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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Cookery Book Heaven

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Needless to say I love cookery books; it would be strange if I didn’t  as I have a large recipe section in my book ‘Androula’s Kitchen’ ( buy your copy on this site). So I was delighted to receive for Christmas ‘Jerusalem ‘by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.I have been a great lover of Ottolenghi recipes ever since my sister introduced me to them. Ottolenghi is an Israeli and Tamimi  a Palestinian  were both born in Jerusalem and now are working partners in London. His recipes have a great deal of depth of flavour as they usually include many herbs and spices.’Jerusalem’ is one of those books I love because it tells stories as well as giving you recipes and all accompanied by a rich array of fascinating photos of periphery subjects as well as mouthwatering food. It is a book born out of a sort of longing  for the food of his early years; most of us, if we are lucky, have fond memories of our mother’s cooking as we were growing up, I certainly do.

Another favourite author of mine is Claudia Roden, a fascinating writer who has a multicultural background, born in Cairo studied in Paris and moved to London.Both write about mediterranean food; Roden covers Egypt, Greece and the Lebanon in her book ‘Mediterranean Cooking’ which accompanied a BBC series many years ago; Ottolenghi and Tamimi mostly the  Lebanon. Many years ago I went to Granada on a dance holiday and part of the memorable experience was the variety of eating places we were taken to. My favourite apart from the vegetarian restaurant; yes they do exist in Spain; was the restaurant in the Arab quarter , the Albaysin, which served delicious Lebanese food.

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I think out of all mediterranean food Lebanese is my favourite, it is of course a mixture of all the cultures that have passed through its regions over centuries much like Cyprus. With Cyprus it shares many dishes and through ‘Jerusalem’ I am learning even more similarities. Kibbeh, houmous, Mahulabieh, bourekia, these I knew  but there are so many other cross-overs it is fascinating. Just before Christmas, I was watching Rick Stein’s latest BBC series ‘Venice to Istanbul’ I was enticed into buying the book after watching Stein cook many of the recipes he picked up in Turkey, especially dishes using pearl barley which intrigued me as my only memory of pearl barley was when my mum cooked neck of lamb stew with dumplings and boy was that good. I was pleased to see in ‘Jerusalem ‘ a recipe for a pearl barley vegetarian risotto. I tried this on Sunday and it was as promised truly scrumptious. So if like me you love mediterranean food these are books I highly recommend and happy eating….I must stop buying books.

Riding into the Sunset

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Photo courtesy of Ride in Cyprus

As I sit here writing this in Tangmere Sussex it is a grey and rainy day outside with occasional thunder and lightning but thankfully it isn’t cold. This is summer 2015 in the UK, changeable and with unusually low temperatures whereas the summer in Cyprus I hear has had unusual rain in July?

The week before I returned to the UK I paid a visit along with my friend Elena, to see Caroline Penman in Lysos. Unlike today in Sussex, It was a blistering day but thankfully Lysos is fairly high up a hill on the edge of the Paphos forest and is marginally cooler than on the coastal plain. I had met Caroline originally at one of Elena’s famous supper club events and then subsequently on several occasions during my stay in Cyprus I kept bumping into her at various locations and events. Caroline owns and runs Ride in Cyprus where she offers a riding experience in the exceptionally beautiful surroundings around Lysos. This experience can be just a one hour trek or a full-blown 7 day experience or even used as a team building exercise for small group bookings. This time of year she also offers a brandy sour sundowner saunter which sounds idyllic as the sunsets can be spectacular. Ride in Cyprus is now in its eighth year and is ever evolving, voted no 1 in Cyprus on Trip advisor for 3 years is certainly an achievement and something to be proud of.

My visit was arranged by Elena so I could hear Caroline’s story, as with all the people I meet who have chosen Cyprus as their home after many years out in the world, there is always a story and I love hearing them. Many British people come to settle in Cyprus after having their first acquaintance with the island through serving with the British Forces when stationed there and this is how Caroline first arrived, stationed at Dhekelia where her husband was Garrison Commander in 2002-2005.

As we sat there with a gentle cooling breeze flowing over us in her living room, the story unfolded. As with many stories it included a lot of extraneous information and veered off course here and there, that’s what makes it all the more interesting.  The core essence though, it seemed to me, was that the riding stables happened almost casually you might say out of a challenge laid down by the Commander Med. who was a neighbour at that time, also a keen rider. He knew the area around the Venetian Bridges well and with a keen desire to ride there, sent Caroline a grid reference of the area to work out a route and organise a trek. At that time the Venetian bridges weren’t  widely advertised or sought out as an attraction and not many people were aware of them. Caroline’s task was not just to trace a route between the bridges but organise the horses and transportation as well as accommodation en route and to top it all some of the group would only be doing a few days and would need to have transportation to take them back to base. Caroline stepped up to the mark and carried it off triumphantly.The trek involved 8 horses and 22 riders spanning a period of six days, This request involved a year of research and preparation. In Caroline’s own words – “We started at the CBF’s house (Commander British Forces) in Troodos and rode through Foini to Tries Elies bridge then up the prettiest valley to Milikouri below Kykkos where we stayed in the old school house with the horses in the yard.  Then we rode through the forest to Kelefos Bridge, Pera Vasa and on to Vretsia and Roudios Bridge – a day ride around the almond blossomed valleys and ancient water mills and back through the forest to Troodos!” That sounds like quite a once in a lifetime experience for all those participating.

Often it seems to me, our lives are changed forever by what seems at the time, as an incidental occurrence or  a pleasant distraction which later turns into the ground work for a new way of life. So it was with Caroline. So began the search for a permanent base to set up stables and start the business which has become  very successful over its eight years, Ride in Cyprus.

Caroline took us to see the stables and the beautiful horses looking very sleek and healthy, one a magnificent shire horse of 18 hands.  My Mum had a particular liking for shire horses when she was alive and her Uncle used to breed them in the Retford area. Recently Caroline has added an extra attraction as she has bought two fabulous yurts. These are set up in fields nearby surrounded by olive and carob trees and offer all sorts of opportunities for future events and happenings. One beautifully decorated yurt is kitted out as a bridal suite and in connection with the nearby Paradisos Hills hotel  can cater for the bride and groom’s wedding night after the main event at the hotel. The couple will ride on horseback down the short way from the hotel to the yurt, their way lined with candles and torches, doesn’t that sound fabulously romantic? The yurt looks very cosy and luxurious and will come with its own toilet facilities. The second yurt can offer a space for yoga sessions or story-telling, another great idea is to build a fire pit outside and this would be a fantastic setting for story telling under the stars, I’d certainly be up for that. Many years ago I attended a storytelling evening under the stars in a very ancient Yew forest near where I live. It was magical, sitting around the fire listening to the tales, families came and the children were sitting up in the low branches of the trees,The image of these immense contorted shapes of the yew trees silhouetted against the sky with children sitting amongst the branches was unforgettable.Caroline’s dream is to eventually set the area up as a retreat and what an ideal place to have one, hence the logo ‘Healthy in Tents’. This week Ride in Cyprus has been host to some of the volunteers from the World Wide Village Project https://www.facebook.com/worldwidevillageproject/ who have been helping to lay down the paths around the tents so it may not be that long before the dream will be a reality.

I would be very tempted to even have a go at the sundowner ride but unlike Caroline, who is a rider of many years experience, my few experiences of pony trekking in the past always found me flat on my backside. I seem to have an uncanny knack of falling off things, bikes both pedal and motor, ladders and horses. I was thrown several times from a horse on Exmoor. On our first evening the owner of the stables thought as  I was the only one who had been on a horse before ,I could handle a rather nervous and frisky horse!!! She shied at mounting a very shallow verge and threw me unceremoniously on the tarmac leaving me bent double the next day. But I persevered and went out every day. One day there were just four of us on a trek across the moor led by our guide, when the same  horse promptly threw the experienced rider leader who managed to get concussion and  couldn’t remember where we were. Luckily another member of the party was also experienced and remembered how to get back. As we approached a lovely open bit the horses took off at a gallop and bang down I went again. Who knows though with a few handy hints and a docile horse I could manage an hour surely!

Amendments have been made to the original text. 15.8.2015.

I’ve Arrived

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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.

Fun Days Ahead

PicMonkey Collage12.novIt’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.

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A Book Review of another Journey into Cyprus

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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.

The Wines of Cyprus- Zambartas

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.

 

Everything’s Coming up Roses

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I have been feeling a bit “under the weather” as we say here in the UK, since my return from Cyprus. It started with a sudden outbreak of cold sore eruptions ( herpes simplex) on my face starting with a mild cold but exacerbated by being exposed for several hours in the sun without shade, I suspect. Not in Cyprus but in sunny Sussex as our choir was rehearsing and then performing a concert in the middle of a field. The field was adjacent to a college so not in the middle of nowhere, just no trees. It was quite an experience as we were one of several choirs, many of them from local schools with a couple of adult choirs plus a few professional singers and a fabulous band, 500 plus people altogether. The outbreak on my face, mostly under and around my nose as well as around and on my eyelids, was very sore, my eyes itched and stung. I was wondering what I could apply that would be soothing as well as healing. I thought of Aloe Vera gel but that wouldn’t work for my eyes, maybe cucumber? Then I remembered a bottle of rosewater in my cupboard that my cousin Androula had distilled herself from her own roses in Treis Elies.

Roses are magical, the divine scent and delicate beauty have inspired poets uplifting the spirits and dazzling the senses, the heady perfume encapsulated as a perfume for eons. Roses have been used for centuries by women as a beauty treatment for the skin, rosewater is a fabulous face cleanser, cleansing the skin deeply. Rose petals sprinkled in the bath are the ultimate decadence or scattered on the bed and floor to give the ambiance of romance. But there is more to roses than just a pretty face, they have hidden depths and within those petals lie seriously effective healing properties which throughout history have been tried and tested  but now have also been scientifically proven. They are antiviral, antibacterial, antidepressant and anti-inflammatory among other things. These were the properties that I accidentally stumbled upon. I was looking for something pure and soothing which it blissfully was with the added bonus of also being curative. With the help of the rosewater my eyes were soothed and my face healed without scars, just inhaling the perfume lifted my spirits.

I wanted to boost my immune system as I felt the outbreak had sapped my strength a little so I then turned to another Cypriot prize product namely carob syrup. On my recent trip I bought a very good quality carob syrup in Omodos which has a wonderfully rich liquorice flavour that I love . This also doesn’t just taste great but is rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium and phosphorus, as well as this I also started taking Sambucol which is an elderberry syrup, very rich in vitamin C with added zinc. So altogether I now smell divine and taste very fruity…….

Out and About

I have been a bit lost without my trusty lap top but today I am at my cousin’s house and familiarising myself with his trusty lap top. I am in Lefkosia now and visited the  Leventis gallery  yesterday to see for myself this new building that I wrote about a few months ago. I was not disappointed, it was as good as I thought and really interesting to see the work of these Cypriot artists in the flesh.There are three galleries on three floors all very spaciously laid out. The gallery was built as a private enterprise by the Leventis foundation and no expense has been spared  in the beautifully contemporary design. The ground floor houses the Cypriot collection and the artist I was most eager to see was Diamantis who created an impressive mural depicting village life in the centre featuring two characterful men one looks like a Turkish merchant or some such. I will write more about the artists and the pictures later. I just wanted to share with you some of the paintings today.

Images courtesy of The Leventis Gallery.

Techno Challenge

 

 

I’m off to sunny Cyprus on Sunday and in preparation I have been trying to get co-ordinated technology wise. I usually take my trusty mac with me so I can load and edit photos and write my blog etc. This in itself ‘though can be a bit of a challenge if travelling on Easy Jet, as now only one piece of hand luggage is allowed either handbag or lap top case what is a girl to do? I solved this knotty problem last year by buying a soft canvas back pack which my mac just slotted into nicely with pockets and room to spare. The only problem is Easy Jet’s landing bay is on the very edge of the airport, it feels like you are actually walking half way to Cyprus before you arrive at the gate. The bag gets heavier with each step particularly on the return journey when it’s late and you are tired after a long day travelling.

This year I don’t have such a problem as I’m using BA for a change and 2 pieces of hand luggage are  allowed as well as a shorter walk to the gate ( I hope). My dilemma this year is do I take the lap top or not? My generous brother-in-law has lent me a superfluous ; to him; iPad for holiday use, I can catch up with emails and blog and it weighs very little, neat in fact. Last year while waiting in the departure lounge every one seemed to be using an iPad or similar even the children. What happened to books? “So where’s the dilemma?” you ask.Call me ungrateful but it isn’t so easy to type on an iPad  and I can’t load and view my photos without getting an extra gismo. Having my lap-top is like carrying my filing cabinet with me and I can do so much more.

I recently bought a new phone and decided on an android smart phone, a little Samsung which I am just getting to grips with. This also allows me to use wi fi and get emails etc on a much smaller screen but again very neat. All this is wonderful of course gosh I’m connected on all fronts. But am I?  Everything depends on you getting a wi fi connection and where I’m staying doesn’t have broadband so last time I went to an internet cafe. Because I have a smart phone and use O2 BT let you sign up for a free app that shows you the nearest hot spots for wifi which is an advantage. So I spent another couple of hours working out how and where to get this for the phone and then had to go on iTunes to get the app for the iPad. Of course I now realise I only needed the one app to find out as where I go my phone goes. Hey Ho.

I spent several hours over the past few days working out what I need to load on the iPad  and signing up and signing in and downloading. It all takes up too much time I have a good mind to just switch off and zone out.

I do have a nice thick book to take with me as well as my sketch pad and paints. I plan to chill and just sit, let my mind go blank for a bit , so if you don’t hear from me for a few weeks you’ll know I’m in another zone, literally!!!

A Little Snipette of a Demo

I have finally got around to trying to put together a few video clips of the cookery demonstration I did at West Dean College with Rosemary Moon in February here is the first on Trahana.

Please excuse the coughing and the scraping of spoons on crockery in the background!!

 

Better Late Than Never

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XRISTOS ANESTI ! to all.

I know I am a few days late but it resonates over the week don’t you think? I’ve just looked up when Ascension day is and it isn’t until the end of May so if He hasn’t yet ascended Christ must still be risen?  For those not familiar with the term it is the greeting given to all you meet after the midnight service on Easter saturday at the Greek Orthodox church. It translates as “Christ is risen” and the response is ” Alithos Anesti” he is truly risen. Easter is the most dramatic celebration in the Greek Orthodox calendar and one can see why it is such a loved part of the year. For some reason I had a great desire to be there and join in the preparations and celebrations this year, although I have only been present at Easter time in Cyprus, once. The preparations made and anticipation experienced in the days preceding Easter are akin to how the Western world prepare for Christmas or in the States, Thanksgiving but without the materialism.

Lent is the time of spiritual preparation and contemplation of the soul while abstaining from rich food and ‘sins of the flesh.’ Piles of flaounes are made along with the batches of ‘koulourakia‘ biscuits in the week before Easter using many of  those forbidden foods; eggs,cheese, milk, butter; the devouring of which are are eagerly anticipated on Easter day . The church is prepared with masses of flowers adorning the sepulchre. Then the dramatic service at midnight when the church is put into darkness, the congregation all light candles and walk around the church three times, on their return the icons have had all the black coverings removed and a bonfire is lit outside. The day itself is when a feast of souvla is cooked and once again meat can be eaten and savoured after abstinence. Even non- participants of all the rigours of religious practice and rituals before the day, all revel in the celebrations that come with the arrival of the day, a time to be spent with friends and family enjoying good food.

This time of year has been celebrated throughout millennia when the days grow longer and the earth awakens from its slumbers, the sun growing stronger to warm the ground where green shoots appear once again, and the food cycle starts once more . Easter in pagan times was a time of worship of Ishtar, the goddess of fertility, love and war so the egg would be a very apt symbol for this, some say this is where the word Easter came from. Many Christian celebratory dates were placed to coincide with the pagan ceremonies in order to encourage people to to convert to Christianity without losing any of the festivals.

Whatever your belief you share may your days be filled with joy. Xristos Anesti!!!

 

A Recipe for Contentment

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Fittingly, as it’s Palm Sunday today, my thoughts turned to cake, of course, not just any old cake but Easter cake. In the UK Simnel cake is associated with Easter this is basically a Christmas cake with a seam of marzipan running through the middle. Decorated with another layer of marzipan on top, it has 11 marzipan balls around the edge representing the disciples of Jesus minus Judas who did the dastardly deed. Mainly a rich fruit cake it is quite heavy and although I like a good fruit cake I wanted to celebrate Easter with something a little lighter so my thoughts turned to Greek Easter and the cake that is cooked there to celebrate.  I knew of tsoureki which is the Easter plaited sweet loaf baked with a red egg poking out the top, but I didn’t know the name of the Easter cake.

Looking for a recipe online surprisingly I discovered a delightful blog written by Anne Zouroudi an English author married to a Greek fisherman, writing detective stories based in Greece. I have never heard of her before but from what I have seen I can’t wait to get reading  as the books look right up my street.  She has put a familiar sounding recipe for orange and almond cake on her blog and it sounds delicious so I’ll be giving that a try. here is the link to the recipe http://www.annezouroudi.com/greek-winter-food/

I like a good detective novel and have read quite a few in my time. Rebus is the well crafted Scottish detective of Ian Rankin full of grit and grim dark Scottishness, then there is the Aurelio Zen series by Michael Dibdin with the magical Venice as background which I devoured one by one. I did the same with the No1 Ladies Detective agency series by Alexander McCall Smith which I found absolutely delightful, I could almost smell Botswana from some of the descriptions. After seeing the Inspector Montalbano series on TV. set in Sicily based closely on the novels written by Andrea Camilleri, I ventured to the library again to order these books  in sequence,  I had to stop after 13 as the most recent haven’t been translated yet. The fact these are all  set in a foreign country; you could count Scotland as a foreign country to some; makes them all the more appealing to me as I glean so much more information about customs, food, language and so on. So I was thrilled to find a new series of foreign sleuth stories to keep me occupied and I am eagerly awaiting the two I have ordered on Amazon as I was too impatient to try the library this time.

It seems I’m not the only one to be attracted by books set in foreign parts as I have been approached by a new on line book club that specialises in such books, more of this in another blog.

Fythkiotika for the Future

My cousin Michael did a bit of scouting for me this week, he spotted an article in the Phileftherios paper, about a young designer Othonos Charalambous using Fythkiotika in his designs. He very kindly posted it to me and as it was all in Greek I cheated and looked him up online to find his website. My Greek is limited and although I can read Greek, it takes a lot of dictionary searching and time to get the meaning of articles.

This young designer is a Cypriot born in Cyprus but studied here in the UK and after gaining a Masters in menswear at the London college of Fashion has just launched his first full-scale collection. I was thrilled to read about this designer using such a traditional and well – loved weaving technique in his designs, through reading his short bio it’s clear he has great appreciation of the heritage and skill involved. http://www.othonascharalambous.com.

When researching online for ‘Androula’s Kitchen’ I came across a website called Phitiotika http://phitiotika.wordpress.com set up by two young British artists, Maura a weaver from Ireland and Sarah an artist. These two women felt  great empathy for the weavers of Fyti the beautifully situated village high up on the hills near Paphos, a dwindling community like so many with no new generation coming along behind them to carry on their skills. Maura and Sarah set out on a quest to raise awareness and engagement in this dilemma. They worked in co-operation with the Laona Foundation http://www.conservation.org.cy to set up an umbrella association called Voufa under which the weavers could co-operate. Their greatest wish was to engage the interest of artists around the world as well as Cyprus and also to get a training scheme of some sort off the ground before these techniques become lost.

Fythkiotika is a well-known and well-loved weaving technique in Cyprus. In times, not that long ago, every woman would own a loom and know how to weave, this way of life has passed and will not return but there surely must still be young women who would like to learn these skills. The Handicraft Services in Nicosia have many weavers who practise this technique and teach so there is still a tentative continuation. It is refreshing to see a new generation of Cypriots taking an interest in these ancient skills wherein lies so much of the unique Cypriot identity. One of the ways to ensure the continuation of these skills is to find new ways of applying and promoting them. Bravo Othonos.

Demanding but Delicious

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!!!