My long prepared for demonstration and talk at West Dean College finally took place on Saturday and to say I was apprehensive in the days leading up to the final hour, was a bit of an understatement. I had made a trip to London paying a visit to Tony’s Continental store in Finchley to gather some of the ingredients but I was more worried about not giving value for money than what the food would taste like as I knew that would speak for itself. The recipes were all tried and tested and most of the dishes I cooked beforehand so just needed re-heating . I left the simple dishes for demonstrating. I wanted to give an idea of the unusual foods that Cyprus had to offer so colocassi of course was there although strictly speaking the taro can be found in a great many countries, trahana had to be included, mixed with some home made chicken stock and shamali made with semolina and yoghurt was for dessert. I took along some masticha and mahlep for the audience to see and smell as well as carob syrup and carob bean.
I started by making a simple village salad and sprinkled grilled halloumi on top also offering the fresh halloumi to taste. The halloumi was the real thing made with goat and sheep’s milk and kept in the brine, completely different to the flabby tasteless stuff our supermarkets offer up. Tsakisstes were there and so delicious. My friend Rosemary Moon was assisting and cooking up some koupes while I chatted along about the different foods and cooking up some kieftedhes. It turned into quite a meze of flavours, the audience were invited to come and taste at intervals rather than leaving it all to taste at the end. Many came for seconds and even thirds, the colocassi and trahana as well as the tsakisstes proved to be a great hit. As an afterthought I had also made some skordalia to be eaten with the other things and wasn’t sure they would like it as it was so strong but this too disappeared.
My friend Lois came along to take some photos and shoot a bit of video and she wasn’t left out when it came to tasting the food.
The audience all had some experience of Cyprus and apart from one man all had visited, or lived there, several had been in the British Forces, there were also a couple of people who were Cypriot and born in the UK, we had a full house. After a tea break I gave a slide show and talk about the crafts but it also ended up with photos of more food by request. I felt that most had come to re-visit happy memories of the food and island and there was a genuine love of this magical place. It seems that Cyprus touches people in their hearts. I found it a great pleasure to act in my humble way as an ambassador for this place and share my enthusiasm for the food and crafts. I found I had to put quite a bit of time into the preparation of both the talk and the food but it was worth it. Now I have one under my belt I wouldn’t mind doing another one…. but not quite yet!!!