Springtime in Cyprus

It has been an exceptionally wet winter here in Cyprus this year from December up till the beginning of March we have had some extremely noisy  thunderstorms and heavy rain which has filled the dams to overflowing; a novelty here where water shortages are the norm. It is always a subject under discussion in winter as to how full or not the dams are depending on rainfall, last year some dams barely reached 50%  others much less than that by the end of the winter. Flooding has been a problem in some towns and villages and the fields around Paphos were water-logged ruining some crops. Looking from the shoreline at the sea, brown patches were visible where the run-off from the fields had flowed into the sea via watercourses giving the fish some extra nutrients.In some areas heavy hail has damaged delicate fruit trees.

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The positive side to this is that now in early March we have the huge pleasure of seeing this beautiful island of ours covered in green where green is rarely seen. Where in summer the ground is parched and dusty and the hills and mountainsides looking like a barren moonscapes all is now verdant and lush.The trees have received a good soaking right down to their root tips giving them a good start into the run up to  a scorching summer.

 

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a field of wild anemones on the Akamas

Wild flowers are in profusion, wild anemones and rare orchids, birds and wild life can only thrive in such circumstances.The sheep and goats are certainly enjoying a feast and we in turn will benefit when we buy our locally produced halloumi and yoghurt.

Yesterday I took a short trip to one of my favourite spots near Droushia, the ruined monastery of Ayios Nikoxilitis. Here the grove of almond blossom is just about to burst into flower and a variety of  broom is in its full yellow flowered glory lending a delicate scent to the air. The scene was sublimely peaceful.

 

 

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I’m not sure who the chair is for~?

 

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Halloumi Oh Yes!

I am very late posting a new blog I know. All I can say is gardening has dominated my days lately but the end is in sight I hope. My garden now is fairly mature and many of the bushes are very large and need a good purge. You turn your back for five minutes and they seem to grow exponentiallly but armed with secateurs, long-handled loppers, hedge trimmer and a tree saw I am fighting back and so is the rambling rose I might add.

On my last visit to Cyprus my friend Elena Savvides of Orexi catering fame in Droushia took me to see her friend who keeps a goat herd near her and makes her own halloumi and anari the staples of the Cypriot diet for centuries. The farmers traditionally and farm workers would take a chunk of halloumi and piece of bread with some olives for their lunch in the fields, their equivalent to our Ploughman’s  lunch in the UK. This cheese is used universally as it is the main cheese of the island and is much loved, there are other cheeses, the kefaloturi and kaskavalo, but halloumi is the most used, no house will be without it. It is delicious grilled and torn over salad. At Easter the beloved flaounes are made using a special halloumi.

Stored in brine it keeps for a long time becoming saltier with age. Taken out of the brine it will harden and then is easy to grate over your ravioles which are filled with more grated halloumi and mint. In the process of making cheese you have the curds which are the lumpy bits which are collected to make into the hard cheese halloumi and the whey which is left over makes anari a much softer milder cheese very like ricotta. I remember wistfully from my time in Yerolakkos so many years ago, when my aunt made halloumi from her goat herd, she handed me a dish of warm whey curds sprinkled with sugar, delicious. It’s a lovely cheese to have with anything sweet and is used in the little parcels of delight called bourekia tis anaris

We travelled down a winding dusty track to the middle of nowhere it seemed to meet the lovely lady Koula who was in the middle of milking. Her son was helping her at the milking machine which holds eight goats at a time with the odd kid sneaking in for a feed. They have a herd of 4,000 goats so you can imagine it takes a couple of hours to complete and it’s done twice a day. Each goat doesn’t yield too much milk so that is why so many are needed if you are making halloumi on a commercial scale. Koula loves her job and loves her goats, they are a particular favourite of mine and some of these goats were beauties in my eyes. There are a few months at the end of the year when the goats are not lactating but otherwise it is a daily round of milking and making cheese. Her husband helps with the goats and goes up to the Akamas to collect salt from the rock pools to use in the making of the halloumi, so you see this is a  very organic operation. When the milking was finished I was invited to a cup of coffee and homemade biscuits in the parlour as it were, where Koula takes a break, she showed me the process of the milk being piped through from the milking ‘parlour’ straight into a huge stainless steel pan where it has rennet added and heated and stirred until the curds and whey form. When I left, Koula very generously gave me a huge piece of anari to take with me which I enjoyed  with my cousin Christina later who poured some very good carob syrup over it. What can I say, heaven on a plate! You can ring Koula on TELEPHONE 99820778 OR 99058570 TO PLACE YOUR ORDER.