Paphos re-born

 

Nicosia 1

Nicosia

I have just returned from another trip to Cyprus spreading the word and distributing copies of Androula’s Kitchen to some new outlets. It’s now on sale at a traditional bakery and cafe based in an old watermill near Polis, an arts and crafts centre called Exhibit @Polis in the centre of town and in a centre called ‘The Place’ in old Paphos where it will sit very comfortably among the arts and crafts on display. This centre was opened last year in an old converted warehouse, it now houses many examples of traditional wares and demonstrations with  some of the artisans working on site on certain days. There is a display of the shadow puppets with a small theatre for occasional performances as well as a weaver, a potter and various other activities on display along with goods for sale like glass art, pottery, wine and some foodstuffs. Altogether a very attractive place to visit.It is right in the heart of the old town which when I visited  was in the grip of an upgrade in true Cypriot style. The roads and pavements torn up and no clear signs as to how you can access the shops just a sign to say ROAD CLOSED which was pretty obvious. I fear the shops will have lost a great deal of business from the passing tourists.When it is finished the area will be pedestrianised and should be a pleasing place to stroll around.

Next year, 2017  Paphos will be the city of culture so it is all systems go to get it ship shape. When it was first announced there was quite a bit of astonishment as the poor old town had seen a severe decline over recent years. Many of the traditional eateries have disappeared and shops lay empty and dusty while along the main road near the market many tourist cafes have sprung up. Paphos has two Malls on the outskirts which have played their part in taking businesses out of the old town, these mainly house the chains and clothes stores. The town gave an appearance of a shambles approaching from certain directions, with a jungle of hoardings and signs and odd extensions attached to some buildings but with a fresh approach the Mayor has been getting illegal hoardings and extensions removed with most of the businesses co-operating. This should make the whole town look neater and more coherent. I had often wondered at Cypriot planning regulations regarding buildings and  indeed if there was any city & town planning, as there are so many ugly buildings erected that do nothing to blend in with original existing buildings or add anything to the area. When I heard of the work to upgrade Paphos my immediate thoughts were that the municipality would be knocking down any old buildings and making everything the same as everywhere else i.e knocking any character out of the place. But after hearing a friend tell me that she was allowed to view an area under restoration, we were quietly hopeful that this may turn out well.This area was being reconstructed using old plans of how it was, creating a small friendly place including a bakery and cafe and an open air theatre.

Graffitti art in Paphos

There are some parts of Paphos that  have  attractive old buildings and I have noticed one or two have been renovated , if this was made a policy so as to give cohesiveness as they have done in Nicosia on the Green line , it would make a huge difference. In Nicosia many of the owners of old and in some cases derelict properties,were given an incentive to renovate which has resulted in a transformation of what was only a few years ago a run down area.This has encouraged young designers and artisan back into the newly renovated spaces, giving a good lively buzz. I was impressed by the refurbishment of the old power station in the back streets of Paphos which now houses the Cultural Centre which bodes well.

One of the saddest things that has happened with Paphos becoming such a tourist area, extending to Polis and beyond is that where the cafes and restaurants catered for the Cypriot local workers and families who love to eat out, they have now just set their sights on the tourist. Just a few years ago I remember having a great choice of eateries in the Polis area that did good local food at very good prices, sadly these have one by one disappeared. In the back streets of Paphos there is an area of workshops whose occupants, in some cases have been working there for many years,some their whole working lives, I hope these have also been given consideration in the up grade and not forced to vacate the area, taking with them the working heart of Paphos. This is a common problem not just in Cyprus, often the areas that house workshops and artists’ studios are by their nature in the cheaper end of town in old buildings, if the area gets “smartened up” it usually means the rents go up and out go the occupants.It also means much of the character goes with them.

I feel there is a gap in the market for some local producers to step in, I don’t mean traditional  either, I mean artisan. A good delicatessen type shop would be great selling all the best of local Cyprus produce , great olives and olive oil:an artisan bakery selling some organic breads using the old strain of wheat. I miss the bread of Cyprus that used to taste so good like many of their foods. An artisan cheese maker producing not just halloumi, anari and feta but some soft goats cheese, a hard sheep’s cheese or maybe even a blue cheese. In other European countries there are so many varieties of cheese produced. I love kefalotiri which is produced in Greece, but there is no reason why it could not be also produced in Cyprus. The major cheese producers in Cyprus seem to be  focused on exporting huge quantities of halloumi across the globe but in Cyprus there could be outlets for the small individual and specialist dairies.There is a growing interest in authenticity and quality, there is a definite place for it in Cyprus and more farmers should look towards growing organic which is not only where good health lies but profitability. Slowly I have seen more interest grow in this area in Cyprus and there have been several regular Farmer’s markets popping up over the island where small organic producers can sell there produce. Another need is for some organic chicken producers as much of the chicken sold has no flavour and no provenance, not long ago pork and chicken in Cyprus had a superb flavour, how are the farmers rearing their animals now? There is a wealth of old recipes that are mostly forgotten that in some small quarters are being revived by young enthusiastic chefs, I am looking forward to a renaissance in local cooking and the rejection of those ubiquitous oven chips that are creeping in. Vive la chip!!!

 

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A Head of the Game

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As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog  I belong to a community garden and we have a small pig co-op. The pigs come as weeners and the co-op looks after them for several months until they reach the desired size and then they’re sent off to be turned into the Sunday roast and bangers. I don’t belong to the co-op so I don’t benefit from the meat except the occasional pig’s head comes my way if its not wanted. This week saw the poor beasts sent off on their way, I say poor beasts as this last lot of pigs were real characters and I often used to watch them and their antics. I have been given one of their heads, a bit like John the Baptist. I made some zalatina or brawn for the first time earlier in the year and was asked if I would like another head to make some more. So always up for a challenge I accepted.

It is actually a very easy process but does take a while. The head looks a bit gruesome as it sits in the pot, I had the whole head, usually the snout and mouth are cut away but this requires a hacksaw which I don’t possess and although I feebly tried with a fret saw it wasn’t up to the challenge. So there it sat eyes closed as it bubbled away with the lemons bobbing about it. You need to apply plenty of salt and lemons, this will kill any nasties that may be lurking in trotters and head. The trotters are needed to give a good jelly for your brawn. The first lot of water is discarded after it’s boiled and the process repeated this time leaving it until the meat is cooked. Then the head and trotters removed and left to cool and the liquid left in the pan overnight.

Then the picking begins and after the fat has been cut away and discarded. This head proved to be much meatier and the braun has come out a lot better, the meat is delicious.any meat that can be gleaned is cut up into small pieces and put in a bowl. The liquid by now has set with a film of fat on top that should be skimmed off leaving a lovely jelly underneath. Some  of this is decanted into a fresh pan, more lemon juice is added as well as wine vinegar,  some orange blossom water and a sprig of rosemary. This is heated to dissolve then tasted and seasoning adjusted to your liking. When the juice has cooled slightly this is poured over the meat and put in the fridge to set with a plate and weight on top.

Enjoy. For the full recipe why not buy the book and see all the other recipes in there.

 

Caked on!

I have written before about my love of cake and last Sunday I was in cake heaven. A couple of times a year  we throw open our gates to the general public and have open days  down at our community garden. This helps us raise funds for garden tools, compost, whatever is needed for our projects. The members make cakes and sometimes pickles and jams are brought to sell. Our driving force Rosemary, a food activist and writer, brings bread from a local artisan baker and some local veg to sell. We make lashings of tea to wash down the delicious cake and ask for donations. This works very well and we have the added attraction of a tombola and of course a leisurely stroll around our little bit of heaven.

We were very lucky last week as we had the added advantage of the sunshine to bless our afternoon. The tea stall was very busy and we had a huge variety of cakes. One of our members Rita, is a grand cook and made five cakes. Two huge Bakewell tarts, a couple of fruit cakes and a carrot cake.There were muffins and flapjack and biscuits and Victoria sponge, the tables positively groaned.

I made a sticky ginger parkin, my mum’s recipe, with a twist. I took inspiration from a recipe I had seen and added stem ginger in syrup to the usual mixture.When it was cooked,I added another innovation taken from the Cypriot method of using syrup on cakes and poured over some liqour from a marrow and ginger jam I made. It was a winning combination and one I will repeat. I also tried out another recipe I hadn’t used before and made some sticky Chelsea buns. These are made with a sweet dough and have a cinnamon and currant mixture sandwiched in and a soft icing. These had the added advantage of using cheap ingredients and also proved a hit.

We have recently had some new members join us and one of them is Czech, she brought along some little fruit pancakes which were a tasty novelty. Another member is Spanish and doesn’t bake but she brought along several jars of anchovies preserved in oil which she had prepared herself. These proved delicious when I sampled them later.

It was a lovely afternoon and a good way to see the Autumn in and the winding down of the garden. I still have a few hundred onions to plant and garlic but I’ve been laid low this week with aches and pains and a cold. I will recover my stamina and then tackle the task ahead. I will possibly comfort myself with a slice cake!!!

Shamali

Don’t forget you can order your copy of ‘Androula’s Kitchen- Cyprus on a Plate’ on this site at a very special price just click on the Home Page and follow the links. Why not buy it for a friend for Christmas? Read the reviews by clicking on the menu bar.

Well Happy New Year to all, we have passed to the other side of Christmas and arrived in 2012 safely  and in one piece.

It has been quite a busy time over the last week as I’ve had my head down over the computer screen and keyboard in ernest…but obviously not to blog! I came up for air today and decided I’d try my hand at a recipe for a cake called Shamali that my cousin Elenitza gave me to put in my book ‘Androula’s Kitchen’. This cake, found in all good Greek pastry shops and restaurants is  also called a “Kalon Prama”  which means a good thing. Like many Greek pastries it is soaked in a sticky syrup. This, as a lot of the recipes I collected, has many different versions, but they all look like this:

It’s  a simple recipe and has quite a coarse texture due to the fact that it’s made with semolina. It also has yoghurt in it unusually. I have made this cake a couple of times since Elenitza gave me  the recipe but this is the first time it’s come out exactly as it should and it even tastes the same.

Practice makes perfect.

Here is the recipe if you want to try it at home:

4 eggs separated and the whites beaten until stiff

180g  caster sugar

580g semolina (fine)

200g plain yoghurt

195g butter or 213ml of sunflower oil

3 or 4 granules masticha crushed

4 or 5  drops of vanilla essence (or almond essence)

2 teaspoons of baking powder

A handful of blanched almonds for the top

SYRUP

480g caster sugar

568ml water

Squeeze of lemon juice (1 tablespoon) or orange juice or orange water.

1 cinnamon stick

Pre- heat the oven gas mark 4/180C

To make the cake: cream the butter and the sugar together until very creamy. Add the eggs yolks individually beating well each time. Then add the yoghurt and gradually add the semolina mixing thoroughly. Mix together with the baking powder, masticha and vanilla essence and beat well until all the ingredients are incorporated. Then gently fold in the egg whites. The mixture should have a stiff batter-like consistency. Pour into a shallow greased baking tin 22cm square and put in the oven. After 10 minutes remove the cake and place the almonds on top then replace in the oven for a further 35–40 minutes. When the cake has turned golden, test the centre with a fork to check that it is cooked thoroughly.

While the cake is cooking make the syrup. In a pan, melt the sugar in the water and then add the cinnamon stick and lemon juice. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the syrup thickens. Remove the cinnamon stick. When the cake is cooked leave it for 10 minutes to rest then pierce evenly all over with toothpick and pour over the syrup.

Enjoy.

Don’t forget you can order your copy of ‘Androula’s Kitchen- Cyprus on a Plate’ on this site at a very special price just click on the Home Page and follow the links. Why not buy it for a friend for Christmas? Read the reviews by clicking on the menu bar.

Pretty Plump Pumpkins

It’s the season of halloween and thanksgiving and pumpkins.

Their lovely orange hues are a warming sight when the weather starts to turn chilly. And they’re not just a pretty face, they are multi – talented. They can either be turned into a funky lantern for your halloween do or into glowing soups, risottos, roasted and  my favourite …pumpkin pies or kolokopittas as they are known in Cyprus.

In the States of course it is obligatory to have pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, which has just  passed by for another year, but in Cyprus they too have their own version … of pie that is, not Thanksgiving.

These little pies are a delight because they are savoury and yet sweet and can satisfy hunger at any time of day. Although I remember fondly eating them, I didn’t think to ask for a recipe for these while I was in Cyprus.But with the aid of the internet and memory  I combined a few versions and came up with a very passable recipe which I will share with you. Interestingly they include fennel which gives them another depth of flavour. The bulgur wheat is added to soak up the moisture from the pumpkin and sometimes rice is used instead.

First pick, pluck or buy your pumpkin. Then cut into slices and remove the pith and pips.

Cut off the tough outer skin and then chop the flesh into small cubes, no bigger than 1cm. square. They need to be small as otherwise they will take too long to cook.

In a bowl, combine the pumpkin, these quantities go with about 1 lb of pumpkin, with :-

a handful of raisins

1 tablespoon full of olive oil

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

½ bulb of fennel finely chopped

a handful of crushed almonds

1 ½ heaped tablespoons of brown muscovado sugar

a good pinch or two of salt and a grinding or two of pepper

½ large cup of bulgur wheat

My own addition is a  crushed grain or two of masticha

Mix all these ingredients thoroughly so that the pumpkin  is coated in everything.

Make some short crust pastry using:-

8 ozs. flour and 4 ozs butter plus a pinch of salt

rubbed well in to resemble breadcrumbs and mixed with cold water to make a dough.

Roll out the pastry thinly and cut into rounds using a saucer as your guide.  Fill the centre with the filling. Draw over half of the circle and seal the edges using the tines of a fork. Place on an oiled or floured tray, pierce the case with a fork to let out the steam while cooking and place in the oven at gas mark 6 for 30 minutes until golden brown.

These little bundles of orange, spicy flavour will keep you coming back for more so be prepared.

Stuff the Vine Leaves!

Leaf Sarma.

Image via Wikipedia

The Vine in my garden is now thrusting its branches out and every day new leaves are unfurling. So now is the perfect time to pick the leaves for freezing in readiness for cooking koupebia or stuffed vine leaves. The leaves have to be perfect with no blemishes and a good size, so not too small. Once picked, the stalks need to be trimmed off right up to the edge of the leaf, they are blanched in boiling water for a few seconds until they just change colour…whip them out and drain for a little while. Tear off a strip of foil about twice the length of the leaves and place a pile of about 5 leaves on top of each other  and another pile right next to it,each leaf flattened out and then roll or fold the foil tightly with the leaves inside, fold over the edges and pop in the freezer to await your pleasure. Or of course you can just make your koupebia then and there.

When the day comes that you decide to make some stuffed vine leaves take those little parcels out of the freezer. The reason I chose to put ten leaves in each parcel is so that I can easily remember how many are in each and ten makes a good meal for me. I usually cook 25 at a time which means I have enough for three servings or they can be used as one of several tasty dishes at a party.

The stuffing recipe is easy. Put together in a bowl:

1lb of pork or a mixture of pork & beef mince

1 onion chopped finely

2 large dessert spoons of finely chopped parsley

Half a cup of rice

A little chopped mint

Pepper and salt

Mix it all well with your hands and then lay your leaves out to be filled. Place a small pile of mixture  in the middle of the stalk end of the leaf and fold over the sides to the middle and start to roll up the leaf into a tight parcel.  Put 2 dessert spoons of olive oil in a casserole  then place your parcels snuggly side by side into it. If you have a lot, make another layer. Grate one large fresh tomato over the top  or some diluted tomato paste, squeeze some lemon over with a drizzle of olive oil and make sure there is enough water to just cover the pile of parcels. Place a plate or a saucer, whichever fits your pan, up side down over the parcels to keep them together and cover the pan with a lid. Cook on a low heat for about an hour making sure there is enough liquid whilst they are cooking.

These taste even nicer the second day. Enjoy.

This is one of the many traditional Cypriot recipes featured in my book Androula’s Kitchen.Watch this space for when it will be on sale.