50 day fast, celebrations and frivolity pave the way. Starting with tzuknopempti which roughly translated means ‘Thursday when the air is filled with the smell of meat cooking over charcoal’. I was lucky enough to be invited to a big extended family gathering where the sheftelies and souvlakia were cooked in abundance by the men, local mushrooms which grow at this wet time of year were picked and cooked with onions by the women and bowls of salad, laid out together with lountza a smoked loin of pork. Pittas were toasted on the charcoal along with some local halloumi and a truly delicious meal was followed by sweet pastries and cakes. Brandy, beer and wine were drunk along with the usual Coke for the children. Much animated discussion took place during the course of the meal, the focus being politics as Cypriots have been following closely the Greek elections and post election discussions concerning the European Union.
Then it was time for the singing, at the head of the table was the patriarch, father and grandfather of the family who was looking very smart and well groomed for the occasion. He started off the proceedings with renditions of what sounded like very melancholy songs that could have dated back hundreds of years. There is also a tradition unique to Cyprus I am told, whereby two people sing a two line verse they make up as they go and the second person answers it with another two line verse, a bit like a rapping duo I guess. The mother and father gave a grand rendition of this art and were greatly appreciated by the gathering and even though I may not have understood the sentiments I too appreciated the performance. Then it was the turn of the daughters to sing some traditional Laiko songs with everyone clapping along in that off beat rhythm that is so distinctive. Next of course it was the turn of the children and a young girl produced her guitar and music stand and gave us a touchingly beautiful rendition of a traditional song, her brother followed suit in a brave attempt to match his sister. Finally they turned their attention to some pop songs of the moment including ‘Wrecking Ball’ the hit of Miley Cyrus which seemed to go on forever but was very funny to watch how much they enjoyed themselves particularly with the chorus when they could let rip.
It’s a cold, cloudy and windy February day here in Pano Arodhes and I decided today I would just stay put and catch up with myself and get some chores done in spite of a very tempting offer of a Lebanese breakfast from Elena in the morning, with the prospect of a pleasant walk around the village to familiarise myself with the layout later on. As I set off it started to spit with rain but it didn’t come to anything. I didn’t meet a soul needless to say as they were all tucked up indoors, there was a strong smell of wood smoke on the breeze. I thought I would say hello at the Kafeneon and get myself a coffee it was sure to be cosy and warm in there. Indeed it was, a very attractive Kafeneon. However as most of you know village Kafeneons, indeed any Kafeneons in Cyprus are the domain of the male of the species and they are not quite the same as a Cafe Nero or Starbucks. But I was assured by my hosts that they would be interested to meet me as they were curious and would be happy to get to know me. I didn’t get further than a few steps inside the door. It was fairly full of men and they all were very curious, the owner came to open the door but for all the welcome on his lips, I didn’t see any welcoming smile in his eyes or feel they were very keen for me to stay or was that me feeling rather intimidated in that alien environment among that mass of older Cypriot men? I introduced myself and asked for the mail as it also doubles as the post office and left rather swiftly as I lost my bottle to go inside and ask for the ‘cafe skerto’ that I had been looking forward to. I will return and have another go when my courage returns…maybe.
I took a turn around the village and took some photos of the rather wintry landscape with a few signs of the promise of Spring around the corner. I decided that it definitely was a day to get the fire lit, the music on and get cooking. I planned to make colocassi, a recipe that’s in my book which my cousin Christina had given me. I danced around the kitchen to the music as I went from sink to cooker, then the fire then back again, it was a very jolly affair and while I was at it I got a bit of chicken stock on the go to make some soup tomorrow. Just like being back in Blighty.
After much anticipation I have finally arrived in Cyprus. The days are definitely warmer than the temperature I left behind in England but the nights take some adapting to as the house was so very cold after being unoccupied for several months. The floors particularly are like walking on icebergs and of course no cosy fitted carpets to take off the chill! I’m staying in Arodhes which is up the hills of the Akamas, it’s all looking very green and the cyclamen are in flower all over my cousin’s garden who lives further down where it is a few degrees warmer, so pretty.
I had a few dramas on the journey, as the taxi which took me to the airport passed the end of my road where I had parked the car for the duration, I saw the cover which I had put on the day before had blown off so a call to my neighbour was in order to ask if she could gather it up and store it for me. The airport part went smoothly enough and the flight was very comfortable as unusually there were only 30 passengers on board so we could spread out. Arriving in very good time after landing I paid the loos a visit en route to the carousel for the baggage where I found everyone had gone already and only four bags were left. It is always a relief when you see your bags have arrived in one piece or at least two of them, my third case wasn’t there. Instead there was a case similar but clearly not mine, cursing quietly to myself I asked at the BA desk and they gathered up the other case to check the label and contacted the owner who was half way up the motorway blithely on their way home. Luckily they returned the case safe and sound after only 30 minutes and I considered myself very fortunate to have it returned so quickly.
The car hire exchange was all very helpful and efficient and I made good time on the motorway from Larnaca to Polis where I stopped to get a few essentials from the small supermarket which I knew would be open. I had been to Arodhes before and in the daytime so was a little bit apprehensive as now it was dark, going the route I thought I had travelled before I promptly got very lost and seemed to be on a very rutted dirt road going to the back of beyond. Very gingerly I turned the car round and went around in circles a few times all roads lead to Paphos it seemed but none to Arodhes. By this time it was getting late and I had been up since 5.30m so was a bit frayed round the edges and on the point of giving up and going back to Polis to stay at my brother’s house. I persevered and I eventually worked out my way to get here a bit travel weary and hungry but in one piece. But the cold house did feel a bit of a shock and as it was a house I had only visited once before I had to familiarise myself with getting out bedlinen and making the bed. I knew there would be an electric blanket but I couldn’t seem to make that work so it took several hours to get the bed warm. Laying there in the middle of the night I wondered what had I done? The house is an oldish stone building with an outside staircase which also takes a bit of getting used to and of course everything is geared to hot weather and keeping cool and not so friendly in the winter months.
The day dawned and of course the sun came out and beautiful it was to see the surrounding countryside. After a couple of days the house is getting warmer after getting the heating organised. This evening I lit a fire in the open grate and got a good blaze going which should get some heat back into the place. I managed to work out the electric blanket and it was bliss last night.
Today I have been visiting and my first stop was to see my friend Elena Savvides of Orexi fame, the time just flew by as we caught up and started discussing plans for visiting a few places together. Elena is my guru when it comes to sourcing good food. Next stop was my cousin Nicos in Goudi for lunch and I thought I would take the short cut across the top of the hills down to the main road via a village called Kritou Terra. Here was another little adventure as so often happens to me in Cyprus. I took a wrong turn in the village and ended up, after a very windy road and a bad encounter with a large stone in the middle of the track, in the middle of a field. OOps. Another seven point turn was in order to re-trace my steps and find the right road equally as windy but better made and beautiful views. Not really a short cut in the end and I arrived a bit later than expected.
My cousin is rotivating his large garden to make ready for planting all kinds of vegetables so of course I had to take some photos of him on his tractor. Every day a new adventure awaits. Tomorrow I’m off to Paphos and visiting another friend but that road is more familiar, ahh famous last words.
A visit to my optician this week sent me rushing to view a video on You Tube, not just one but a series of eight. The reason – he was reminiscing about an old TV series from 1979 that was set on Cyprus called “The Aphrodite Inheritance”. I think the real reason he remembered it so well was because the leading lady cast for the role of Aphrodite (Eleni) was Alexandra Bastedo a real beauty ,as you would expect no less for her to be, cast to play Venus herself. Alexander Bastedo lived locally and was married to Patrick Garland who for many years was the Director of The Chichester Festival Theatre which is local to where I live.
My optician whetted my appetite for viewing this old serial by describing it as a tale of mystery and intrigue involving treasure, myth and history all set on Cyprus. The quality of the You Tube offering was very poor sadly a bit like viewing through a glass of water but the story certainly was entertaining. It seemed to have been shot entirely on location and gave an authentic feel using not only scenes incorporating local colour like tavernas, coffee shops, historical sites and at one point a real festival running through the streets but many of the actors were Cypriot as well as many local extras. Where it was disappointing was the serious under use of one of Cyprus’ main assets – the scenery. The last episode had some good scenes in the Tombs of the Kings and the amphitheatre at Curium as well as the shores around Petra to Romiou but many early scenes which, if it was shot today I feel sure would include some fabulous panoramic shots, just seemed to show a lot of very scrubby, dusty landscape by the side of the roads. I’m sure they shot it late in the year when everything looked parched to extinction.
In stark contrast I went to see the film “Mr Turner” this week about the renowned painter William Turner 1775 – 1851, ( Timothy Spall) famous for his impressionistic land and seascapes. In this film the scenery is at its most breathtaking, giving us the vivid beauty of sunsets and scenery showing us the very scenes in all their magnificence, that Turner depicted in his paintings. The technology involved in film making has advanced so much. These days we are so lucky to be able to view films that give us incredibly clear high definition images, particularly when viewing scenery, they make us fee we are there,we can almost smell the fresh air see every blade of grass , smell the ozone as well as feel the spray of the sea.
There is a DVD available of the whole “The Aphrodite Inheritance” series and I’m sure that has to be of much better quality, I would certainly hope so anyway.
If you want to remain in ignorance of the story as you will be viewing the series yourself, don’t read any further. The storyline revolved around a hidden tomb of Aphrodite being discovered accidentally, containing a hoard of fabulous treasure. The three gods Dionysos, Pan and Aphrodite appear in human form and manipulate the proceedings so that the treasure remains where it has for thousands of years. The baddies get their just desserts and the good are rewarded. Peter McEnery plays the lead male role and Brian Blessed appears as a wonderfully larger than life Dionysos. I recommend it.
Happy 2015 to one and all and may it bring you joy.
Now that Christmas and New year are out of the way I am getting nervous about my arrangements for “The Big Trip” so forgive me readers if I seem a little distracted in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile my friend and fellow community gardener Rosemary Moon, has been busy recording podcasts for her new website Rosemary Moonfeaturing whiskey and food. She invited me to taste a dram with her over a kolokoppitta which she made for the first time from “Androula’s Kitchen-Cyprus on a Plate”. The whiskey she chose to go with it was called Monkey Shoulder, an unusual name for a whiskey, at least it wasn’t monkey’s armpit??? A blended whiskey it was light and fruity and went down well with the crispy little pies. Rosemary is lucky enough to have an Aga cooker so the cooked results are a little closer to a wood fired oven than say cooking with gas or electric.
We talked about cooking and food of course but the main drift of conversation tended towards the process of self publishing. This idea has set me thinking of doing a few podcasts while I’m away so watch out in future. Here is a link to the podcast.
Yes it is that time of year and everyone is asking “Are you all prepared?” and what they mean is are you ready for Christmas. This year though Christmas is just an interruption to my getting prepared for my long stay in Cyprus starting in February, so it’s sort of incidental. I have however, in between making lists and trying to work out if I have forgotten to do something vital, been busy cooking and top of my list were the kourabiedes which I made for the first time last year.=kourabiedes. I have made a few goodie boxes up for presents so they have of course included these light little almondy biscuits. Macaroons, Black Forest chocolate fudge, black pepper oatcakes and gingerbread biscuits made up the rest. I recently popped in to a wonderful little cafe/bakeryWhipped and Baked where I’m presently buying my sourdough bread and saw they too had some very snowy covered celebratory biscuits for sale. Now the owner the lovely Flour von Sponge, is from Malaysia and apparently even there they have a version of this internationally known biscuit, instead of almonds they use pistachios.
As Christmas is the time for anyone who has anything to sell to get on that marketing bandwagon I tried to do a bit myself for AK and splashed out on a bit of advertising but I have to say the results have been negligible. I have been self-employed running a one woman business for most of my working life and in all that time I have never found paid advertising to be of any benefit at all, so why I thought this would be any different I don’t know, but it was worth a try. I always found that personal recommendation and word -of- mouth from satisfied customers is by far the best way to attract custom. The best advertising is the sort that comes free I once got a very prestigious commission through a free directory! If you can get articles written about you or interviews for TV and radio even better, I’m always on the look out for a free bit of publicity.
Soon enough I will be in Cyprus where I will be on the look- out for more outlets to sell the book and generally spreading the word. In the process I hope to come across some interesting people and things to blog about. Getting excited!
Last week I went to see my good friend Rosemary Moon who is a food writer of long-standing and founder of our Community Garden in Tangmere. She has a new website http://www.rosemarymoon.com/on which she shares her passions of food and whiskey. Using her name to great punning effect the headings are Moonbites and Moonshine. Unfortunately as I was due to drive somewhere after my visit I couldn’t take her up on a very tempting offer of a wee dram while I was there; well before the sun was anywhere near the yardarm I might add. Lately she has been exploring her love of whiskey and combining it with food to see how the one compliments the other. There is a great podcast here on her site,http://www.rosemarymoon.com/moonbeams/where she meets a smokery owner in Scotland and discusses which whiskeys would bring out the flavours of certain of their products at Rannochs smokery. This podcast idea is a new venture for Rosemary, great page title is Moonbeams, cool huh? While I was there she took the opportunity to do another one with me all about ‘Androula’s Kitchen’ and we chatted away for half an hour.This will be coming soon on Moonbeams. I hope to emulate her and get a couple of podcast productions under my belt when in Cyprus visiting a variety of growers and producers of all kinds of stuff. She asked me if whiskey is widely drunk in Cyprus and I mentioned that actually brandy seems to be more prominent as of course Cyprus produces its own. I was about to embark on the story of how the Brandy Sour, Cyprus’ very own cocktail, was first created but we ran out of time. On my visit to Forest Park last year however, Mr Eraclis entertained us with the story. A young King Farouk, fond of western ways and cocktails while a guest at the hotel ,which he was frequently, was wanting a thirst quenching drink and the very imaginative bartender created this cocktail to help the King enjoy his tipple, quench his thirst and all the while seemingly appear to be abstemious. Here Helen Smeaton of Travel Secrets gives you the full recipe http://www.cyprus-travel-secrets.com/how-to-make-a-brandy-sour.htmlI must try one someday, I’m not a great lover of brandy myself, I do prefer a whiskey but I can imagine this could be very refreshing.
This weekend we were very lucky with the weather as the sun blessed us with its presence and shone on the righteous…. as well as us. So we made the most of it and went in search of a couple of local churches built in the 12th century as you do! They were both quite small and the first in Tortington just outside Arundel, had some beautiful stone carving of the Romanesque period with unusual animal heads depicted. This church was once probably part of the priory that existed here. You can read all about it here http://www.sussexchurches.co.uk/tortington.htm It was tucked away down a lane in an area I hadn’t explored before, I made a mental note to return one day and explore the footpaths signposted.
The second one was much plainer but the setting was fabulous as it was perched on the side of the Downs with a vista of the Sussex countryside at its best in array before us. I do love this time of year with its smells of damp leaves and the sight of golden foliage with the sun shining through makes me feel all mellow mists. I feel very lucky to live in this part of the country, the rolling chalk and flint Downs, fields of patchwork with ploughed patterns creating so many shades of sandy brown, unbelievably rich green grass with sheep grazing, dense patches of wood of oak and hazel, beach and chestnut. Then we have the coast nearby with another kind of breathtaking beauty and serenity.
I am drinking in the beauty and lushness. I am surely looking forward to a complete contrast when I venture to Cyprus in February for a long spell. I will be pursuing these same past times of walks and looking at Romanesque churches in a different landscape. I hope for many photo opportunities when the beauty of Cyprus will equally enthral and enchant.
It’s a grey and very wet day here in the UK and although it is still mild it feels cold when you look out of the window. I don’t think I have mentioned it in my blog before but I have been busily making plans for a long stay in Cyprus next year from February to July so part of me is already there you could say. Each recent visit has left me feeling I needed to spend more time there than I had allowed myself on these trips. This last trip I came away with an urgent feeling that there was something more I needed to do or explore. So I have given myself six months to hopefully quench this desire.
Since the very beginning when I first had the idea for the book, I have been digging below the surface of Cyprus somehow I wanted to peel away the layers and get down to the essence. In my heart I am happiest in art and in nature so these are the things in which I will be indulging more fully and hopefully they will overlap here and there. I have met some lovely people through writing the book and I hope to meet even more on this long stay.The internet has helped me connect with so many people who have a similar love of Cyprus, I have already a list of people I want to meet and chat with, I want to call it an interview but really it will be a chat, which will give me lots to blog about.
For the first three months I will be house sitting for a friend in Arodhes a peaceful village up on the hills at the edge of the Akamas. I’m looking forward to lots of walks discovering the local flora and fauna. It is right next door to Droushia where my good friend Elena lives so quite a bonus. Of course I will be visiting Androula in Treis Elies as well as relatives in Nicosia where I hope to walk those mean streets around the Green line where there is so much restoration going on. It is the cutting edge of Nicosia life these days. I want to get to know Larnaca and Limassol areas a bit better as I haven’t travelled those areas very much. So you can see I will be very busy.
While I have been writing this the sun has come out and now so will I.
A few weeks ago I did a review of a cookery book called “Cyprus A Culinary Journey” this time the journey is of a different kind and a different time. Colin Thubron embarked on a 600 mile trek across the sometimes forbidding terrain of Cyprus, the majority of the time is spent navigating his way across the mountain ranges of Troodos and the Pentadaktylos with just a compass as his guide. He undertook this colossal task in the Spring and summer of 1972 just before the Turkish invasion, imbuing many of the encounters and experiences he recounts at a later time, with great poignancy. These experiences are now impossible to relive as the villages in many cases are no longer inhabited by the same ethnic mixture and the freedom to wander in such a way is far more restricted. To undertake such an arduous journey in such a manner was looked on by the Cypriots as lunacy, as befits an Englishmen in their eyes. At some stages I’m sure Mr Thubron must have also questioned his own sanity in deciding to pursue such a course. To wander around this often desolate landscape, making his own path along the rocky, precipices of the formidable Troodos mountains takes courage, tenacity and a sure skill of navigating with a compass. I personally can think of few things that would terrify me more apart from maybe crossing the Atlantic single-handed. Even when offered a lift for a few miles he declined ,as this might cause him to miss some minute or rare detail of beauty. Being an accomplished linguistic offered him another rare opportunity, of understanding and being understood, both by Greek and Turk and Maronite.
He started his journey in the early months of the year which meant that the temperature fell quite low at night which he spent frequently under the stars with just a sleeping bag for comfort and no tent for shelter. The extraordinary kindness of shepherds and strangers he met in cafés who offered him shelter and a meal in their spartan dwellings was a humbling experience and this kindness came from Greek, Turk and Maronite equally. Through all the lyrical, erudite descriptions of landscape and experience all I could think was , “What must he have smelled and looked like, how did he wash himself and his clothes?” Even though he travelled light with just the very basics in his rucksack he had packed a pair of pyjamas, which I find infinitely amusing. The many places where he accepted the kindness of strangers afforded very little extra facility to carry out any ablutions that may have been required, except perhaps a water pump. I guess that is a ‘man’thing to be able to rough it and go without a hot wash for weeks without worry.
These practicalities and mundane musings of mine aside, I am enjoying the rich writing of Colin Thubron, his extensive knowledge of history, architecture, mythology and painting enrich his wanderings. His journey includes many of the Byzantium gems and ancient ruins he even went diving off the coast near Amathus to discover the extensive ruins of that ancient city spreading out half a mile underwater. He made stops at monasteries along the way for shelter including Stavrovouni which nearly did for him. I found it tiring driving up there and thought I would never reach the top, how he managed to walk up I find astonishing. He meets with the Chief engineer of the American mining company that were mining for copper still, as well as a Greek engineer who take him underground to see for himself how the mining is done and where it existed, the evidence left of the ancient mining casts. This is what makes the book so interesting as it weaves the past with the present. There are many astute observations of the Cypriot character often observed with affection. A highly recommended read.
I have been wanting to visit Bath again for a while now. Bath is a beautiful Georgian city with many attractions but the main one for me is The American Museum http://americanmuseum.org/ on the outskirts right next to the University. I have visited the museum a couple of times before and I can’t remember how I first heard of it. It is the only museum of its kind outside America and houses a good deal of painted furniture dating from the time of the early American settlers, which of course is one of my main interest in the place. It is a charming museum with room sets of the period composed of original panelling and furniture. My memories were also of a fabulous collection of patchwork bedspreads as well as beautiful grounds. When I checked online to see if there were any events taking place I was thrilled to see there was an exhibition of Kaffe Fassett’s work. It is not the nearest place for me to visit for a day trip (2½hrs on the train) or the cheapest but I was in need of a shot of creative and colourful adrenalin and Kaffe Fassett can be relied on to deliver both. The reason The American Museum was hosting this exhibition, apart from the fact that Kaffe is American by birth, is that it was 50 years ago this year that he arrived in the UK and to be more specific in Bath. The museum’s collection of colourful quilts was one of the main influences in Mr Fassett’s change of direction in his art from working purely in pen and ink to working in riotous colour, later moving more towards the crafts of needlepoint and knitting. The exhibition certainly delivered on the colour front, all the walls painted a deep pink were the backdrop to knitting, quilts and needlepoint all displaying a wild exuberance . Even the lamp-posts outside had been ‘crochet bombed’. The shuttle bus driver who took visitors from central Bath to the Museum, was a chattering vestibule of information which he generously imparted in a stream to us while we waited to depart. During those few minutes we learned of the museum’s history, the story behind the exhibition and where he goes when the season is over which it turned out was Vietnam. So then we learned a little of the history of that country.
The visit will keep me topped up with inspiration for a while. Meanwhile I’m getting excited by the thought of my little adventure in Cyprus which I’m taking next February and instead of a rushed three weeks I’m staying a whole 6 months ( well minus a few weeks) . I plan to get to know a few more crafts people and interview them for the blog, take a few videos, as well as visit anything that grabs my interest to blog about. Of course my camera will be on hand to take as many photos as I can.If anyone has any suggestions of unusual places to visit I would be pleased to hear from you. I have installed a donate button on the site in case anyone fancies contributing to my trip, anyone donating £5.00 or over, gets a PDF copy of Androula’s Kitchen – Cyprus on a Plate which is great viewed on an iPad. Thank you.
In Cyprus it is the grape harvesting season and even here in the UK near where I live we have vineyards. Just in the next village there is a vineyard, Tinwood, producing sparkling white wine and delicious it is too. I even have a vine at the bottom of my garden which this year is laden with ripened grapes. Last year, I guess because of the awful weather the winter before, I got very few but this year they are back to abundance. Because we had a lot of sunshine this summer, a phrase I’m sure you who live in Cyprus will puzzle over – summer surely that is always sunny? – the grapes are nearly sweet, that is to say they are certainly edible without having to screw your face up into a grimace.
So this year I have been juicing them to make a delicious drink which I am sure must be packed with goodness. In past years when they didn’t achieve optimum ripeness I used them by crushing and then cooking and straining out the juice then adding a little sugar and lots of garlic to make a thick sauce I could keep and use to add to stews for extra richness. I have also made chutney with them, I have used a pear and grape recipe which was very good.I always leave some for the birds as I so enjoy watching the starlings descend in a squaky,, noisy raid to gobble them up.
In Cyprus however there is far more choice as there is a positive cornucopia of grapes and not just wine is made from them. My favourite product is soujouko or shoushouko, that strange looking string of knobbly sausage that hangs on a washing line all over the island this time of year. Do not be fooled by its appearance it doesn’t look like it but it is a delicate morsel fit for any a gourmet. When bitten into it reveals a delicate sweet fragrance with that nutty centre. In it’s purest form it has no sugar added and is as healthy a food as you could wish for. The ingredients are pure grape juice with a little added flour to thicken the juice and make it more manageable. It is my favourite sweet better than chocolate. In Omodos on my last trip, Androula took me to a shop filled with local yummy delights and there were small packets of two types of shoushouko, one was made with pomegranate juice and the other traditional grape and they were both a delight.Watch out for it next time you go.
I know nothing about wine except i know what I like when I drink it! When I go to Cyprus there are many local wines to choose from and these days there are some excellent boutique wineries that are forging a real reputation for great wines recognised throughout the world and winning medals with them. The winemakers have gone abroad to Continental Europe, Australia or California to learn about making the Cabernet Sauvignons and Shiraz varieties bringing back this expert knowledge to blend it with the local varieties of Xynestri and Maratheftiko .
Winemaking in Cyprus dates back 6000 years so there is a lot of heritage there to build on. The vines are grown on the slopes of Troodos starting at 400 meters upward to 1200 metres and as you travel through Cyprus they are a familiar site dotted along the landscape. In fact on my last trip there seemed to be many smaller newer vines planted. The wine lovers of this world have plenty of choice if they want to visit a winery to taste the goods as there are wine trails taking you to several in different areas. Just take a driver with you!
Here is a very interesting blog all about Cypriot wines, Whine on the Rocks http://www.whineontherocks.com/ and below is a video of an interview with Zambartas himself talking about his wines and his vineyard. Did you know that Zambartas is an Italian name? Another piece of Venetian heritage.
The evenings are drawing in and soup is on my mind. I have been digging up my leeks at the community garden and so chicken and leek soup has been on the agenda. I make up a large pan of chicken stock to last me a week, using organic chicken wings cooked with carrot, celery, onion and herbs from the garden. I sauté the chopped up leek in butter and maybe a small amount of chopped up potato or maybe some butternut squash, all of which we have been growing as well. Once the leek has softened I add the chicken stock and cook for about 20 minutes. As I’m still not eating bread I had the idea to grill some halloumi and break it up over the soup. That little bit of extra saltiness is great.