What’s cooking in Cyprus?
Psito with Halloumi Salad and Anari Boureki
I was so happy when our reader Elefteria contacted me to teach me all about how to cook a real Cypriot meal!
Elefteria is from Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus. Her family still mainly lives in Cyprus, and some family members live in Australia. Elefteria moved to Switzerland for her job. She likes it here but does miss her family and friends and a bit of the fun part of Cyprus. In Cyprus people go outside a lot, and eat late. It has a lively atmosphere at night which she sometimes misses here. She does however enjoy the beautiful nature here and likes to explore Switzerland on the weekends.
Cyprus has had a lot of occupants in its history, due to its strategical position in the Mediterranean Sea. The Greek, the Venetians, the Ottomans, the French and the British all ruled over Cyprus at some point until the country became independent. The former occupants have left their marks on the island: there are historic archeological sites, the Cypriots drive on the left side of the road like the British do and there are several influences in the Cypriot cuisine. ‘Some of our food was inspired by the people that came to the island, but we have adapted it to our own way over the years’ says Elefteria. ‘We have our own version of Pita bread with Halloumi cheese from Cyprus, our own form of kebab, and our own version of Ravioli with Halloumi cheese, mint, and a bit of carrot as filling.
Elefteria’s father’s family were Greeks that lived in Izmir in Turkey. In Izmir in the old days a lot of women, from all different backgrounds, came together on Friday’s to read each other’s future in tarot cards. The women in Elefteria’s family did this as well, and years later, one of her far away family members in Greece wrote a book on fortunetelling (The Witches of Smyrna). Elefteria has this book, and the cards, and so after our meal, she has read my future in the cards which was a beautiful experience! Elefteria’s family in Izmir left just before the war broke out and one part of the family chose to go to Greece, and the other part of the family chose to go to Cyprus. You do however, generations later, still see some Turkish influences as well, as Elefteria for instance, made me a Turkish coffee after our meal.
Psito with Halloumi Salad and Anari Boureki
Psito is a traditional Cypriot meal of goat and potatoes cooked in the oven. Elefteria would eat this on Sunday’s, as a child, at her grandmother’s house. Back then it was cooked in wood fired ovens. Psito can be cooked with lamb, or young goat. Elefteria prefers to cook it with young goat, and depending on the number of people that will be eating, she prefers to choose the leg part of meat. Cooking Psito is quite easy!
Cooking time: About 15 minutes preparation, oven time approx 1h30.
Ingredients (adapt quantity of your meat and potatoes to the number of people eating):
- Young Goat meat or lamb
- The following herbs: Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary
- Salt, whole grains of pepper
- A bit of olive oil
- A bit of white wine
How to prepare:
- Pre-heat your oven to 175-180 degrees Celcius
- Wash the meat
- Put the herbs on the meat (Oregano, Thyme and Rosemary)
- Add a bit of olive oil and put a little bit of butter on top.
- You then wrap the meat in cooking paper, and then in tin foil and put it in an oven dish
- You cook the meat in the oven. Count approximately an hour and a half for each kilo of meat. Check it in between, and turn around the meat at least once. After turning, you close up the wrap of cooking paper and tin foil again.
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into slices
- Put the slices in an oven dish and add exactly the same ingredients as for the meat: olive oil, Oregano, Thyme and Rosemary. Instead of the butter you sprinkle the potatoes with a bit of white wine.
- You cook the potatoes in the oven for an half an hour, at the same time as when the meat is in, but just in a different plate as this doesn’t need to be wrapped. You can however cover the oven plate with a bit of tin foil, so that the potatoes don’t burn and will stay soft.
On the side:
Salad with Halloumi
Elefteria makes a salad with Halloumi on the side. Halloumi is a typical Cypriot goat cheese. The cheese is wrapped up in sheets of filo dough.
- Halloumi cheese
- 2 sheets of filo dough
- Salad sauce made of: Balsamico vinegar, a drop of honey, oil, salt and pepper.
Simply wrap your Halloumi cheese in a sheet of the filo and add it in the oven where the rest of the dish is cooking, but only for 15 minutes.
- Ricotta cheese (500 gr.)
- Cinnamon, according to your liking
- A teaspoon of Rosewater (can for instance be found in Carrefour in France)
- 3 -4 tablespoons of sugar
- For the dough: flour, water (3 big glasses of flour) 1/3rd of glass of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and baking powder
- A bit of water (depending on the consistency of the dough, so add it at the end if it’s too dry).
- Powdered sugar
How to prepare:
- Put your Ricotta in a big bowl.
- Add the Rosewater.
- Add cinnamon according to your liking, the sugar and mix it up.
- Prepare the dough, mix it well and leave it to rest for a half an hour.
- Roll the dough out as thin as you can and make circles with a glass.
- Fill the circles with a bit of Ricotta and fold the rest of the dough circle to close it.
- You then fry your Anari Boureki in sunflower oil until they are nicely browned.
- You top them with some powdered sugar.
Interesting fact about Cypriot Cuisine:
In Cyprus it is also very normal to prepare fruits in different ways. One way is to make syrup of the fruits. The syrup can be kept for quite a while and you just add water to it to have a delicious drink. Elefteria has quite a few of these jars with delicious syrup in her kitchen cupboard.
(Directions: add lemon juice to fresh fruit, and add water until they are under water. After 3-4 hours, take the water out and put the fruit it in a pan and add equal amount of sugar. Cook until the syrup that comes off is quite dense).
Another thing the fruit is used for, is for the Christmas cake. I had never heard of this before, but the Christmas cake in Cyprus is prepared for more than 1 month in advance! Amazing, right?
The fruit which is left over from the syrup making is washed off and every day some Brandy is added to the fruits. Every day, for one month. Then you bake a cake and add the fruit, almonds and walnuts to the cake, and then, for several days, you put some Brandy on top of the cake and blaze it. The cake will not dry out and will not taste alcohol. The alcohol will however preserve it. I had never heard of this before, but looks like an amazing tradition!
Thank you so much Elefteria for sharing your recipes and stories about Cyprus!