There are Grapes at the Bottom of My Garden

grapes

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.

grapes

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.

grapes3

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.

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Festival Frolics at The Cyprus Wine Festival

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On Saturday I set off to make my first visit to the Cyprus Wine Festival at Alexander Palace  and was looking forward to feeling the vibe…..It started off well as we made our way to Ally Pally as it’s affectionately named, along the woody footpath, through a park on a lovely sunny day. As we neared the impressive building sitting on top of the North London hilltop we caught the unmistakable whiff of souvlakia and heard the music tinkling away.

Alexandra Palace was built in 1873 for the purpose of becoming ‘the people’s palace’ a site of recreation and entertainment. It does indeed look like a palace and covers a vast area commanding a sweeping view of London below. We approached from the Palm Court side and from the terrace here you have a fine view of the City skyline with the Gherkin and Shard clearly visible. Here was set up the souvlakia stand and to give added atmosphere recorded Greek popular music was playing. We resisted the taunting of the delicious aroma and went inside to see what fun and frolics we could find.

The Palm house area looks cool, calm and green with its palms and obelisks and the beautiful glass paned domed ceiling so very Victorian in its design. Entering into the lobby we passed painted illustrative scenes of Victorian leisure activities and came across our first stand displaying some beautiful black and white photographs of Cyprus in the late 60’s  as well as aerial scenes of Famagusta town. Famagusta has been frozen in time since 1974 when the Turkish invasion caused the inhabitants to flee and has remained  as if in a time warp. Cars and shops remain as they were that day a whole retro city, slowly crumbling and being re-claimed by nature. The inhabitants unable to return and the Turks  denied re-population due to a UN Security Council Resolution which will only allow the original residents to live there. It falls right on the edge of the occupied area and was once the pride of Cyprus,  a shining example of the wealth and rapid growth of tourism that took place in the sixties with masses of skyscraper hotels dotted along the coastline and a busy port. There are movements now taking place to open up Varosha, as it is called locally, to get the economy moving and re-open the port, this stand was advertising a petition which we gladly signed.

Moving on into the main hall we came across many stalls but they all seemed to be swallowed up by the vastness of the space. All the usual suspects of food importers and wine stalls with some other local  Cypriot businesses were assembled not forgetting the CTO of course. We arrived at lunchtime and it had the feeling like you get when you arrive too early at a party, you certainly couldn’t call it crowded. My biggest disappointment was there were no activities taking place, where was the dancing and singing? This meant the atmosphere was flat. A large area in the centre was taken up by a stage all kitted out ready for the music complete with security guards, and a seating area but the music was all taking place in the evening when the much publicised Elena Paparizou performing.

The most alluring of the stalls of course for me was the Aroma patisserie. Here were laid out all the Cypriot delights you could wish for, koupes, loukoumadhes, daktyla, pourekia anaris, shamishi, haloumopitta, eliopitta and so on. So of course we had to sample some and they were all delicious. The wine stalls only seemed to be displaying wines made by SODAP with one exception of one individual producer. My sister and I felt that this could have been so much more, a real showcase for Cyprus but really it is a showcase for the Cypriot businesses of North London and didn’t capture, for me, what is actually happening in Cyprus today. To be fair it is advertised as a business fair and really that should be its main title because Cyprus Wine Festival implies a whole different feel which it didn’t deliver for me, maybe I missed the party. If it truly was a wine festival, it could demonstrate some of the truly delicious wines that are now being produced by small wineries in Cyprus; that would have been worth sampling.

http://www.zambartaswineries.com

http://www.tsangarideswinery.com

Baïcchus: The high altitude Tour of Europe’s vineyards

I was recently alerted to the Cyprus wine site via Cyprus Diverse City reposting a few articles of theirs today and I have followed their example.

I personally know nothing about wine but I do know that the winemakers of Cyprus are developing and improving their wines to great sophistication these days. So it is good to know of a site such as Cyprus Wine where I can go to find information. The article below certainly gives food for thought.

Baïcchus: The high altitude Tour of Europe’s vineyards.

via Baïcchus: The high altitude Tour of Europe’s vineyards.

Also on their site they have an article on Commandaria:- http://cypruswine.wordpress.com/tag/commandaria-wine/

This sweet fortified wine which I have known since childhood as my father always kept some by for Christmas or visitors, has been produced on the island for centuries.

Cheers!